Calgary’s Mayoral candidates gathered Wednesday to discuss the city’s non-profit sector, sparring over issues including safe injection sites, the city’s proposed charter deal with the province and proper funding for charitable organizations.
More than 200 people were in attendance at the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Theatre in the downtown area. The debate was also live streamed and featured questions from the crowd and the online audience.
Andre Chabot, Emile Gabriel, Larry Heather, David Lapp and Naheed Nenshi were in attendance — while Bill Smith, Curtis Olsen, Jason Achtymichuk, Brent Chisholm, and Stan Waciak were not.
David Mitchell, the moderator for the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, asked the candidates to describe how they would incorporate the knowledge and insight of non-profits into city council policies.
Candidate’s responses differed greatly. Chabot said he leans toward adding value to communities, including kids sports, while Heather focused on what he called the wasteful spending of the “Nenshi regime” during the last seven years.
“What we need to do is give seed funding that is targeted to making them self-sufficient,” – David Lapp.
A social work student from Mount Royal University asked the candidates what their two main goals were for the non-profit sector and how much time they’ve spent with local organizations.
“The number one and number two things we hear is always about money — predictable and stable long-term funding,” said Nenshi. “[And] the need for a systems approach to solutions.”
All the candidates stressed their experience with non-profit organizations, from Nenshi’s past career at Mount Royal to Lapp being directly involved with the homeless.
There was a debate among candidates about where funding needs to be allocated. with Lapp stating the solution isn’t to just increase funding.
“What we need to do is be strategic,” he said. “What we need to do is give seed funding that is targeted to making them self-sufficient.”
Gabriel said the funding issues need to consider the changes in the economy, where there needs to be “an open channel of communication” and engage the community to better understand the concerns to make informed decisions.
The city’s struggling economy and a lack of funding for the sector were common themes. Audience members brought up concerns around affordable transit and housing, unrecognized homeless, addiction and mental health needs and poverty.
As mayor, Chabot said he would focus on improving employment opportunities and understanding the challenges of the non-profit sector.
Heather said there needs to be a harsher punishment for addicts. As mayor he would reduce funding to non-profits in favour of a guaranteed income for everyone.
“With the corresponding granting of the basic income, the amount going to social services is phased out,” he said. “That must happen, people must take self-initiative.”
All other candidates agreed that assistance needs to be improved and the city can do more. Gabriel and Nenshi supported an option for a treatment center and better programs aimed at rehabilitation.
Lapp and Nenshi disagreed often in the forum, first regarding taxation and then over Calgary’s recent deal with the provincial government for a new charter. Lapp disagreed with moving forward with a safe injection center and counseling, stating, “it’s just a cycle that’s repeating.”
While Heather had differing views, the candidates focused on improving the relationship with non-profit organizations, through welcoming opinions as well as concerns, and working towards being “champions of non-profit”.
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