A St. Thomas University student is taking a run at Fredericton city council, having been nominated for the Silverwood/Garden Creek by-election, May 4. The ward was last held by the late David Kelly.
Jonathan Richardson, 24, has experience beyond his years and hopes to breathe new life into city council.
At 16, he left the province for Hamilton, Ont., to escape his mother’s abusive boyfriend. He served the armed forces for three years, founded a successful business, and volunteered with the SPCA, John Howard Society and MADD. He wants to use this experience to engage youth in Fredericton.
“If everyone agrees with you, you’re never going to get anywhere,” Richardson said. “I want people who disagree with me, to talk to me. But in order to do that you have to facilitate a place where people can talk and where it means something when they talk.”
Richardson is designing a couple of forums for residents. He plans to create the City of Fredericton Youth Council, which will give some municipal representation to local students, from middle school to post-secondary.
He is also laying the groundwork for a “Ward 12 Association” to funnel in the opinions of a diverse ward, should he be elected.
“It has very very different demographics,” he said of the ward, from people living in trailer parks to expensive waterfront properties. “I’m dealing with some really different political ideologies and that’s going to challenge me.”
“I’d like to see the citizens advise the city more on accessibility, youth, or anything you can think of. There is no one person who knows the answers.”
Richardson left the army at age 19, after his initial three-year contract ended, because of the “hurry-up-and-wait” lifestyle on base.
“All [soldiers] want to do is work,” Richardson said. “But I spent my whole time in the military watching Family Feud or playing World of Warcraft. You exercise in the morning, you wait till supper where you get dismissed, and that’s all you do [most days].”
Still, he says the army helped him become a leader.
“They always drive you to be the best. They always push, push, push you to go further.”
Richardson is a criminology major at STU. At one time he wanted to be a lawyer, but his work arranging legal aid and providing advice through the John Howard Society has him chasing a different dream.
“I think the legal system is meant to marginalize people,” he said. “You watch a courtroom and you see the public defenders whispering in peoples ears and saying, ‘yeah, just accept what they’re saying,’ and stuff. I don’t want to be a lawyer working in that type of field. I want to work for justice – real justice.”
Grassroots politics, he says, is the way to real justice, and students need to take note.
“Students should get out there and be part of the community. The Bank of Canada says that students aren’t going to be able to find jobs, and they’re going to have to volunteer, and I can tell you there’s a lot of need for it.”