By Cristina Paolozzi, March 15 2021—
Although the municipal election in Calgary is still months away, candidate for Ward 11 Kourtney Branagan is organizing candidates across the city hoping to build conversation on the issues affecting Calgarians through an initiative called Conversations Among Candidates.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, Branagan spoke more about what this initiative is and why it is important not only for voters, but for the other candidates as well. She says that being active and involved in her community was something she enjoyed and served as inspiration for Conversations Among Candidates.
“Prior to becoming a candidate, I volunteered with one of my community associations, and one of my favourite things was getting to know people from other communities and learning from them and understanding what some of their challenges were,” says Branagan. She explains that getting involved in her community was also a way to learn how to problem solve as a team. She also states that in running for council, she recognized that the main goal is to represent constituents, but also to be accountable and responsible for the whole city.
“And that means working with other people,” Branagan states.
Another major focus of the event is to have candidates build relationships with each other over the course of the campaign.
“It’s one of those jobs where we don’t know who our colleagues are going to be. We all get elected and we don’t all know until that evening,” says Branagan. “I think one of the things that Calgarians are looking for is that teamwork kind of mentality and getting rid of some of the adversarial positioning that’s happening on council now.”
Branagan continues by saying that developing relationships with other candidates who could potentially become her colleagues was something that really pushed the creation of Conversations Among Candidates.
Branagan also spoke more about why this event was important for this election.
“The perception right now is that city council doesn’t work well together,” she says. “But even watching council meetings — and I’ve attended council meetings — there doesn’t seem to be a real clear direction on where everyone wants to go together and how they’re going to work together to achieve each other’s objectives and what that that give-take relationship looks like,” she says.
Branagan also spoke out about how the pandemic has impacted the relationships between candidates and among voters.
“I think it’s been challenging. I mean, not everybody is accessible online. So, it’s even challenging, you know, hosting this in an online format — recognizing there are people who won’t have the luxury of attending. It is a privilege to have an hour and a half on a Monday evening to be able to attend,” Branagan admits.
Branagan does ensure that the event will be recorded and available for playback for individuals who can’t attend.
“I think that just because there’s challenges, doesn’t mean that we don’t do the things that are hard,” Branagan continues.
Branagan also spoke more about how this initiative will contribute to the establishment of a more vibrant city, despite some of the hardships Calgarians have been facing throughout the past year.
“My hope is in our conversations we’re going to dig deeper than some of the surface issues and how we’re really going to get to the heart of what matters, which is people,” Branagan shares. “How do the decisions that council make, how do they affect people and how do we have a conversation around what our objectives are in the future? I think part of it is for me, to be able to talk to my potential colleagues and and understand their concerns.”
“That’s the value of being on a team of 15 people, is you’re all going to have different issues that you’re going to be passionate about and you can lean on each other for expertise,” adds Branagan.
Branagan also encourages students to reach out and get informed about the issues facing this municipal election.
“I would love to see more young adults come out and vote,” Branagan exclaimed.
Branagan says that Conversations Among Candidates can help students by “diving into the issues,” and raising specific concerns with a candidate.
“Part of the thing with being a student is that you may live in one area, you may go to school in another area, but you might eventually find yourself moving across the city,” Branagan says. “I’m not saying that every student needs to stay — that’s not realistic. But what kind of city can you help us create so that young people are attracted to be here.”
“I remember my university days,” jokes Branagan. “But I am not living it right now. I’m not living university in 2021 and that’s really different. I think candidates should be willing to hear from students as well and just knowing that your voice and your opinion matters as much.”
Conversations Among Candidates will be taking place April 12, May 10 and June 7 — all from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Details for this event can be found here.