By Sophia Lopez, September 29 2021—
On Sept. 23, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) hosted a mayoral forum for the Calgary municipal election which will take place on Oct. 18.
Jan Damery, Jeff Davison, Jeromy Farkas, Brad Field, Jyoti Gondek, Zac Hartley, Zane Novak, Teddy Ogbonna and Shaoli Wang all attended the forum last week to enlighten students on what they can expect from them if elected mayor.
The forum was moderated by CBC’s Rob Brown, who first allowed the candidates to introduce themselves and go over their plans for the future of Calgary. The debate then started with a question regarding how each candidate would go about creating a healthy relationship with the premier. Farkas explained how focusing on working together with the premier can ensure Calgary flourishes as a city.
“I think a healthy relationship requires the mayor of Calgary to give credit where it’s due, to work together collaboratively, but not necessarily to always have the default to be opposition,” said Farkas. “There’s a lot of areas where we can and we must work together to be able to secure Calgary’s future.”
When asked about their views of raising property taxes, most candidates agreed that increasing it was out of the question. Novak said that instead of raising property taxes, the city must concentrate on making Calgary a more appealing city for businesses and people to relocate.
“I am not open to raising property taxes for either residents or businesses,” said Novak. “We need to start with efficiencies, we need to look internally at city administration to figure out how to render services more cost effectively.”
When asked about the types of investments the city could make in order to push for a more sustainable infrastructure for the future, Gondek believes that making a bigger effort to go greener is necessary if we want to tackle the current climate crisis.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing our part as a city to make our fleets more electric or possible to make sure we are approving more permeable surfaces,” said Gondek. “We also just approved a clean energy improvement program so that citizens can access dollars to retrofit their homes and do it in a way that they can pay back those funds over time. So we need to stay true to the fact that the climate is an important initiative for our city.”
The Green Line LRT is currently in progress and the candidates have mixed opinions on the matter. While some believe the new addition to the Calgary transit system is too expensive, other candidates, such as Davison, believe the construction of the Green Line is essential for supporting Calgarians and students needing more accessibility to get to where they need to go.
“The Green Line is a critically important project to all Calgarians,” said Davision. “It’s an overall piece of transit infrastructure that is going to continue to serve Calgarians. It’s about moving people more efficiently.”
Voting on campus is a huge issue for students, as it’s the main way — and for some the only way — for them to vote during elections. Although the Vote on Campus program was not made possible for the federal elections that have just passed, the university will have stations for students to vote during the municipal elections. The candidates believe more needs to be done to support student voting and create a more accessible environment for them to vote. Field emphasized the importance of young people’s voices and he encouraged them to get out and vote.
“If we’re talking about the future, we want to make sure that the next generation, that postsecondary, has access to voting. We’re talking about building a great city, something we can all be proud of,” said Field. “But we’ve got to make sure that the next generation gets out to vote, it’s very important.”
Gondek also agreed with this, adding that creating more opportunities for students to vote will improve the city’s representation of all Calgarians for this election, and that suspending voting sites on campus should never have been done.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to work with student leaders in this city to challenge why we couldn’t have on-campus voting this year,” said Gondek. “Students are doing the best they can. We have to give them every opportunity to vote. We can’t blame them for not voting for not getting on the opportunities.”
Calgary is currently recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a part of the city’s plan to recover, Damery hopes to bring more job opportunities for young people, especially once they’ve finished their studies, along with making Calgary a more exciting place to be in.
“Ensuring that there’s an opportunity in this city for everyone, which includes our young, we need to have things to do, we need to have jobs and opportunities,” said Damery.
An important role as mayor includes showing support for Indigneous communities, and providing resources to communities in need. It is also crucial to take part in reconciliation and become educated on the traumatizing pasts of many Indigenous peoples due to systems such as residential schools. Farkas believes that not enough support is being provided yet — that more can always be done to give the Indigenous community equal and fair treatment and opportunities.
“So every step of the way, I’ve worked hard as a city council member to not just pay lip service to issues around reconciliation, but on the ground work together to collaborate,” said Farkas. “Again, seeking that opportunity, that potential to live out a great Canadian life, which is one where you should have no fear and you should have the best possible opportunity.”
The candidates answered nine questions in total during the forum. To watch the recorded livestream of the forum, visit the SU website. The municipal general election will take place on Oct. 18, 2021. For more information on the candidates present at the forum or the other mayoral candidates, you can find their contact information on the Elections Calgary website.