By Cristina Paolozzi, July 9 2021—
Calgary’s next municipal election takes place on October 18, and eight candidates are running for Ward 7 councillor this year.
Derek Williams has been living in Ward 7 for 11 years, and has a background in hospitality management. Williams said that he was motivated to enter the race as he felt that community engagement and leadership was lacking in the city.
“I really felt that if we could get back to the basics of strong community-led engagement, then we can really make people feel that they’re getting the most out of their municipal politics, and their representation at city hall,” said Williams. “I just wanted to bring a high level of service to our communities to make our city and our ward the best that it can be.”
Williams mentioned that he knows students are looking for employment within their chosen fields upon graduation, and recognizes that this issue for students is best dealt with by committing to major updates to the city, like creating more affordable housing and more accessible public transit.
“It’s not just about jobs,” said Williams. “When students do graduate we want them to be able to go to a downtown that has a diverse area — we need to attract [students] and make them want to stay here.”
Williams believes that his vision to create more livability in the downtown area would help to provide prosperity and opportunity for young people looking to stay in Calgary after graduation.
“If we have that lifestyle and that that livability downtown, I think that’ll really foster an aura of attraction for a younger generation to build their lives and their businesses here,” said Williams.
Williams pointed out that the downtown core has seen many businesses close down and workers being laid off in the last couple of years. When asked about making the city more welcoming and vibrant to Calgarians, Williams spoke about including students in this conversation.
He mentioned utilizing the downtown office spaces that have been vacant as alternate study spaces or university classrooms to encourage more students to spend time in areas that have seen less and less traffic.
“We could transform some of the vacant buildings downtown into post secondary institutions or classrooms or halls,” he said. “Having student housing downtown, having a place where students can can live in and have restaurants around where they can eat and work part time at — I think it’ll definitely increase the vibrancy.”
Williams believes that by incorporating students and aspects of student life into areas in Ward 7, it will help to create the a better sense of engagement in downtown communities.
Williams mentioned that conversations around city-wide issues like the Green Line, are important to have among students, but ultimately recognizes that these issues impact everyone in the city. Specifically with the Green Line, Williams said that this issue impacts many different people from all walks of life, and that people in the city who rely on public transportation — like students — should have their voices amplified at city hall.
“I believe that the city needs to think about who transportation really serves,” said Williams. “It’s not just a commuter train to get downtown to your corporate job, it’s to help people get to university, it’s to help people get to the registry, to help people get to doctor’s appointments, to get your child their first shots at the immunization clinic.”
Williams also mentioned that he sees an alternate use of projects like the proposed Culture and Entertainment District hosting student events like the Crowchild Classic or other sports events for post-secondary institutions. Williams said that in this way, the student community can come together to celebrate and connect.
As the municipal election approaches, Williams urges young people to get informed and get involved, as the decisions made from this election will ultimately impact the people of the city for many generations to come.
“I think it’s important to hear young voices,” said Williams. “I hope and wish that every young person that’s able to vote gets informed about their their candidates. Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.”
The municipal general election will take place on October 18, 2021. For more information about Derek Williams, or the other Ward 7 candidates, you can find out how to contact them here.