Born in Giza, Egypt, Emile Gabriel came to Canada due to hostility in his home country. Gabriel has a bachelor of science degree, a degree in civil engineering and a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in project/management specialization. He first ran for mayor in 2017.
One of Gabriel’s priorities if elected this year would be to implement a new management method. Gabriel wants city councillors to be more involved in the community by conducting town hall meetings consistently. In these meetings, the councillors must listen to the public and put concerns into action.
The Calgary Journal asked our city’s mayoral candidates five questions about themselves and their campaigns. Here’s what Gabriel told us:
5 Questions with Emile Gabriel:
Cullen Chan: My first question is, what issue is the most important to you as a mayoral candidate and how will you solve it?
Emile Gabriel: We have two problems. Poor management, people who are not qualified don’t have the qualifications to manage. They have other qualifications, which is good, but it’s not the most suitable experience and knowledge in managing a corporation like this. The bigger problem we have is, as you can see, especially in this election, there is a lot of money supporting candidates. When somebody is sponsored by a certain group, donors or interest group, their loyalty goes to them. Why? Because they are, in a sense, career politicians. They are expected to return a favor to the donor because they want to help them when they come back for re-election. That’s why they are not serving the people.
I have no donors or any interest group ever in my history that supported me. I tell you, solving housing affordability in Calgary is going to be very simple as a person who has a civil engineering background.
Now, one very important point in answering the question, what are the important issues? What differentiates me from the other 27 candidates? The fact that I have the management experience and the way I’m going to manage the council is going to be completely different. The council, the way they operate today, the attitude they never can accomplish anything and the people give them very bad marks for their performance. I’m going to do something very different. And I just said it yesterday in one of the forums. I will be sending every councilor out to their wards, to their communities, to educate the people about the issues, to provide information. To have dialog and discussion, to find a consensus, and then come back to the council meeting and report the consensus of the wishes and consensus of their words and communities, not their own opinion. Today, so many councils, I think they know better for the communities that’s going to end under my leadership. Why? Because that’s another cause of the problem. We are not having a council really dedicated to serving the people. They have their own agenda. They have their own response. I’m going to change that. There is no one candidate that has this understanding from. They come and say, I’m going to have a collaboration and make them work together. So that is my main issue, is to make sure that we have a functional council if the council is working to serve the people. Then most of our problems will be easily solved. Another thing that I committed myself to do, which is very important, is to commit myself to two terms. Term limits, two terms. Why? Because this way I can prove to you as a voter that I am not coming to make a career out of this position. Combine that with another commitment I made, and no other candidate will have to make it. I’m a consultant. I worked downtown in those big towers, I sat down with CEOs making more money than the mayor. I make more money than the mayor has been cited. The companies I consult with or learn from, they have just budgeted bigger than the city of Calgary. But I am moving now from my consultation to public service. So, when I look at the public sector, lots of people in the private sector were taking roll-back cuts on their salary and some lost their jobs.
So, to lead by example, I commit myself to take a 35 per cent rollback in the manner of salary, the 75 per cent. I’m not going to give it back to the government, but I’m going to use it to help people. I’m going to put it in an account. People have access to that account. You know what I’m doing with it, use it to help other people, not myself. So, this is to give you an overall of our problem and how I’m going to try to solve it. But when some people start talking about removing the snow or what we are going to do with the garbage? These are minor issues. If we have the right people in the council, we can easily solve those issues.
Those are some really good points that you brought up. Speaking about catering to the people. Why should young people vote for you?
Because of this, I mentioned to you that I am a person who has the right qualifications. We have transportation issues. If the mayor doesn’t have any background in transportation, what happened is the Green Line. If I was the mayor, the Green Line would be built long ago. Why? Because I have a transportation background. I know how to ask the right question. I know how to read the blueprint so I can speak to the engineer in their language and challenge them.
But in the last 10 years, to be talking back and forth about the Green Line, nobody understands exactly the concept of urban planning combined with transportation. So that’s why it took very long and nothing was done.
So, this is why people should elect me. Has anybody heard this stuff from anybody else? This is the result of my work for 30 years, being involved in the world of politics. I am not a politician. I have never been a politician, but I am a manager and an immigrant who came from Egypt. And very sudden corruption and bad management took place. A student like me when I was a student, you can’t find a job. You can’t find a house. So, I decided to leave and make that into my new home. So, I understand the needs of the people, because I lived and I came to Canada with only two hundred dollars in my pocket. I fulfilled my dreams, I fulfilled my dreams.
So that’s why I am here to the center because there is nothing really I want to achieve anymore. And all this story together gives you a reason why people vote for me. I have no donors. I don’t have any loyalty to any particular interest group. I am there to serve and I have the qualifications.
So, let’s say you have some downtime in your campaign. Is there a local bar or restaurant coffee shop that you’re going to?
And why coffee shops? I would go somewhere where I can find either Chinese food, Shawarma that I go to nearby sometimes during the finals of any games like events of football, or I go to the nearest bar. So, I go to a bar with friends and I have a party. We tried to discover every restaurant in Calgary and tried once. So, we may be experts in that area.
Was there a single TV show or movie that helped you get through the pandemic?
Well, that’s funny, too, to ask, because lately I was watching some kind of crime-solving shows. So that’s why just for fun, I watch Two and a Half Men for just a comedy. Lately, I got hold of the Fraser Show so I’m watching it again. Yeah. Yes. You know, for our late evenings.
So, Calgary is in a difficult economic spot right now. Many young people are looking elsewhere for opportunities. What would you do to help the city prosper as we eventually emerge from the pandemic? I know you answered it but, do you want to go in-depth?
Yeah, you see the story of my coffee shop. There are so, so many countries saying, oh, we’re going to bring in this whole kind of pie in the sky because they don’t have the practical experience. Let’s be realistic, anybody can start a business out of their home. Many students, you know because I’ve been in the university for years as a researcher between Mount Royal and University Calgary, I talk to students and they come to me and say, I have an idea. But city regulation is so difficult. I have an idea. I just need money to start working out of my home. This is real life and this is the basics. If you’re really sincere about helping people, work with the things that are more practical, small businesses, people who want to work out of their home.
I’m going to do something in the city again. Never been done before, because that is what I do in my consultation, Cullen. There are so many duplications in the city, I’m going to start combining and amalgamating departments that are actually doing the same thing. When we do that, we create efficiency with two benefits. You’re going to be happy to come to the city and apply for the job. Work you are going to start at your home or whatever? But efficiency based on 20 years experience, it is saving money. When you have efficiency, you save money for the taxpayer. I save money from efficiency and I save money from the arena deal. We’re gonna have lots of money to help people to lower our taxes, to create prosperity again, and that is what differentiates me from other candidates.
I know how to manage a corporation like the city of Calgary because my 20 years of teaching and learning from people who have tremendous knowledge and experience or consulting myself, I’m bringing all the city skills to Calgary.
Editor’s note: Transcript edited for length and clarity.