Opponents concerned with city’s fiscal responsibility
A crowd of roughly 150 people, made up of media, elections staff and political supporters gathered around the north exit of Calgary’s City Hall council chambers on Sept. 23, to kick off the city’s civic election.
The city unofficially (at time of press) has nine candidates running for the positions of mayor in the Oct. 21, 2013 election.
As the candidates emerged one by one from chambers, all were optimistic about their chance of winning.
After official election papers had been filed, the Calgary Journal spoke with a number of mayoral candidates about why they are running and what voters can expect from them if they are elected.
Editors Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity
Naheed K. Nenshi, running for re-election for Mayor
Surrounded by his purple-clad team, Naheed Nenshi strolled into the council chambers a much different man than the last nomination day. Three years after entering virtually unknown and an underdog, Nenshi now finds himself under the spotlight and as the favourite to win the Calgary mayor position.
Photo by Colin McHattieIn the 2010 election, Nenshi won with 140,263 votes, which accounted for 39.6 per cent of total votes cast. He gained popularity through his term, not only with his Twitter antics, but also his work ethic during the floods this year.
If re-elected, what does the next four years with Nenshi mean for Calgary?
Building an even better Calgary means building an even better transportation network, whether you want to walk, take transit or drive. Investing in things like arts, culture, sports, recreation and libraries is important. It also means looking after the less fortunate and implementing the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative. Our strides to find efficiency in the existing government have lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings already, but we need to do a better job. We have to end the suburban subsidy; we have to ensure that we have a level playing field for growth on the outskirts of the city and growth within the city. That is growth that we can afford and serve with infrastructure.
Is your competition up to the task of facing off with you?
There are a lot of competitors with a lot of different life experiences. In fact, Jon Lord has served as a public servant far longer than I have. The great thing about democracy is that you get an opportunity to get your ideas out and people choose what vision and what ideas they want more. I’m not spending a billion dollars on the race, I’m trying to keep it as tight as I possibly can with the sole purpose of allowing competitors to get their voices into the debate.
What is your take on the outrage against the massive tax hikes?
Several media outlets are publishing a 30 per cent number. Total taxes, municipal plus provincial over the last three years, have gone up a total of 11 per cent. If you look only at municipal numbers, which includes the tax received by the government – that’s building libraries, four new rec facilities and fixing sidewalks. If you include that, it is 18 per cent over three years. That means it is only six per cent per year, which is barely ahead of inflation and population growth. Our property taxes remain the lowest out of any major city in Canada and that’s a record I’m happy to stand by.
Jon Lord, running for Mayor
Jon Lord did not shy away from slighting his main opponent, current mayor Naheed Nenshi, when he held his media scrum after delivering his nomination papers.
Photo by Colin McHattieLord was an alderman for Ward 8 for two consecutive terms starting in 1995. In 2001, he ran during the Alberta general election and was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly for three years. He ran for mayor in 2010 and placed fifth, but spent the least amount of campaign money of the top contenders.
What problems do you see with the city now?
The city is facing some very serious financial burdens. I believe this is a critically important election because it will set the city’s finances for a generation going forward and I think it is important for people to realize city hall doesn’t have any money. My competitor in this election said city hall was broken last election; now they are flat broke. We were looking at trying to do flood mitigation, they put the process in the phase, but we will not see a shovel in the ground for at least four years. It is tempting to say that maybe we should’ve been building dams instead of tunnels and bridges.
What should be done with the $52 million tax surplus?
If someone gave you in trust a gift to give to someone else, and you decide to keep that gift yourself, then you decided to justify on the basis that you really need it, and the other person would have wanted you to have it anyway, I figure that is a question of moral integrity. I have a statement to make: “Mr. Nenshi, give that money back.”
How do you feel you can compete with Naheed Nenshi’s popularity?
There is no question that he is very charismatic. I’ve been in business a very long time, I’ve seen a lot of “salesmen” come in, and they are also very charismatic and likeable people. But the question is who is best able to deliver the goods. And that’s where I would ask people to compare my track record, which is very different on that front.
Norm Perrault, running for Mayor
Photo by Colin McHattieTired of money disappearing, high taxes and overshot budgets, Norm Perreault has decided to add his name to the list of people running for the mayor of Calgary. The 63 year old has lived in Calgary and been a contractor for over 40 years, while also raising his three sons on his own.
Perrarult wants to lend a hand to seniors because “seniors built this country, why not help them?” and says they are in need. He also claimed that many seniors left Calgary due to high taxes, moved to High River and were devastated by the flood.
Why should people vote for you?
I’m one of them and I’ve had calluses on my hands all my life. I know their issues. I was a single parent, raised three boys by myself. I’m one of the common people, not one of these yahoos that has had a silver spoon in my mouth all my life and doesn’t know reality.
What key issues would you like to challenge?
I want to stop the embezzlement and wasting of tax dollars and turn things around for seniors. Things are totally out of control. I’ve been a contractor for over 40 years, and this wasting of money is about things going over budget two or three times. I’ve never raised any of my estimates or tenders in over 40 years. What can’t they operate the same?
Carter Thomson, running for Mayor
Photo by Ashely AlcantaraCarter Thomson is a first time candidate and local business owner here in Calgary. He owns and operates One Way Foods & Deli in the southwest part of the city. Thomson wants to play an active role in building his community and shows this through his support for various charities throughout the city.
What is your campaign strategy?
We’re going to try to be a confident player on the Internet, as well as to get out to forums whenever it is possible, and of course a little bit of signage.
How do you differ from the other candidates?
Well I will be very thrifty with the taxpayer’s money. For example, the rebates that weren’t given back, the rampant waste at City Hall. There needs to be a slow down in spending. One way is to balance costs with aesthetics of the city.
Milan Papez, running for Mayor
Photo by Colin McHattieMilan Papez is no stranger to campaigning. He’s been known for walking the streets of downtown Calgary with his son handing out pamphlets and for his bold comments against Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Papez has been seen wearing a shirt with the statement “Mayor Nenshi is brainwashing you.”
What are some of your campaign strategies?
My campaign strategy is to basically stop wasting money on projects that we don’t need. The second major thing is to improve the transit situation in Calgary and also take care of the issues that are affecting Calgary like the floods we just experienced. We need to protect Calgarians against it happening again.
Why should someone vote for you?
That’s a very good question. I have the knowledge, experience and talent for this job. And I am handsome of course, I can’t do anything about it, it’s the way I am.
Candidates also running for mayor are: