Traffic, taxes and the $52-million question on candidates’ minds as official nomination papers filed
All 14 Wards in Calgary will be contested during Calgary’s upcoming Oct. 21 election. At city hall on nomination day, 38 councillor contenders joined the 12 incumbents in filing their papers.
These 50 candidates are a significant drop-off from the 80 that ran in the last municipal election.
This will be the first time that candidates will be elected to four-year terms, as well as the first to use the title “councillors” instead of “aldermen.”
In Wards 1 and 2, with the retirement of Dale Hodges and Gord Lowe, there are no incumbents — meaning it will be an open race for the contenders. However, the returning councillors received a small endorsement from Mayor Naheed Nenshi. This endorsement could prove to be an uphill battle for the new challengers.
The Calgary Journal spoke with numerous candidates for the majority of the Wards after they had submitted their nomination papers on Monday.
Editors Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity
Chris Harper: running for open Ward 1 Councillor
Photo by Neil HiltsEntering city hall with a support team of around 15 people, Chris Harper – the second largest contingent behind the incumbent Mayor Nenshi – was looking to make some noise as he filed for the open councillor seat in Ward 1.
Harper, who has nearly 1,000 more tweets than Nenshi – though significantly fewer followers – sees the social media website as a big part of his campaign.
“Twitter for me is a great way to communicate,” Harper said. “It’s how I’ve communicated a lot of my vision and ideas over the years. It’s certainly a tool I intend to use going forward to communicate with constituents.”
What have you heard from constituents in Ward 1 about tax hikes?
“At doors and my work in the community, people are ok if taxes go up, however, they want to see value from that. The fact that we see a lot of anger from that tax increase shows it wasn’t appropriately paced and that we’re not proving that it’s providing value. That will certainly be my priority in the April budget and every budget after.”
Why did you decide to bring your supporters?
“I have a lot of passionate volunteers and I wanted to see them out and keep them active and engaged. Today was a very important day for the campaign. They wanted to come down so I said sure, come on down.”
Other contenders running for Ward 1 include
Bernie Dowhan: running for open Ward 2 Councillor
Photo by Neil HiltsAfter being born in Calgary, Bernie Dowhan moved to Manitoba but has returned to Calgary after graduating from Brandon University with a bachelor’s degree in education. Dowhan now lives in Ward 2 with his wife and two boys. Dowhan has been a teacher for 10 years and has also been active in his community through sports and community associations.
What three things would you want to accomplish if elected?
“I want to keep property tax below five per cent, I want to make sure the Rocky Ridge Recreation Centre gets built on budget and on-time. I want to make sure the community of Evanston gets another access road in and out of the community.”
How would you accomplish this?
“In regards to the property tax increases, you have to be disciplined fiscally, you have to learn how to say no and I’m willing to do that. In regards to the Rocky View Recreation Centre, I’m going to make sure that I work with the city staff to ensure that it gets built on budget and on time. In regards to Evanston, it’s going to be a collaborative project, but I’m going to put pressure on the appropriate people to get it done.”
Richard Poon: running for open Ward 2 Councillor
Photo by Colin McHattieBorn and raised in Hong Kong, Richard Poon moved to Calgary in 1989. Poon’s platform states one of his goals is to spend taxpayers’ money in a smart way. A recent project of Poon’s was helping developing countries to secure food supply and manage its renewable resources. He is also known for being a spokesperson for a Calgary anti-shark fin group.
What are some key issues facing Ward 2?
“The first thing is the traffic and transportation. We have four new communities. Evanston is one of the fastest growing communities in the northwest area but they only have one road and then they are sharing one bus route with the other three communities. This is very unacceptable.”
What is your campaign strategy?
“Right now, my campaign strategy is door knocking and talking to my support groups.”
Why should someone support you in your campaign?
“I always achieve some sort of result with limited resources, because that is the reality. It’s the way I’ve always lived my life.”
Others running in the open Ward 2 election include:
Calgarians running for Ward 3 include:
Sean Chu: running for Ward 4 Councillor against Gael Macleod
Photo by Neil HiltsSean Chu has worked with the Calgary Police Service for more than 20 years. While on the job, he has been a recipient of the Calgary Police Service Distinguished Service Award. Outside his job, Chu is a current member of the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association and has volunteered in several areas of Ward 4.
Why run for Calgary city council?
“I believe right now that our community [Ward 4] is not being represented properly.”
