Growing up as the son of a coal miner in the United Kingdom, Dean Hopkins knew he was destined to follow the same path. In order to break the cycle, Hopkins looked at post-secondary schools but had trouble finding the proper support — specifically, financial support for the working class.
Hopkins said the British government did not support people like him to get a post-secondary education in the 60s and ’70s. He decided to enlist in the British Army at the age of 16. For 30 years, Hopkins served in the army seeing war zones around the globe. After retiring, he promised himself to find “a peaceful country and a city with good, kind people.”
For Hopkins, that meant moving across the ocean to Calgary.
Although Hopkins does not have experience in politics he has been put in many stressful leadership positions as he climbed the military ranks throughout the decades. “I am a full believer that the people should come first in our city, before buildings, infrastructure and the [economy],” he said.
Hopkins believes the city must work to eliminate social inequality. As one of his main policies, Hopkins plans to work with local charities with a focus on helping those below the poverty line. Moreover, he plans to allocate funds directly to the charities to help build and develop employment programs.
5 Questions with Dean Hopkins:
Astrid Cunanan: What issue is most important to you as a mayoral candidate and how will you solve it?
Dean Hopkins: Okay. I spoke to someone the other day exactly about this question.
What it was is basically social inequality within our city. And when I talk about that, what social inequality means to me is the separation between specific groups or classes of people within our city. For example, I am the son of a coal miner. I was brought up among the working class in the UK in the 60s and 70s, and we were never given support to further our education. We were always expected by the government to follow our fathers in their footsteps to the coal mines. So they really tried to suppress the working class from getting higher education when it comes to our city with regards to the working-class, middle and upper-class.
Now, in Canada, we don’t admit to having a class system, but deep down, we know the underlying factors. There’s a problem here and my main issue is that I’ve worked for over a decade in the charitable sector of our city, as a volunteer. And I’ve seen how much poverty is in all our communities and families. Because they just don’t feel as though they’ve got the opportunity to raise themselves up out of poverty and back into society, where they have hope to obtain employment or get the right advice or get the right education.
So my primary goal is to put some procedures within the city and actively do something about this. I’ve been in the city for over a decade, and I know what’s going on in our communities. And I am a full believer that the people should come first in our city before buildings and infrastructure and economics. There’s always a fine line. It should always be about the people. And we’ve been forgotten for far too long now. So I intend and this is on my platform so people can have a look into this. I want to bring it, like I said, I’ve worked with many charities and I was always slightly disgruntled about the management structure and some of them becoming empire builders and not focusing on what that charity is all about, not helping the people of Calgary. So I launched a charity in our city called One Direction Calgary. And its focus was not on money or finance. It was on helping charities, people to do good things better in our city. So, I want to take that 25 steps further and advise counsel that we now need to formulate a brand new service in our city, a municipal government department called Calgary Community Social Services. This will be a city-funded department where it will cater for all 14 wards and each ward will be allocated on a yearly basis, one million dollars. Obviously, there are some wards which have bigger problems than others, but they will have a budget. I will be advising the council that we should vote in this budget 14 million dollars a year to start off with, and then they will be the central hub that will bring all charities in our city together and unite them under one banner. So charities can gain financial support from this organization. And people will go visit the office and be given the information they need.
For those of you out there who are really interested, visit my website over the next few weeks, come hunt me down and ask me more about it. But that’s what I want to do. I just want to give to the people who are living below the poverty line. I’ll just give you a quick summary. In the last year during Covid, 77, 000 citizens have slipped below the poverty line. Because of the lack of employment within the city. That’s wrong, and when children have to go to school without food, that’s wrong as well. So we are going to actively address this and you’ll see my platform is all geared towards people. Okay, I’m ready for the next question and sorry about that, I do get carried away when it’s a passionate subject to mine.
Yes, of course. No, it was a great answer. Thank you. And the next question is, why should young people vote for you?
All right. I was at Calgary University speaking to the editor of The Gauntlet the other week. And again, she asked me that question and the concerns of what I would be looking to do for graduates who are leaving university because they’ve got worries about employment and how the economy is. And I’ll tell you exactly and you won’t hear this from any other mayoral candidate. I’ve been around the block a bit. I’ve worked and lived all over the world. I spent 30 years in military service and have a wealth of life experience that I’m bringing to council. But when it comes to the youth, especially when you’re coming to complete your graduate education and move into the workforce, it is a daunting time. And I’ll tell you now, our economy is on it’s own. It has always been on a roller coaster with ups and downs and twists and turns. At the moment, where we’re in a trough and it’s going to take some time to lift our economy
out of that trough and in the right direction. We’ve also got the COVID pandemic with various restrictions. And we’ve got to bring ourselves out as a united population to focus on getting our economy going again, small businesses going and again, that now it’s going to take some time. And just because we came out of the pandemic and came back in and the businesses are open doesn’t mean we are out of a recession.
We are still in a recession. It’s going nowhere until we get governance to move in the right direction. So like I said, that’s going to take time. I envision two years before we get in on the uphill slope. My advice, my honest advice to the students looking at this, go look at employment in another city and the province, another country. Go get some life experience under your belt. Go on an adventure. Go on an adventure that you can draw upon later on in your life before you start gathering stuff like a house, like a mortgage, like bills, like debts, like a family, like children. Go on an adventure, have an adventure, draw on those experiences. And when the time is right for you, look back to Calgary, because we are your home. This is your home. Like I said, I’ve worked and lived all over the world. I’ve been to many war-torn countries. I decided three decades ago that I would find a peaceful country and a city with good, kind people. I came to Canada for a reason and I came to Calgary for a reason. Trust me, it’s not all flowers and roses on the other side of the hill. That would be my advice to the youth.
