By Cristina Paolozzi, April 28 2021—
Calgary’s next municipal election takes place on October 18, and five candidates are running for Ward 7 councillor this year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Calgary has faced a number of issues, many of which impact the student population in the city. The Gauntlet was able to sit down with Erin Waite — one of the candidates who is running for the position — to speak about her vision for the city and how she plans to include students in the conversation.
“I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for most of my adult life and raised a few kids here,” Waite shared. “But they’ve all grown up and moved away and I want to see Calgary become a place again that has opportunity for people as they graduate and choose where they’re going to live.”
She also mentions that one of the reasons why she decided to run was because she sees the future of the city as being something different than what it is currently — which is a good thing, according to Waite.
“We’ve had real structural issues like an economic downturn and now a pandemic, but I think now’s the time to really look seriously at what we need to be in the future, and it’s probably a different thing than it was when I came here out of university and I’m okay with that being a very different city,” says Waite.
Waite mentioned that she’s lived in Ward 7 for over 30 years, watching the community develop and change over time. Waite described how she would notice different businesses and restaurants come and go, but maintains that, “change is just part of what neighbourhoods do.”
Waite believes the community of Ward 7 is looking for a new kind of city, focused as an, “arts-based ecosystem,” to attract not just people exploring the city on their lunch hour or while they’re commuting to work, but bringing together what she describes as, “a downtown core based lifestyle.”
“Presuming we can start to rebuild Calgary and attract new businesses to start up and grow here, I think people want a livable, affordable, walkable kind of city,” says Waite.
As the University of Calgary resides in Ward 7, Waite says that she values the opportunity to speak with students about some of the issues they’re facing. Waite’s previous experience involves working with families with disabilities and pushing for disability policy advocacy in the city. This work has inspired her to campaign for a city that is more affordable and accessible. With regards to student affordability, she says that there are factors with student housing which need to be approached a different way, as current solutions are creating barriers.
“I would love an opportunity to to meet with students and talk to them about what their issues are, but I’m sure students are like any other adult living in the city [where the] issues are accessibility, transit access, livability,” Waite says. “The affordability piece is huge […] you need mixes of neighbourhoods and density doesn’t always answer affordability so that’s something I think we need to be careful about. You can put up a duplex or a fourplex and they can each be half a million dollars — like that’s not necessarily affordable. So we have to watch for those factors.”
Waite also shares that being dependent for so long on a single industry made Calgary too homogenous and that creating a vibrant city means diversifying.
“We were single industry driven for a long time, it did all kinds of good things for Calgary when we were smaller a long time ago. But now it’s diversifying everything because that’s where you get vibrancy. There was a real cost to be dependent entirely on one single industry. It did a ton for us, and it threw tons of money into our city, but now that it’s coming to an end, it’s time to grow up from that and diversify and broaden and that’s where I think we are and where we need to go.”
Waite believes that the voice of young people in this election can help shape Calgary in a new direction and provide insight into what needs to be adapted for future generations.
“I would hope students are focused on how could Calgary be a place students will want to, once they graduate, make their home,” Waite shares. “Because it isn’t for me, it is for young people wanting to figure out where they live.”
Waite also spoke about the importance of getting involved as a young person in the community, especially during election season, as not only a learning experience but as a way to have specific issues heard.
“If you get started, then as you develop your issues and your concerns and the places you want to put your effort as a person contributing in your community, if you start learning how elections work and how the systems work and how the structures work, then when you have something you want to say and there’s something that you think needs changing, you have an idea of how to get at it,” Waits adds.
The municipal general election will take place on October 18, 2021. For more information about Erin Waite or the other Ward 7 candidates, you can find out how to contact them here.