- Written by Stephanie Hagenaars Stephanie Hagenaars
- Published: 10 December 2016 10 December 2016
Defeating the right-wing label
Jeromy Farkas, a member of the LGBTQ community and an environmentalist, has left the Wildrose Calgary-Elbow constituency to run for city council. He feels that the current city council members do not represent Calgary’s younger and more diverse demographic.
Farkas feels he was given every opportunity to succeed during his childhood. This fueled his admiration for politics and eventually led him to the presidency of the Wildrose Calgary-Elbow constituency.
But, the young contender, also active in LGBTQ awareness and wildlife conservation, is putting space between himself and the right-wing label that is now associated with him.
Farkas’ father and his family came to Canada from Hungary to escape a then-communist regime, but to also seek opportunity.
Free to run their small business and to experience entrepreneurship and fair laws, Farkas said his parents also “really encouraged me to do anything and everything I wanted to do. I was just exposed to a wide variety of stuff and they never led me in one direction or another, but they always made sure I had opportunity.”
That’s why, as a council candidate, Farkas said he wants to provide his children with the same opportunities his father allowed him.
“I want to make sure my kids grow up with the same kind of opportunity that I was able to enjoy... no limits on what they can achieve, who they can become if they wish,” says Farkas, “ and thinking a little bit more proactive like that, I think that that is really the key – or at least, that’s what I want to bring to the table.”
But Farkas wasn’t just inspired to run for city council by his parents. His experience with the Wildrose party, which he joined in 2014, also influenced that decision.
Concerns from the community
As the party’s constituency association president for Calgary-Elbow, Farkas has heard people talk about hard times, economic hardships and job losses. As a result, he feels the people of Calgary-Elbow wanted elected officials who will work for them, not above them.
Campaign volunteer Philip Schuman agrees tough times are being felt within the communities. Increasing tax prices while the price of oil drops, he says that the city is not “getting easier to deal with.”
As a member on the board of directors of the Braeside Community Association, he can see there is “a desire for change in the community,” stating many projects in the area, such as the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), have not tackled community concerns adding to a “feeling of neglect.”
It was these concerns, and his years in tracking city council activities through the city council tracker - a program he created while in his position as a Research Fellow with the Manning Centre - that led Farkas to leave the Calgary-Elbow constituency and run for a city council seat.
The LGBTQ perspective
Farkas, who is openly bisexual, rallied for fellow Wildrose members and other political parties to join him in supporting the LGBTQ community in the Lilac Festival’s parade.
According to a story published by Metro News, the group was to wear white t-shirts designed with the Wildrose logo coloured in the iconic pride rainbow.
Farkas says his initiative was accepted “across all party lines”. He says he is proud to live where he does.
“Welive in a society where you can choose to participate or can choose not to, and both choices are fundamentally respected – and I was very happy [about the support],” says Farkas.
But Farkas does not want his LGBTQ advocacy to be misunderstood as advancing his own political agenda. Instead, he says it’s a look into his perspective on the world.
“I would say I’m very socially ‘live and let live’. It’s not a part of myself that I push, but I think that my personal life, how I conduct myself, I think all of this is absolutely relevant to people’s trust in me as a person. And I just wanted to put that out there.”
The environmental perspective
In addition to bringing a live and let live approach to city council, Farkas feels that our government should do more to preserve Calgary’s protected wildlife and parks.
As the former director of the Weaselhead Preservation Society, he uses his experience in park-clean ups and other society events as evidence for awareness.
Leading these clean-ups and society events is Paul Finkleman, current president of the Weaselhead Preservation Society. He says he’s glad to see someone like Farkas run for city council.
“He feels strongly about all different kinds of people... about the ideas they embrace. And I know he’s been passionate about that for a long time. I think he’s just a really good guy... He wants justice for the environment,” explains Finkleman.
Finkleman adds that protecting parks such as the Weaselhead has many economic advantages, stating the Weaselhead society motto, “great cities have great parks.”
Farkas’ perspective of wildlife preservation stems from this economic view for Calgary. In addition to the city looking favourable compared to others in the country when it comes to aspects such as cost of living, he says that attending to the environment is what makes Calgary different from other cities.
“We also want to attract people for the amenities that are here. We want to not just pitch Calgary as a place to make a living, but a place to make a life.”
Not defined by Ideology
Despite his activism, Farkas has been tagged with the right-wing label. However, he would rather use the terms ‘fiscal conservative’ and ‘social liberal’ to describe himself.
But he says that even these titles do not fully represent his ideas.
“Those two ideas, fiscally conservative, socially liberal, or live and let live as I like to say, come down to an attitude that... you should have the biggest say in how you live your life... chasing, again, the best solutions rather than the ones based in ideology.”
According to Farkas, it is possible to have conservative views, while also believing in historically competing ideals such as wildlife conservation, human rights activism, and social liberalism.
Ultimately, Farkas’ main campaign objectives are raising awareness to the advantages of lower city taxes while improving employment opportunities and boosting our economy.
“As a politician, I think that I’ll never be the smartest person in the room. It’s about cultivating that team, getting that collaboration going, that you actually see results. I’m chasing the best solutions rather than the ones based in ideology.”