Jan Damery hopes to be elected as Calgary’s first female mayor on Monday, Oct. 18. With no previous political experience, Damery explains that she is the fresh perspective Calgary needs. Our current city councillors “do not deserve a promotion,” she says.
The self-identifying non-politician is not new to leadership. As a longtime former executive with TransCanada PipeLines, she says that her extensive career in Alberta’s energy sector taught her skills every mayor should possess. Damery also acknowledges her own career privilege, noting that she had opportunities young Calgarians don’t today.
Modernizing the city’s economic recovery plan is a pillar of Damery’s platform, as she believes there exists little support and few jobs for young Calgarians.
More about Jan Damery:
Damery, who has a master’s degree in economics from the University of British Columbia, says she is focused on pulling the city out of its current financial crisis. She plans to generate 80,000 jobs by 2030, with at least 4,000 addressing Calgary’s commitment to mitigating climate change.
Revitalization is also key for Damery. Investing in arts and entertainment is a pivotal part of her plan to revamp the downtown core and attract opportunities. Damery has coined “bringing the cool back to Calgary” as her top priority.
The pro-vaccine candidate has criticized the provincial government for not implementing mandates sooner. Should Damery be elected mayor, vaccine passports are here to stay.
The Calgary Journal asked our city’s mayoral candidates five questions about themselves and their campaigns. Here’s what Damery told us:
5 Questions with Jan Damery:
This is Jan Damery. She is one of our mayoral candidates here in Calgary. Jan, thanks for joining me for this interview with The Calgary Journal.
I’m thrilled to be here with you, Lily.
Awesome. I’m so excited to do this, it’s a lot of fun. We kind of have five questions to go through. So first of all, I wanted to know, what issue is most important to you as a mayoral candidate, and how will you solve it?
The issue that compelled me to run to be mayor is creating opportunity for all in our city. When I came to the city back in 1990, this was the place to be. And, in some respects, we’ve lost that. Certainly that brand, that reputation. It’s quite personal for me, though. I have a twenty-four-year-old stepson who left the city a year ago because he couldn’t find a job here and didn’t see a future here. And so that is the number one job that I want to tackle together with all of us. My special sauce, if you will, and secret ability is pulling people together from diverse perspectives. So this is the leadership that I’m bringing to council and offer for our city.
That’s really awesome, and thanks for sharing that personal anecdote with me as well. I can see why that would be important for your platform and your campaign as a whole, for sure. So I guess on that note, then, why should young people vote for you?
Because I want to bring the cool back to Calgary. I’ve got very specific plans to revitalize our downtown core. So that [it] actually is a place, a neighbourhood, that people can live, learn, work and play. That means revitalizing our streetscape with things to do and really investing in our entertainment, arts and local artists. It’s about affordable housing. It’s about public transit that can actually get you somewhere in the city so you don’t have to have a car. I’m a big supporter of the train from the Calgary airport to downtown and on to Banff. So imagine you’re downtown and you can actually get on a train and go back and forth. You don’t have to worry about, again, having a vehicle. You can even go out. We can have lunch, Lily, next time we meet. Wouldn’t that be phenomenal?
I would love it.
It helps us with our carbon footprint as well for the city, and I have also proposed you’ll see some details on my platform, [such as] a surf park in West Village. So just in the Bow River, where — and imagine the backdrop of surfing right against the backdrop of downtown — you can go surfing at lunch and then go back to your really cool tech job. So this is really about scaling and expanding our post-secondary presence downtown, working with all of our post-secondaries in concert with our growing tech sector so that we become the place of innovation and energy transitions. That’s the dream. And that’s why you need to vote for me, because a vote for me is a vote for the future of the city and your involvement in it.
So, now on to a little bit of a more fun question, Let’s say you have some downtime from your campaign. Which local bar, restaurant or coffee shop are you going to, and why?
Truth be known, I’m very fond of “Caffe Beano,” just on 17th Ave. I met my husband there after online dating. We’ve been married for 10 years. They made the best Vietnamese coffee, so I’m addicted to that. But I’m older now. I have to watch the waistline, so I can’t have them all the time. I live in the Altadore area and one of the reasons we actually moved there was because we actually love the local pub there, which is “The Garrison.” A large part of my whole campaign is encouraging all of us to support our local pubs and restaurants and the hospitality sector. They’ve been really hurt through this pandemic, and even more challenging now as we roll out vaccine passports, as you know that I’ve been incredibly supportive of. But I also want to give a huge shout-out, because it actually puts added pressure, but it’s all about keeping them open because they have suffered so greatly in these 18 months. But because of the work and travel I’ve done overseas, I love samosas. They’re one of my favourite things. And so there are some great places, too, in the Northeast that I love to go to. The Samosa Factory, I think it’s Chuma’s, I believe. Just amazing, right? Almost as good as they were in East Africa.
That’s so nice. What is one TV show or movie that helped you get through the pandemic?
