Nation, for obvious reasons this is going to be the most exhaustive coverage I do of the municipal campaign. Some candidates are going to get more attention than others, for the simple fact that some have more public information available. I will be highlighting their performance in the All-Candidate's Forum at Mount Royal College this past Tuesday (I was in the house, as were several other members of Calgary's blogging royalty, such as Calgary Grit), and covering some of their basic ideas and principles.
Each candidate was sent a survey by The Better Calgary Campaign. They surveys were very extensive, and gave each candidate the ability to expound on their vision, their opinions, and their ideas for the city. Only one candidate (Harry Heck) for mayor did not return the survey. I will post a link to their survey response in each candidate's profile.
David Bertram is a chartered accountant who helped to found the Chaparral Community Association. He has sat on several Progressive Conservative association boards. He attended Lord Beaverbrook high school here in Calgary, so that's one knock against him right there (just kidding, Lords... don't knife me!).
He pledges to deliver of the priorities of Calgarians, and claims that he will be both accountable and approachable as Mayor. He takes issue with the curbside recycling program as approved, stating that private companies could deliver the program cheaper and better than a city-managed plan.
David is in favour of expanding transit service, but reminds us that public transit isn't the be all and end all - "People need their cars".
Bertram's Campaign Themes:
- Doing what's right for Calgary.
- Leading by example.
- Delivering on Calgarian's priorities.
- Building on Calgary's spirit.
- Maximizing the return to Calgarians for the tax dollars collected and user fees charged.
IN THE DEBATE:
"I'm the other David in this race."
"A lot has changed in the past twenty years - how can you build a big C-Train line and NOT serve Mount Royal College?"Bertram seemed quite comfortable in the debate at MRC, handling questions with relative ease. He even gave out his personal cell-phone number - in his opening remarks, no less.
Bertram's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here.
David Bertram's website is located here.
Dave Bronconnier has been the mayor of Calgary for the past 6 years. He previously served as the Alderman for Ward 6 for 9 years. As the incumbent, most of the slings and arrows of this campaign have been aimed directly at Dave. You don't really need me to outline those for you... if you don't like this city the way it is at present, the buck stops at Dave's desk, and you're going to vote against him. If you LIKE the way the city is today, you'll probably vote for him. He has taken flak over campaign fundraising. He has the endorsement of both of Calgary's major daily newspapers (of course - if they endorse someone else, and Bronco wins, they'll get the cold shoulder for the next 3 years - we've seen how Dave reacts to criticism). In 1997, Dave ran for the federal Liberal Party in Calgary West, and was crushed by Darth Anders.
Bronco has both a huge disadvantage and a huge advantage as the incumbent mayor. Everything that goes on in the city ultimately is his responsibility - if your community got a new skating rink last winter, Dave did that. If a new police station opened up down the street, Dave did that. Sirens keeping you up at night? Dave's fault. Stuck at that traffic light too long? Dave. Finally got the interchange near your workplace built? Dave. Property taxes too high? Dave. You get the idea...
Dave's platform IS the status quo. If he wanted something done, it's been done, or is being worked on. He doesn't propose any new ideas, or out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Some people will look at this as a reason to vote for him: He's measured in his approach. Some will look at it as a reason to vote AGAINST him: He seems to have a need to be right - once he's staked his territory, nothing will budge him. For more on this, see "Stelmach, Ed" or "Ribbons, Yellow".
- Safe Communities
- Municipal Sustainability
- Community Development
"I show leadership..."
"Legalising illegal suites doesn't increase the supply of suites..."
Dave seems to love the sound of his own voice. Either that, or he figures that since 8 people are talking about why he sucks, he should get 8 times as long as each of them to talk about why he doesn't. Either way, he seems to go on and on - it would be one thing if he were a more engaging speaker, but he's just NOT - those stats don't excite me, Dave, they put me to sleep.
Dave indicated in the forum that the city can't do anything about affordable housing without the province's say-so. This seems... odd, considering he just got into a pissing match with Ed about the province insisting that he spend provincial dollars on affordable housing projects.
Dave says that the city owns 8,000 rental units. Call 221-9100 to get put on the waiting list - it's sitting at over 2,000 names right now.
Bronco responded to criticism that city projects and initiatives seem to take forever. He stated quite clearly that although projects COULD be sped up, we need to be cautious when we're spending tax dollars. It's easy to say "it should be faster", but spending tax dollars on MAKING it faster takes them away from other areas.
Dave does NOT deal well with public criticism... a few times he shrugged it off, but for a while I thought he was going to get up and slug Alnoor. He turns red when challenged... I think I'd like to play a few hands of poker with His Worship.
Dave's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here. They have endorsed him, with reservations, for Mayor.
