Never in Calgary’s history has a woman been elected mayor, but candidate Jyoti Gondek hopes to change that reality to confront the city’s challenges through economic, social and environmental resilience.
Gondek, who recent polls suggest is the race’s front runner, is currently the councillor for Ward 3, north central Calgary. However, her political experience goes beyond her three years as councillor. Prior to her election to city council, she served on the Calgary planning commission. In 2014, Gondek became the director of the Westman Centre for Real Estate at the U of C’s business school. Presently, Gondek chairs the City of Calgary’s standing policy committee on planning and urban development. Along with her political experience, she holds a PhD in urban sociology.
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To combat the economic insecurity COVID-19 has created, Gondek wants to give confidence to businesses and investors by taking appropriate health measures. Policies addressing gender-based disparities in the labour market and improving access to childcare aim to aid Calgary’s economic recovery.
She believes supporting harm reduction in Calgary communities will build social resilience. To this end, Gondek addresses the needs of low-income families, racialized Canadians, religious minorities, women and people with disabilities.
5 QUESTIONS WITH JYOTI GONDEK:
Sydney Klassen: What issue is most important to you as a mayoral candidate? And how will you solve it?
Jyoti Gondek: Sydney thanks for that question. And I think sometimes people get caught up in trying to define it as an economic issue or a social issue or an environmental one. I think the key issue that faces us is making sure that we understand our recovery requires resilience. And that resilience plan must be based on three pillars. And those are economic, social, and environmental. It’s absolutely critical that the city declares a climate emergency, we have to make sure we are addressing things like emissions, flood mitigation, and cleaner ways of using energy. I think it’s incredibly important to protect our most vulnerable, making sure that we’ve got proper solutions for housing, making sure that we have got strong public transit networks for people to have access to the city, and really making sure that our policies of the city are equitable for everyone that we serve. And finally, on the economic side, there’s so much opportunity in our city. And I think what we need to do is embrace the fact that we’re in a transitioning economy, an economy that’s going to be rooted in innovation and technology driving every business sector.
Why should young people vote for you?
It has been a pleasure to talk to young people from every walk of life in the last nine months, I’ve had some pretty incredible phone calls with 15 to 19 year olds, who are a part of, you know, particular groups and their aspirations and hopes for the future of Calgary are incredibly similar to those of generations that are older than them. And I think the value of actually talking with youth instead of talking at them, is that once you stop to listen to the things that they’re struggling with, or the things that they wish we would listen to, we can make those changes happen. Here’s a really common one. Young people often say my opportunity to get a job is limited because of the traditional method of sending in a resume. And they’re right, you can weed somebody out with a resume in five seconds by it not having enough points on it. But so you know, what we need to do. And this has been my position to recruiters and human resource departments, the value of having gone digital in the last 18 months through the pandemic, means that you can actually spend five minutes on a zoom call with somebody and get to know them, you can engage with them in a conversation, and it puts more perspective into who that person is than simply looking at that piece of paper. So that’s a really big way we can change the game for young people entering the labor force. And I think we have to make sure we’re recognizing your skill sets and not looking for traditional things. You know, the days of looking for an engineering degree or a business degree are gone, we have to look at how creative and motivated you are, and how your skills allow us to do business differently.
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?
You know the great thing about running for mayor is that you are all over the city all of the time. And so I make it my business to know what little places there are that I can visit. One of my favorites is Citizen Brewing Company. They have an amazing outdoor space, which has been such a blessing during the pandemic. They’ve got great food, great beers and ciders on tap. I love going to Palomino if I’m around downtown. So there’s just lots of great places and spaces. And I would encourage everybody to explore your city and check them all out.
Calgary is full of just amazing restaurants and coffee shops and breweries as well. And what’s one TV show or movie that helps you get through the pandemic?
Oh, you know what, I haven’t had a lot of time to watch anything in its entirety. But I can tell you that tapping into Parks and Rec really keeps me going. You know, from the old days of Leslie Knope. I have gone back and looked at Cobra Kai as an example. I watched the first season of that, but I can’t finish any of the other seasons. It’s just really hard to sit down and finish anything these days. So I’m just happy to have a couple of minutes to plug into whatever show is on.
What would you do to help the city prosper as we eventually emerge from the pandemic?
You know, one of the other opportunities I’ve had is to speak to young professionals, the ones that are staying and find out what it is that kept them here. And so I’ve talked to a group of engineers and tech experts who are working on a carbon removal accelerator project. I mean that’s, that’s big time stuff. They are transitioning how we look at energy production. And they said that they’re staying in Calgary because they got to do this incredible project that allows them to shape the future of sustainable energy production. And the work is meaningful. And that’s why they wanted to stay and in tandem with that, the place that they get to work, which is right downtown, is a building that has been redesigned inside to have spaces that they care about. There’s a little local coffee shop, that is a social enterprise, there’s a basketball court, there is amazing art. It’s just really a space that makes them feel valued. And it’s a job they’re doing that makes them feel like it’s meaningful. And the setting is right next to Chinatown, it’s in the heart of downtown. So if we focus on what it is that makes someone feel like they belong, and that they’re welcome in a city, and they are participating in some really good work. We’ve got it here. We just need to do more of it.
Yeah, that is for sure. Thank you so much for your time, Jyoti. I really appreciate it.
Thank you, Sydney. I appreciate you doing this work. It’s important to get the message out to young people. So thanks for inviting me on.