By Cristina Paolozzi, September 1 2021—
Calgary’s next municipal general election takes place on Oct. 18. Twenty-four candidates are running for mayor this year.
Zane Novak has a diverse business background in Calgary and sees many issues in the city that are stopping Calgary from flourishing.
Novak said that in 2016, he had been approached by some of his peers to run for mayor. While he eventually didn’t run in the 2017 municipal election, he watched the process closely. After watching the results and not seeing the changes he was hoping for, he was finally convinced to run in the 2021 election.
“I’ve fallen in love with Calgary,” he said. “It’s my city, it’s my community, it’s my friends, it’s my network. And I don’t like the way it’s going. I don’t like the unemployment, I don’t like [that] so many of my friends are out of jobs. I see a very disengaged city hall — a very disengaged administration.”
One of the reasons Novak specifically ran for municipal office was because city politics are non-partisan.
“I can stand in front of whoever I’m with, explain what I’m hoping to bring to the city and then try my best to remain true to it, rather than being elected to a party.”
Novak mentioned how Calgary is growing in every age demographic except for people aged 18–24. He has noticed that few people from outside of Calgary are wanting to come to the city and far fewer are wanting to stay after completing their education in Calgary.
“To me, that’s so disappointing because for decades, Calgary was the place that everybody had to go,” he said.
Part of the solution to attracting more young people to stay in Calgary is to change the popular narrative of Calgary that has been used to describe the city. Novak said that although much of his platform concerns renewable energy solutions, Calgary should start updating its image to remove the stereotypes many others imagine the city to be.
“So many people perceive Calgary as a redneck city that’s all about oil and gas,” he said. “We never talk about the fact that we have the highest ESG [environment, social and governance] in our oil and gas hydrocarbon industry in the world. [Young people] are concerned about climate change — and rightfully so — but city hall has never done a good job of explaining the narrative of what natural resources actually have done for the country of Canada.”
Novak also sees a way to support Calgary’s youth through supporting small businesses. He spoke about how structures and regulations need to be put in place to provide these businesses with opportunities for success.
“We have to make sure that we’re a champion for those small businesses, those upstarts, the ones who are very innovative and creative,” he said. “We have so much vacant space right now and we need to put that forward in more attractive ways.”
Novak mentioned that Calgary has the highest percentage of post-secondary graduates in the world and that the city should be better equipped to help transition new grads to job opportunities in Calgary. Novak said that interacting with specific stakeholders on what it is they would like to see in the city is the first step to supporting recent grads.
“I think the city doesn’t do a great job of creating jobs,” he said. “But they need to get engaged with their stakeholders to understand what successful futures are, and then create that successful future.”
While he understands that post-secondary issues like increased tuition rates are not in the purview of the municipal government, Novak said that it is still the responsibility of the leadership in Calgary to advocate on behalf of the students in the city.
“I know that’s not at the municipal level,” said Novak. “But when you’re the mayor of the fourth largest city in Canada and the city that, for many decades, was the economic driving engine for Canada, you’ve got a voice. And that voice has to be used for advocacy.”
Novak also mentioned that for more major city-wide projects such as the Green Line, a proper plan should be in place to ensure that projects like these don’t move over budget or end up not serving the greatest amount of people.
Novak believes that the Green Line, specifically, is something that needs to be reconsidered.
“When the Green Line was first talked about, it was supposed to go about 48 kilometres and cost us $4 billion,” he said. “We had a leadership group at city hall that couldn’t get their act together and here we are 10 years later. We’re now probably 25 per cent of that length.”
Novak believes it is important to have efficient transit in the city for students, but said that moving forward, the Green Line will do more harm than good in the long haul.
“If we do the Green Line in its current stage, we will handcuff this city on major projects for years to come,” he said. “Yeah, I love the train, we need to do that better. But if we don’t do it right, we’ll never get more. And that terrifies me because we need it.”
Novak also said that it’s important not only to vote in this year’s election, but to get informed and get out to vote.
“Being informed, placing an informed vote and taking the time to reflect on where you want to be, it’s just so important,” he said. “Get involved, get informed, get out and vote.”
The municipal general election will take place on Oct. 18, 2021. For more information on Zane Novak or the other mayoral candidates, you can find their contact information here.