Maggie Burton


I grew up in my mother’s home community of Brigus, but came to St. John’s in 2009 to study music and fell in love with the city. Today, I live near Quidi Vidi Lake with my husband Chris and our two beautiful children, Jack (5) and Ursula (2). In addition to working as a teacher, poet, and musician, I work as a management coach, working with high-level business leaders across North America. I also work as an educational program director and arts administrator. In my spare time – when I can get it — I enjoy gardening and hiking, I am an avid painter, and I love spending time with my children and reading as many books as I can.

Contact Information

Survey Responses

What is your full name?
Maggie Muriel Burton
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?
Why did you decide to run for office?
The very first impulse came in 2013, when I looked at the eleven men we’d elected and I didn’t see anyone whose life experience resembled mine at all. I didn’t want that to happen again! So earlier this year I started asking who was running, who I should support. And what I heard was: run yourself! You can’t wait for someone else to do this for you. And so here I am. I have no backup plan. I’ve closed up my violin studio. I’m giving this everything I’ve got, and if I’m successful I’m going to give this job everything I’ve got.
What do you think makes St. John's unique or special?
The first thing I fell in love with here is our city’s vibrant arts and culture sector. I am honoured to be part of it! Secondly, it’s a place of multitudes: It’s close-knit like a small town; it is diverse and diversifying every day. It’s big enough to have a rich urban life, and small enough to have spectacular untouched wilderness within walking distance. It’s also a great place to raise my kids.
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?
I’ve left my main job. I’ll continue my coaching work, and I’ll still write poetry and play music as time permits. But I’m not going to let anything get in the way of serving you.
What changes or initiatives would you advocate for at Council?
1. OPPORTUNITY – A growing economy encourages new and long-time residents alike to choose to live and work in St. John’s. Long-term sustainable development and support for diverse businesses will provide better opportunities for more people. An effective waste management strategy that recycles as much as we can will help build a strong future in a clean and beautiful city.
2. CULTURE – We can better harness our unique heritage and culture to foster tourism, build a thriving creative economy, and strengthen our community pride. From historic buildings to a strong tradition in the arts, we have many key competitive advantages here. St. John’s deserves to be one of Canada’s cultural and creative capitals, but to get there, we need leadership.
3. COMMUNITY – Let’s create real neighbourhoods, focused on real people, where all residents have easy access to healthy living options such as parks, green spaces, walking trails and cycling routes. Regardless of age, ability, and income level, every person should have safe sidewalks and roads, and acceptable and affordable housing. An inclusive city benefits everybody.
What, to you, is the most important kind of decision City Council makes?
The municipal plan! As I’ve written before, the municipal plan and development regulations sets the ground rules for all development in the City. It determines when neighbours get a say, what comes up for a vote, and what City staff can approve.
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?
Ideally, in areas that are already walkable, well served by public transit, and nearer the centre of the city. Within the downtown core, for example, there’s an opportunity to significantly increase density just by filling vacant buildings and vacant upper stories.
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 think I’ll have time for lots of priorities! But since you only want one, I think Council needs to be more transparent. Important debates and votes, like the Ice Caps subsidy, are happening in private. That creates understandable distrust; it also produces bad decisions. I think we can do better.
Have you been out canvassing? If so, what are the priorities you’re hearing most loudly?
Many people we have met want to talk about sidewalks, neighbourhood safety, caring for our natural environment, careful and sustainable development, and access to green space.
What would you like to see included in the new Regional Plan?
Better coordination and partnerships. Wetlands, watersheds, and ecological zones don’t stop at municipal borders. Environmental protections should be consistent on both sides of the line. Similarly, major development projects like Galway are straddling municipal borders, and we need to find a way to coordinate planning. We need to find a way to work better together!
What, if anything, would you want done to establish better communications between citizens and developers before development is proposed?
Keep municipal planning up to date! Our municipal plan is fourteen years old. Some proposals that really should come up for a vote don’t, and the neighbours get cut out of the planning process altogether. I’d also like to encourage developers to share plans early, in the hope of building support in the community.
How would you use the Engage! process and system?
Listening to residents is essential for good decisionmaking. Engage! is a great tool for facilitating that, though it’s important to remember that the people who participate aren’t representative! A reality check with other people in the community is useful.
In your opinion, what are the three best decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
1. Requiring one tree per lot in new developments. Trees add so much to neighborhoods, but it takes some coordination to get them planted.
2. Moving to expand the list of registered heritage structures (albeit in the wake of the Richmond Cottage and Quinnipiac demolitions).
3. Adopting the 2014 Affordable Housing Business Plan.
In your opinion, what are the three worst decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
Losing control of the 2014 budget process. It really seemed to me like they were surprised themselves! Letting the municipal plan fall four years behind schedule. Letting Richmond Cottage be demolished. Cutting arts grants almost made the list, but they reinstated them right away!
Quick response questions! In 100 characters or less, what is your position on...
Creating a regional government
I think we need better partnerships, not another level of government.
Amalgamation with surrounding municipalities
Unnecessary. Our main fiscal problem is that the Province doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes.
Making City Council a full-time job
I plan to treat this as a full-time job! In the long run, we can’t afford a part-time council.
The mail-in ballot system
Favours incumbents and undermines democracy by making people vote before the election campaign.
The new Municipal Plan
Is four years late and due for revision next year!
Grants to community and arts organizations
Cutting arts funding is penny-wise and pound-foolish.
City employee salaries
When public salaries suddenly increase by 18%, the public deserve an explanation. We didn’t get one.
Creating more bicycle infrastructure
We need to find a way to lower tensions. We all want to be safe!
Increasing public transit service
Implement stop announcements. Increase ridership with discounts, park & ride.
Corporate and union donations to candidates
Corporate and union donations undermine public confidence in Council. Let’s get rid of them.
How often do you use the following ways to get to work or errands?
Walking: Almost everyday
Riding the bus: Never
Biking: Never
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. Driving
3. Public transit
4. Cycling
Other: Driving is hard to rank: it’s the most common form of transportation, but also has the best infrastructure. Walking is second most common, but we need more sidewalks. Cycling and public transit need a lot of attention, but they are both complex–we need to build both capacity and usage at the same time!
What could the City government do to make St. John’s a healthier place to live?
1. I believe everyone in St. John’s should have reasonable access to active spaces and athletic opportunities. Exercise and active space are vital to physical and mental health. Access to trails and active spaces helps people exercise. And so the physical layout of our city helps determine our health. We need to focus on creating Real Neighbourhoods that contain social spaces where people can meet, including seniors and families with young children.
2. We should be aiming towards universal design. Everyone ought to be able to access, understand, and use every building and service, to the greatest possible extent, regardless of age, size, or disability.
3. Everyone who lives in St. John’s should be able to find affordable and acceptable housing here. Affordable Housing isn’t just about low-income residents, it matters for students, for seniors, for people who are beginning careers, for young families, for artists, for anyone who can’t buy a big, new, detached house right now. 4. Failing to meet people’s mental health causes human suffering and societal costs. While the provincial and federal governments are in charge of providing medical care, many municipal decisions can affect mental health, for better or for worse. Poverty reduction supports mental health, inclusion supports mental health, green spaces and affordable housing support mental health.
What changes need to happen to have more diversity in age, gender, race, and life experience on Council?
Get involved. Volunteer. Donate. Register. Vote!