Oh, God, there were several of them, but “Ted Lasso,” oh my God! We’re actually currently addicted to that. And it’s one of those things that I’ll continue to sort of rerun. Yeah. And “Money Heist.” Oh, yeah. Just really both, yeah. My husband and I choose a series that we watch together. That’s tricky for, you know, if we’re doing other things right, we can’t go ahead and watch ahead of the other one. But those two things come to mind right off the top.
And then finally, as you know, Calgary is obviously in a kind of difficult economic spot right now. And we even talked about how many young people have been, and are still, looking elsewhere for opportunities. I know that your platform is really focused on bringing the “cool back to Calgary,” but can you just kind of dive a little bit deeper into how you’re going to help the city prosper as we eventually emerge from this pandemic?
And we’re already emerging. What you, or some of your viewers may not know about me, I’m an energy economist. I actually grew up in the energy sector. And so we also even have that sector really transforming before our eyes. We’re not talking a lot about it. We need to be talking more because I believe we can actually be that future city of energy transition. And so as mayor, it’s important to shine the light and signal boost that activity and have also the city get out of the way of us transforming. And that includes where the city itself is, you know, sort of, it’s permitting. It’s reducing regulatory time and sort of converting and transforming space in our city. It’s also getting regulations out of the way of businesses reinventing themselves. So that is a top thing that is on my agenda and offering and working collaboratively with everyone so we can reduce that regulatory uncertainty. Again, with my economic lens, that’s actually what we don’t appreciate. But that’s actually what kills business, is that uncertainty in terms of both timeline and really whether it’s going to be a yes or no approval. And we politicize a lot of these decisions by actually them coming to council.
And so we’ve actually got to do a whole relook and rethink of streamlining that process. It’s also about, I think, painting just this future and vision. My reflection on COVID has been how critical the local economy is. And so we’ve already talked about this, right. How we support our local proprietors. We’ve got to be doing more of that. It also means that we’ve got to help our local businesses scale. And again, it’s not thinking about looking for another elephant and replacing oil and gas. I think that’s a false narrative. Oil and gas is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It’s transforming as well, it’s becoming very tech. We’re not going to see a lot of new jobs, perhaps different jobs coming out of that sector. But we have a lot of other industries that we don’t talk about. They’re almost as significant as agriculture. We have a huge biomedical industry that’s starting to really take off. And, boy, coming out of a pandemic, do we actually appreciate, do we not, how important this is. We have a huge almost renaissance happening up towards the Calgary airport in terms of both distribution and warehousing, because we are already, as a city, positioning ourselves as sort of the layover stop from western North America to go over to Europe.
And we’re not talking about these things, Lily. And so for me, it’s about really animating, really invigorating, helping our local businesses scale. I’ve been volunteering and coaching startup tech firms in our city for almost four years, and there are amazing green shoots. And we need to be telling this story more. And that creates possibility. And a big thing that the city can do is we’ve already talked about, which is so important to our young people, is that we’re revitalizing our core. That we’re making our neighbourhoods just great places to live, which means they’re walkable, they’re bikeable. We’re embracing sort of what I call the 15-minute city principles that you can get anything you need by walking and biking. It keeps us active. And most importantly, it helps us fulfill our climate change obligations. And so what you’ll find is a very robust, interconnected but systemic view and platform on how we sort of get this. So that’s the leadership you’re buying into when you elect me as mayor.
I’m really grateful for you taking the time to talk to me as well. It’s really meaningful and it’s important too, for just, you know, all the young people in Calgary as we kind of are making our decisions. And I appreciate you even just answering the fun questions because I think it makes it a little bit more human.
And it’s real, right? I mean, I am the nonpolitician running to be, and I’m doing it out of a real sense of service to our community but also offering the extensive leadership background I have. I’ve worked in government. I’ve worked in corporate. I’ve been a president of an energy company, a subsidiary of a very large energy company. I run the United Way campaign in town. I’ve worked overseas with the Aga Khan Development Network. It’s all of this working in complex organizations, I understand governance. And these are the things that I uniquely am bringing to this job. That I’m doing because I do believe in this city. I’m seeing a void in leadership. I would just argue that the current councillors running to be mayor do not deserve a promotion. They have not been able to lead in the last four years. In my experience in leading extensively over my career is that past performance is a great indicator of future performance. So I am the fresh perspective and really encouraging and looking forward to earning your support. Really critical for all of you to get out and vote, because this election is about the future of our city. So please join me in helping to create it. And by the way, Lily, I would be the first elected female mayor. What an exciting thought.
I do love the sound of that.
This is history in the making. And for me, it’s always about balance. We have to get more women in politics. And this also is driving me to run. I have a great job that I stepped away from temporarily on unpaid leave of absence as a vice president of YWCA Calgary. And so part of this is very much a mission as well. I want to pave the way forward for many more of us women and those who identify as women getting into politics because it matters.