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Arts Commons hosts the VibrantYYC mayoral debate

By Julieanne Acosta, October 10 2021—

On Oct. 4, Arts Commons hosted a mayoral forum with five of the leading candidates, chosen from a ThinkHQ poll from Sept. 22, for the municipal election taking place on Oct. 18. 

Jan Damery, Jeff Davison, Jeromy Farkas, Brad Field and Jyoti Gondek were present at the debate at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. The candidates were asked questions from three topics — People, Place and Activation. The questions were geared towards the revitalization of downtown and the future for Calgary’s creative sectors. 

The debate was moderated by Chima Nkemdirim, a board director for Calgary Arts Development. 

The forum started with a question regarding the economic slump and commercial downtown vacancy rate, which currently is about 30 per cent. The candidates were asked to address this and how they plan to attract residents downtown in order to ensure a resilient community in the future.  

Damery focused on expanding university campuses into the downtown core in order to have young people working and living downtown. In addition to this, she stressed the importance of having people wander the streets safely. 

“We have to invest in our main streets again, we have one walkable street downtown,” Damery said. “This also is how we deal with our safety in our community, having lots of people 24/7, living and working downtown.” 

Davison’s main focus was to enhance the entertainment and cultural district to create vibrancy in downtown Calgary again. 

“We’ve got to get more tax base down there, which means more people living down there, which attracts great companies to be there,” said Davison. 

Similar to Davison and Damery, Field also agreed that students and business are vital to building a vibrant downtown core. 

“It is about downtown revitalization and making sure that we get out co-op programs working in the downtown core, with post secondary institutions and business, making sure that they’re married together,” said Field. 

Gondek responded by saying that the city’s investment in the downtown core is vital in creating  a better atmosphere. 

“We believe Calgary has a strong future,” said Gondek. “And the $45 million that’s been committed to converting vacant office spaces to other uses, perhaps residential, perhaps something creative, that $45 million incentive is fully subscribed.” 

Farkas’ plan to increase the vibrancy of downtown Calgary included reinstating the downtown police department. 

“It starts with treating the downtown as we would any other neighborhood and to stop that perpetuating cycle of defunding and constitute our downtown,” said Farkas. “I strongly advocate to defend our police funding.”    

When asked about transportation, candidates agreed that they aim to make the city more accessible, all stating that the transit systems are not where they should be. 

“What we’ve done is we’ve prioritized our roads for personal vehicles.” Gondek said. “I think the point that we missed is that you can use your roads for more than one type of mobility option.” 

Davison added by advocating for improving Calgary’s train lines. 

“We’ve got to stop thinking about train lines as one line,” Davison said. “They’re an arterial piece of an overall transit infrastructure network, that is helping out citizens each and every day, get to where they need to be wherever that may be.” 

To watch the full recorded livestream of the debate, visit the Arts Commons website. The municipal general election will take place on Oct. 18, 2021. For more information on the candidates visit the Elections Calgary website

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