Debbie Hanlon


Passion for St. John’s has guided Debbie Hanlon’s life. A single mom raising 3 kids, determined to keep them fed and supported, she has always risen to a challenge. Her well known history as a business woman, city councillor and all around go-getter has kept her an exceedingly relevant voice for change in our city. Sitting on multiple boards of directors and volunteering would exhaust most folks. But Debbie also runs a successful real estate business, is a motivational speaker, advocates for both seniors and anti-bullying campaigns and won multiple national business awards. Hanlon will bring her vitality and love for our city back to council chambers and once again help to guide our home to the bright future we know we could have.

Contact Information

Survey Responses

What is your full name?
Debbie Ann Hanlon
What role are you running for? If it's a ward councillor position, please specify which ward.
Councillor At Large
If you are currently on council, or have served previously, how many years in total have you served?
7 years as councillor of beautiful Ward 4.
Why did you decide to run for office?
I believe I can contribute to the city as I have in the past. Our current tax situation is deplorable and we need to rein in those taxes and the way we spend them.
What do you think makes St. John's unique or special?
A combination of the people, culture, history and the dream that we will someday be the city we all know we could be.
If you were elected, do you plan to hold another paid job while serving on Council? If so, what would it be and how will you divide your time?
It is no secret that I am a business woman and volunteer. My motto has always been “if you want something done give it to someone who is busy”. I plan on being very busy as a councillor At Large for the city of St. John’s.
What changes or initiatives would you advocate for at Council?
I plan to start by lowering taxes by way of a four point strategy.
1- Every citizen should know where their tax dollars go. This will help the public and the city make informed decisions about where, when and how we spend our tax dollars.
2- Our city needs to focus on accessibility for our aging population as well as people who identify with a disability and potential tourists. Many of these people find it difficult to enjoy our home. An accessible city is a successful city.
3- We should also initiate a business ombudsman who can liaise with new business owners as they navigate their way through the city’s often confounding system. A system which clearly isn’t working for independent business owners. New business brings in more employment and more tax dollars. St. John’s must become a business friendly city.
4- St. John’s starts with the arts. Many major cities encourage big businesses to directly support the arts. This supports our artists while also bringing the big business into the community and alleviating some of the tax payer money being spent directly on the arts.
What, to you, is the most important kind of decision City Council makes?
How we spend our city’s tax dollars.
Questions for at large councillors...
Increasing density and mixed uses are priorities in the new municipal plan. Where would you like to see more density in St. John’s?
We need to identify the areas that already have existing infrastructure in place. Therefore you can increase density without increasing cost. That creates a bigger tax base at less expense. Mixed use is a buzzword for the modern city. But it is about helping to create actual neighbourhoods again. Neighbourhoods that function as residential, commercial, cultural, industrial and institutional zones combined in one. Not just a city of big box stores where only those lucky enough to have a car can take in all it has to offer. We can not do this, however, at the cost of our natural wetland areas or heritage sites. We should keep one eye on the future and how we can achieve it without breaking the bank while also respecting the history that reminds us who we are and where we have come from. A history that also makes the city a desirable tourist destination.
Without a ward responsibility, at-large councilors have more space to focus on specific issues. Do you have one issue you would like to prioritize?
I want to focus on lowering taxes and how we spend them. That being said taxes affect everything and therefore needs to be filtered through how it in turn affects each facet of city life.
Have you been out canvassing? If so, what are the priorities you’re hearing most loudly?
Most commonly I hear citizens talk about our exorbitant taxes and that we need to rein in our spending. There are many issues but taxes are the main one.
What would you like to see included in the new Regional Plan?
A city is first and foremost it’s people. As such they need to be considered first. Our hospitals may be in St. John’s but they service our entire region. We also share fire, water, waste water, protection of wetlands and water shed areas. We can not look at our city as only our city. We must recognize the need for strong partnership and communication as well as cost sharing with other communities. Progressive thinking and co-operation is the only way to progress.
What, if anything, would you want done to establish better communications between citizens and developers before development is proposed?
When on council before I met with both the public and developers who were upset with the way things operated with the city. Developers want early engagement with citizens so they can address potential issues before they get too late in the process. Often the city is on board for a development but then when it goes to public consultation the people directly affected by the development have problems with it. This occurs too late in the process and costs money for all parties involved. Public engagements should happen both before the developer brings a concept to the city council level and again as the project progresses. A system should be in place to help bring the developers in front of citizens to address their concerns before development goes too far.
How would you use the Engage! process and system?
The more people use the “Engage!” system and are informed the better it is for the public overall. But we must also recognize that there is a large portion of our population that doesn’t have ready access to the internet or social media communication. I will strive to ensure that every St. John’s citizen is informed on the activities and policies and where every single cent of tax payer money is spent. An informed city is a better city.
In your opinion, what are the three best decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
The approval of the new “Engage!” system for communication with the public. The creation of the panel on heritage site reviews. And the review ordered to study the 2016 budget, though I would like to see that sort of effort put in before the budgets in the future.
In your opinion, what are the three worst decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
The enormous tax hikes of 2015, the slashing of the arts budget and increasing transit fees.
Quick response questions! In 100 characters or less, what is your position on...
Creating a regional government
A regional government is an eventual necessity as our city and other municipalities share services.
Amalgamation with surrounding municipalities
I would prefer collaboration over amalgamation.
Making City Council a full-time job
City council is a full time responsibility.
The mail-in ballot system
It’s good but can be improved. As long as it compliments physical ballots. Online voting someday.
The new Municipal Plan
Took too long to be developed and already needs to be over hauled.
Grants to community and arts organizations
We need to explore more ways of better funding the arts at lower tax payer cost.
City employee salaries
People have a right to know where their tax dollars go. Fair wages must fit population’s budget.
Creating more bicycle infrastructure
We have to really re-examine bicycle plan. It is too random and too divisive.
Increasing public transit service
An accessible city is a successful city. Public transit is crucial.
Corporate and union donations to candidates
Without donors only the privileged could run for council. Caps exist to protect the public.
How often do you use the following ways to get to work or errands?
Walking: Almost everyday
Riding the bus: Once a week
Biking: Almost everyday
Driving: Almost everyday
Please rank the level of attention you think council should pay to each of these transportation modes in the coming term (1 = most important, 5 = least).
1. Walking
2. Public transit
3. Driving
4. Cycling
What could the City government do to make St. John’s a healthier place to live?
Encourage more community gardens and events. Continue to support the farmer’s market and other locally grown food initiatives. Make parks and recreation centres affordable and accessible for the public.
What changes need to happen to have more diversity in age, gender, race, and life experience on Council?
Councillors should invite and engage diverse members of their communities to join committees introducing them to city politics. They may later want to seek office themselves.