But coming back to the youth who are leaving education, they’re never going to not have a roof over their head or food on the table or even have real problems finding employment. So they’re very resilient. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been in university or higher education or college before. You know, I have total confidence in you all out there that you can go down your door. But what I would say to the working class city, who are youth who have left high school education with no qualifications and no future and no hope is that I will be advising counsel that we should formulate a student employment and education grant system for the working class, the low income families, the people who are still living at home. So that these kids who left home at 18 can go and be a plumber, be an electrician, be a plant operator. They’ll apply for a grant and the city will give them that grant to get their education. And then once they have got their qualification, they do not pay that back to the city until they get employment. And then it’s like a loan interest-free from the city. We pay our taxes and we never see anything from this is going to focus on getting people out of poverty, getting people into employment who can, and who would usually fall through the cracks of society, end up on the street and up on drugs, and be a burden on the resources and emergency services of our city. If we don’t proactively interact with the working class, then we’re going to get nowhere. I know because I’ve been part of the working class at the shop and for the last 15 years anyway.
OK, my third question is, let’s say you have some downtime from your campaign, which local bar, restaurant or coffee shop are you going to go to and why?
I’m a big Starbucks fan. I love Starbucks. It’s like when people get me a gift, they always give me a Starbucks card. If I have a bit of downtime between meetings or I’ll go to Starbucks and have a cup of coffee. And then all is well with the world. But to escalate that, if I do have a weekend or whatever, I go shooting. I am an ex-military, I used to train snipers back in the day. I have a sniper rifle which shoots accurately out to 1,500 meters. I go to the range and fire 500 to 1,000 rounds off. And then all is well with the world. My favorite restaurant is a place I go every month and it’s down in the southwest. It’s called the British Chippy, and I go have fish and chips and curry sauce and dandelion. And Burdock whisks me back to when I was 10 years old.
OK. Awesome. And then my fourth question is, what’s one TV show or a movie that helped you get through the pandemic?
I would say god bless Netflix and particularly dramas. I love drama, movies, and periodic dramas. I’m a big buff into history. I’ve studied history throughout my life, and those who do not know history will undoubtedly repeat it. And I will always quote that back, as it is true. And with reference to a movie, I like watching war movies, that kind of thing, obviously. But my favorite movie of all time, I would say is Saving Private Ryan.
Yeah. Yeah. Very popular. OK, so my last question for you, you kind of touched on this earlier, but I’m just gonna ask you anyways. Calgary is in a difficult economic spot right now, and many young people are looking elsewhere for opportunities.What would you do to help the city prosper as we eventually emerge from the pandemic?
All right. So a topic on my platform called economic recovery and branches of everything on my platform and complements everything else. And one part of it with reference to economic recovery. Now, you’ll hear about some of the other candidates talking about a vibrant strategy and how we’re going to rethink the downtown where we’ll go work, play and live. And the rich and wealthy buy condominiums down there. And then you’ll hear about another candidate who will say, oh, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that and spend millions of dollars. Well, I’m a realist and I’ll tell you exactly what I’m going to advise counsel to do. And I’ve also created small three minute videos on this topic. Just to reiterate, this council is dedicating two hundred million dollars of our future taxes to the downtown Beltline in the hope that it will bring a new strategy to our city in the belief that we hope that businesses will come. Well, I’m not going to spend two hundred million dollars on hope. I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do. And I’m going to advise the council that we do the Strategic Planning Group, the Strategic Economic Development Group, which is a nonprofit organization funded by our municipal government. I mean, last year, the city gave them ten million dollars, and their job in municipal government is to bring big business to our city. So we give them ten million dollars last year. I wrote to them and sent them an email because they invited me to a forum along with a number of others. And I said, before I come to your forum, can you please tell me what you spent the 10 million dollars on during the Covid period last year? I’ve been really interested. And the second question was, how much do you intend to get from the city in the budget in 2021. That was over a month ago. I still haven’t had a reply. And they didn’t invite me to their forum for some bizarre reason.
Basically, what I will be advising council to do is get the Calgary Economic Development Group to look at businesses not just in our country or province, but in other countries, because let’s face it, we are competing against every other city in the world. They need to identify the kind of businesses we want to try and attract to our city that are going to bring not just hundreds of jobs, but thousands of jobs. Then once they gathered the information about their corporate taxes, how much they pay in their country. We will then need to offer these businesses something more. We have one thing, in my opinion, and that’s a lifestyle, a beautiful city that’s been focused on with buildings and infrastructure next to the mountains and everything else, that’s just the one thing we need to give them something else. So when they come back to council and hand in their submission to say this is what we’ve learned, to realistically have something to offer other businesses throughout the world, we need to lower our corporate tax rate in our city citywide to this level. This will be then debated in council, and we will lower our corporate taxes to a rate where we are competitive within the world market. We will then go back to that Calgary Economic Development group and say, OK, this is what you’ve got. This is our corporate tax rate. Tell me your connections and then go and give your presentations and tell them that we will give them a relocation package when they come to our city and hit the ground running. And making sure the situation that happened with Amazon will not happen in our city again, and I will tell them that we will look after them. And for the first two years, there are the settling-in process where the corporate taxes will stay at a certain level, they won’t see any increase. So we will look after them. And if they employ hundreds, if not thousands of employees, the employees will bring the taxes to the city. It’s all about looking after corporations, having something to offer, because there’s only one thing, the talks in big business and that’s money.
So that’s the direction I’m going to be going down and not spending 200 million dollars on the downtown Beltline. I’ll be advising them that we should not be converting our office spaces into condominiums, because once we lose that, we’ll never get it back. So I’m only one vote and I’ll be taking a different style of leadership to our city. And council is one that the city’s never seen before in its history. And we’ll see how things go.