If elected, how do you intend to represent Ward 4 properly?
“First of all, I think the most important thing is fiscal management. A 32 per cent property tax increase is not sustainable. At what point in time are people going to say, ‘That’s it. I don’t have any money left.’ On top of that, the $52 million was taken from Calgarians.”
You brought up the $52 million, what would you have done with it if it were up to you?
“Give it back to the taxpayers. It doesn’t matter if it was $1, $10 or $2,000 — it’s the principle.”
What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
“Priority number one is not building another $25 million bridge or taking $52 million from the people. Priority number two would be to connect the community. And priority number three would be to find a transportation solution.”
Others running in Ward 4 include:
Ward 5 is being contested by:
Richard Pootmans: running for re-election as Ward 6 Councillor
Photo by Colin McHattieRichard Pootmans moved from Ottawa to Calgary in 1979. He comes from a business background, and has worked for companies such as Calgary Economic Development, SMED International, and TractionWorks. He said he hopes to be re-elected by focusing on issues such as traffic, public safety, and making life more affordable for his constituents.
“I look forward to continuing the work I started.” Pootmans said. “There are a lot of things I want to do in terms of managing growth and controlling budgets, and those two are very closely related.”
What are the issues in Ward 6?
“Having been to approximately 20,000 doors over the summer, the key issues that came up were traffic congestion — which is very closely related to growth — affordability — the costs of living in our city are going up as we get larger — and public safety, [meaning] public safety on the roads, speeding and West LRT safety.”
Are you getting a lot of heat at the doors about the 30 per cent tax increase over last term?
“The last chunk of $52 million was really going to flood repair, and when people understand that, it seems to be a little more comfortable for them. Absolutely it’s an issue and I think it’s important that it should be discussed in the public. I’m very comfortable with the notion that in the face of the largest disaster we’ve faced in the city over the past generation, we need cash to immediately start the work in repairing city infrastructure.”
Bob Bowles: running for Ward 6 Councillor
Bob Bowles is running to represent Ward 6 after having spent 15 years as President of Avenue Capital Group.
What are the important issues for your constituents?
“The number one issue at the doorstep is traffic. The LRT has not solved all the problems because when they spent $1.4 billion on it they forgot to put in sufficient parking. Speeding through neighbourhoods is another issue, and our current alderman seems to think that speed bumps don’t work. Maybe on Mars, but here on Earth I think speed bumps work. The number two issue, of course, is the $52 million tax grab. 54 per cent of Calgarians responded to the city’s own poll that they wanted their money back and the city decided to keep it.”
What made you decide to run?
“We need to do better with the $4 billion that the city collects every year from us, the taxpayers. 32 per cent tax increase in the last three years and they’re still not looking after our basic, essential services like police. We are under-officered by 300 and our firefighters have been working without a contract for three years. That’s not a great motivation to run into a burning building for $23 an hour. Lastly, the EMS is a joke. Even though it’s Alberta Health Service’s responsibility, it’s ours as stewards for Calgary that if it’s not working, we need to make sure it’s working. Minutes are like hours if your child is choking or if your dad is lying on the floor with a heart attack. We need to get the basics right before we start doing nice things like bridges that are overpriced.”
Others running to represent Ward 6 include:
- Joe Connelly
- James Donald Istvanffy
Candidates to represent Ward 7 include:
John Mar: running for re-election as Ward 8 Councillor
Photo by Neil HiltsJohn Mar was born and raised in Calgary. Mar, a former RCMP officer, was first elected to represent Ward 8 in 2007. Mar won re-election in 2010 — receiving 53 per cent of the popular vote.
What are you hearing on the doorsteps of Ward 8?
“A lot of flood talk. I’ve got great support from my communities, both in flood areas and beyond. We know that there are going to be significant challenges going forward from infrastructure safety issues — traffic certainly. There are a lot of things left to be done in Ward 8.”
You distinguished yourself in the last campaign by spending more than any other candidate. Can we expect the same this time around?
“No, actually this time I think you’re going to see a much more efficient campaign that’s significantly less in terms of funding and spending.”
Are you worried about voter turnout this election?
“This is certainly something that plagues lower levels of government. We see significantly reduced levels of turnout when there is not a big mayoralty challenge, so I’m expecting a lower voter turnout.”