Dave Bronconnier's website (which is $uper-$piffy) is located here.
Elizabeth Fielding comes across as an honest and thoughtful advocate for a better and more caring civic government. Elizabeth ran provincially in 2004 for the Social Credit party in the riding of Calgary Buffalo. She got 71 votes.
Elizabeth is one of those candidates who you can tell truly means it when they say they want to SERVE as Mayor - you just get a feeling of decency from her. She wants to help fix the issues she feels the city is missing at present. Particularly, she feels the city isn't responsive enough to the needs of its citizens, and that the current planning that goes into city projects is too much band-aid, not enough cure.
Among Elizabeth's policy issues:
"I'm here to listen to all of your concerns..."
"I need solutions from you..."
Elizabeth has a conversational tone in public - sometimes too conversational. Do you know someone who can't stop talking? Even when they know they should? Because they made their point 2 sentences before? But still, they keep on going? And lose the good will they had earned with their solid initial point? Because now they're just wasting your valuable time going on and on and on?
Fielding suffered from this verbal diarrhea during the forum at MRC. As an occasional sufferer myself, I can understand her frustration - she wanted to get her message out. But she could have scored a lot more points with the audience had she made her points a little clearer and a LOT faster.
Among the ideas she floated at the forum were the implementation of a housing registry, so that rather than sifting through classified ads, there would be a central registry of suites and rooms for rent that those seeking housing could go to - not a bad idea, it certainly made house-hunting easier for me in post-secondary school. Her other good suggestion was to institute several major hubs for transit, so that direct-line buses could pick students up and get them to their institutions faster. A good theory, but how practical is it? I don't know... since you'd need buses at each hub going to MRC, U of C, Bow Valley College, deVry, etc... seems like a lot of duplication. But at least it's a suggestion other than "build a train station EVERYWHERE that people want to go!".
Elizabeth's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here.
Elizabeth Fielding's campaign website is here.
Allan Foster doesn't trust Dave Bronconnier. In fact, there's a lot about the current civic leadership that he doesn't trust. He thinks that a lot of people share this mistrust, and so the best thing to do is to vote them out - and him in. This will be his third attempt to win the mayor's chair.
Al Foster's major policy points are:
- Affordable Housing
- Council Transparency
"Secondary suites turn neighbourhoods into slums."
"If you take care of the big problems, the little problems will take care of themselves."
Al may be a good guy, when he's not in a public setting. He may be happy. He may be genuinely pleasant. But on the mic, in front of a crowd, he gets a glare going on. It could be that he was uncomfortable sitting next to Bronco, whom he has basically accused of being at best incompetent, and at worst a thief and criminal - but when given a chance to play to a room of potential Foster voters, Al turned them on him faster than a Michael Richards routine at the Apollo. He attacked the entire idea of secondary suites, basically saying that people who live in them are the underbelly of society (to a room full of students). And then (to a room full of students, remember) he went on, during the transit debate, to basically tell the students to "stop whining", and that a lot more people took public transit who WEREN'T students, so why should Mount Royal get its own C-Train stop?
Points for saying what you really mean, Al... but whether it's true or not, it's not going to play very well at the ballot box.
Al's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.
Al Foster's website is located here.
Harry Heck wants to be your next mayor. In fact, he's either a deceptively sarcastic prankster with questionable comic judgement, or he really believes he's going to win this race. Harry proudly says he's going to make only one promise in this entire campaign: If elected, he will end homelessness in the City of Calgary in 90 days. If he CAN follow through on that promise, and not bankrupt the city, he might go down in history.
You get the impression that Harry might be more comfortable preaching at a revival meeting... he's an intense speaker. The problem is, he can't change his mind, and won't change the subject. As I recall, that's the definition of a "fanatic".
Harry's big issues for Calgary include:
- Solve Homelessness
- Manage Growth
- Renewable Energy
- Drug-related crime
IN THE DEBATE:
"If I'm going to stand for mayor, I'm going to stand when I speak to all of you..."
"This isn't a club, this is about people's lives."
Harry went after Mayor Bronco, HARD. He went after him over campaign finances. He went after him, time and time again, over his "arrogant attitude". I get the impression that Harry doesn't much care for His Worship. THEN, Harry went overboard. For some reason, after getting the "10 second knock" from the moderator, Harry started talking to Nathan Hornburg's family. I don't know if he was going to bring up yellow ribbons, or what he was going to say that was in any way relevant to the proceedings at hand... but it left a VERY bitter taste in my mouth that someone would go there for political gains. Poor judgement.
Harry admitted to not returning the Better Calgary survey at the forum, and promised to send it to them ASAP. It appears to have never arrived.