Evan Woolley: running for Ward 8 Councillor against John Mar
Photo by Colin McHattieEvan Woolley is a born and raised Calgarian, who still has fond memories of each of the neighbourhoods he has lived in. After completing his political science degree from Carleton University, Woolley began working in the oil and gas industry before going on to work in various government positions.
Why run for Calgary city council?
“I’m running because I love where I live and I want to make our neighbourhoods the best places they can be.”
What are the key issues in Ward 8?
“There’s a whole bunch of key issues, but I think a number of Ward 8’s voters feel that our property taxes have not been staying in their community. It’s great the city is growing rapidly, but the developers haven’t paid their fair share of the costs for that development. We want to see our tax money stay in our neighbourhood. The incumbent is a suburban developer and I think he has failed our community.”
If you are elected, what would you like to accomplish?
“I want to represent our neighbourhood and make it the best place that it can be. [I’ll focus on] inner city infrastructure , whether it’s transportation routes, sidewalks, traffic issues and community centres. [They’re] are all falling to pieces. I really want to fight for those issues.”
Also running to represent Ward 8:
Gian-Carlo Carra: running for re-election as Ward 9 Councillor
“…now we need to make massive structural changes for how we grow and how we deploy our municipal bureaucracy as civil servants.”
– Ward 9 incumbent Gian-Carlo Carra Gian-Carlo Carra was elected in 2010 as Councillor for Ward 9. Carra wants City Hall to serve neighbourhoods better, saying he believes they are the driving force behind change within Calgary.
When it comes to your campaign strategy, what is different this time around?
“Well this time around I’m an incumbent. We ran under a platform called “Great Neighbourhoods” in 2010 and I’m pleased to report that that agenda is on track and ahead of schedule. Now, I’m just hoping that the voters of Ward 9 and the citizens of Calgary appreciate the transformation that is underway for the city.”
What are some of the big issues that you are facing for your ward?
“The biggest issue is the same issue that’s facing cities across North America. That issue is that we built a city we can’t afford and now, we need to make massive structural changes around how we grow and how we deploy our municipal bureaucracy as civil servants. We also have to spend some time advocating to other orders of government so more taxes that are paid by Calgarians have to be spent on Calgarians.”
Jordan Katz: running for Ward 9 Councillor against Gian-Carlo Carra
Photo by Colin McHattieJordan Katz has been involved in politics for a number of years. According to his website, he has been a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, and has managed campaigns in both Federal and Provincial elections. Katz is currently the President of the Rotary Club of Calgary Crowchild.
Why did you decide to run?
“Ultimately, I think what has happened over the last three years [because] of what we’ve seen with the $52 million, and some of our problems with transit that haven’t been effectively addressed to the needs of the residents of Ward 9. I think I have a vision that they support and I look forward to getting their verdict on Oct. 21.”
What would you do differently?
“The 30 per cent increase we’ve seen over the last three years is unaffordable and unsustainable. I think as a city we’re looking at incredibly high administrative costs. I’d like to see us address some of those and make sure when we’re taking money from Calgarians for services, it actually goes to those services so we can take the least amount possible to actually provide people with the services they need.”
Other candidates running to represent Ward 9 include:
The three candidates running in ward 10 are:
Wayne Frisch: running for Ward 11 Councillor against Brian Pincott
Photo by Neil HiltsWayne Frisch is running to represent Ward 11, having previously served as the president of the Rutand Park Community Association and the Currie Barracks Community Association. Frisch also led the fight to stop a large telecommunications tower from being built in their subdivision in 2010 — leading to the founding of the advocacy group Celltower.ca.
What do you see as the biggest issues in Ward 11?
“Our Ward is very unique this year. It’s going to be almost like a mayoral race because we have a strong incumbent — Brian Pincott — who has been quite notable for his leftist special interest support. Then we have a candidate who is on the right side being supported by developers. I think the biggest thing that we are finding is people are unsatisfied with both and like the fact that a candidate, like myself, is actually representing the middle.”
James Maxim: running for Ward 11 Councillor against Brian Pincott
Photo by Ian EsplenJames Maxim is a businessman who has worked in international trade, oil and gas exploration and government consulting. Along with his business accomplishments, Maxim was also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for community volunteer participation.
You’ve run for council before, why do you feel you have a better shot at winning this time around?
“I think we have a better shot this time because we’ve been campaigning harder. I’ve been out door knocking and my record is out there. This time around, people are responding because I’m talking about the issues, such as taxation, financial sustainability and traffic issues. That’s why I think I have a better chance this time around.”
Has transparency or your relationship with the Manning Foundation been an issue for you while you’ve been door knocking?
“It’s there and people have asked where I stand. I do have friends in the industry, but when you’ve lived in Calgary for 30 years, you’re going to have friends all across various industries. I have friends and I’ve worked with Cal Wenzel on charity functions and other people I’ve met. It’s not a big deal and, if anything, people are saying you’re transparent and you’re offering that information.”
Also running in Ward 11:
Shane Keating: running for re-election in Ward 12
Photo by Ashely Alcantara
With his election badge on his chest and only one opponent challenging him for Ward 12, Shane Keating looked and sounded confident that he would retain his seat in the council chambers. Keating, who has lived in Ward 12 for 16 years, is looking for his second term and feels his accomplishments during his first term speaks for why he should be re-elected.
Why should your constituents vote for you again?
“When you look at what I’ve accomplished, the effort I’ve put in and what is coming down, [I am] bringing a number of issues of the southeast to the forefront that have been needed desperately. We’re going forward in efficiencies and making sure the service is there and making sure we’re doing everything as best we can. It’s all about change, not that there were terrible things, but there is always room for improvement. If you’re not asking the question how can we improve, you often remain stagnant.”
What do you hope to accomplish in the next four years if re-elected?
“In four years, I want to have a solid plan for funding and finance for a southeast LRT. We’ll go forward from there, but I’d love to have construction started shortly after that.”
Stephanie Kusie: running for Ward 12 Councillor against Shane Keating
Photo by Colin McHattie
Stephanie Kusie is a diplomat who has served Canada around the world, most recently in Dallas, Texas.
Why should people vote for you?
“Well I was born and raised in Calgary and Lake Bonavista. I attended the University of Calgary, but I actually had a career as a diplomat and I served in Argentina, El Salvador, and most recently Dallas, Texas. I wanted to apply all the experience and the skills that I gained overseas and bring it back to the city that I know and love.”
What do you foresee as the biggest issues for your constituents?
“The biggest issue, hands down, would be the southeast LRT. We need it in the southeast as soon as possible. We have the South Health Campus hospital right there in our backyard with the Quarry Park development with 5,000 new employees and 15,000 new residents. 25 per cent of new residents are coming in to Ward 12 and we’re not seeing the resources to match it presently. We need that train in the south.”
Diane Colley-Urquhart: running for re-election as Ward 13 Councillor
“These are always top issues, strong fiscal responsibility and lo and behold one of the top priorities for Ward 13 is getting the Ring Road through the Tsuu T’ina Nation, so I’ve had a few meetings now with Chief Roy Whitney, and I know they’re very committed to doing all they can to have a positive outcome when that plebiscite is held three days after our election.”
– Ward 13 incumbent Diane Colley-Urqhart
Diane Colley-Urquhart was a nurse for almost 40 years. She has held her position in public office since 2000 and is looking to win her sixth election.
What made you decide to run again?
“Well, it takes a few years to get a handle on this job and I think that is where we’re at in the city’s history right now. We need strong, trusted leadership and experienced leadership more than ever. I think the flood really has posed some significant concerns on a go-forward basis for us to address. We need to deal with our fiscal situation, and there are a number of things that I think will be important to carry on with.”
What are the biggest issues to your constituents right now?
“As a suburban alderman, one of the things people have asked me about is why I vote for these tax increases because people are pretty well maxed out on the tax increases. But when you’re representing a suburban area, you believe in giving people housing choices and finding the home of their dreams. We also need to have more police officers, more firefighters, and you also need to build more fire halls, more police stations and more recreation centres. Putting in that infrastructure is really important and I hear time and time again that we need more. We need more trains, we need more transit cars and those sort of things.”
What does your campaign strategy look like over the next month?
“We’ve already been out door knocking and at a whole variety of events. It really becomes a ground campaign in your Ward and you’re trying to get out and meet as many people as possible, talking about their quality of life on a go-forward basis, public safety and security. These are always top issues, strong fiscal responsibility and, lo and behold, one of the top priorities for Ward 13 is getting the Ring Road through the Tsuu T’ina Nation. I’ve had a few meetings now with Chief Roy Whitney, and I know they’re very committed to doing all they can to have a positive outcome when that plebiscite is held three days after our election.”