Harry Heck's website, which is hard as, well, "heck" to navigate, is located here.
Sandy Jenkins is widely considered to be the Ed Stelmach of this race... not many people list him as their first choice, but he's the only thing Bronco and Alnoor voters can agree on: Their second choice. Likewise, voters who can't stand either of the front-runners are apparently quite drawn to Jenkins.
Sandy is straight-forward and seems sincere, and he's spent much of the campaign talking about his policies, rather than focusing on the shortcomings of his opponents and the incumbent. His policies are good, and thorough - he identifies problems, and then outlines how he intends to fix them. In reading his policies, though, one has to wonder exactly where he expects to find the money to do all that he plans - there is, after all, only one taxpayer.
Among Sandy's campaign focuses:
- Build downtown subway line
- Guaranteed tax rates after owning same home for 25 years
- Re-route plans for West C-Train line to include Mount Royal College
- Campaign finance reform
"If they can't get their message out for $300,000, do you really want to give them your tax dollars to play with?"
"We're the laughing-stock of Canada - 20 years behind. The last major city to ban smoking. We still call our councillors 'Aldermen'. Curbside recycling, in place for years in most of Canada's other cities, is still 2 years away in Calgary..."
Sandy didn't seem entirely comfortable on-stage... he opened with a variation on Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..." speech, and spent the entire time staring down at his pages. He delivered the speech just fine, but rule number one of running for office is 'look me in the eye'. He improved later on, once he got off the scripted notes. He believes that the wait for a cab in Calgary is ridiculous, and compared current campaign finance rules to Texas Hold'Em (interesting game, I should take it up someday). He played to the crowd he knew he'd be facing, with a lot of opinions and ideas that would be an easy sell to students - so he's definitely got some political instincts.
Sandy's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.
Sandy Jenkins' website is located here.
Alnoor Kassam is the polarizing figure in this race. You likely either think he's a godsend, or a complete scheister. Alnoor has spent nearly a million dollars to try and win the mayor's chair - of his OWN MONEY. Well, his and his renters, at any rate. He has had a few private donors, which we'll get to in a bit. There are allegations of crimes committed in Alnoor's native Kenya, which he has been cleared of in a Canadian immigration tribunal. There are allegations that he hiked rent to ridiculous levels in some of his rental units - which he does not deny, but adds that he also forgave 3 months rent, and helped those renters find other accommodation. Cynics ask, rightly, if he would have been nearly so accommodating were he not considering a mayoral run. The truth is, I don't know.
Alnoor decided before this race even began how he was going to run it. He could run purely on his platform, which is the most well-rounded in this campaign (he couldn't have known that at the time, obviously). Or he could go right after B ronco, with a full-court press. He chose the latter route. To the undercurrent of Calgarians who are dissatisfied with their morning commute, or with the recent spike in crime, this has played well. To others, who just want to hear what Alnoor plans for the city, it has been a source of irritation that he can't seem to make a point without mentioning the incumbent. It's drawing comparisons to the Federal Tories being unable to issue a press release that doesn't contain a listing of Paul Martin's failings as a leader, a statesman, or a lover.
It should also be noted that Alnoor has issued what he calls his "Contract with Calgarians". It's not a light read (24 pages), but everyone SHOULD give it a look before they go to vote. It's not just a good policy platform, it is SMART politics. To quote directly from Kassam's website:
"Alnoor Kassam is a businessman, not a politician. Politicians lie and break their promises. They’re very good at it. Alnoor has signed his name to the key planks of his platform, since Calgarians deserve more. They deserve reassurances that what is promised to them will actually happen."
For better or worse, Alnoor truly believes he can win this race. That either means a) he has seen polling numbers that I haven't, b) he's a raving lunatic, or c) he believes in the power of positive thinking. He has already appointed his Chief of Staff, to help him run City Hall. I don't know if enough people are angry enough at the city's problems to come out and vote for Alnoor - the reality is, most Calgarians views a lot of these problems as the price we pay for being a "big city". We have a million people. We're in an economic boom. Traffic, lack of parking spaces, lack of affordable housing, an increase in crime - these are seen as the price of admission for a seat at the "Big Cities" table. And Alnoor makes good points and suggestions as to how we can deal with them - I just don't know if Calgarians are ready to embrace those ideas when time in the city, to be honest, aren't all that bad.
Alnoor's biggest issues include:
- Affordable Housing
"Over the past 6 years, we've gotten roads, roads, and more roads... what do we have to show for it? Traffic, traffic, and more traffic..."
"I have fled corruption. If I even get a sniff of it, I run the other way."
Alnoor didn't let up on Bronco, not for a second. In the minutes before the event began, as the candidates were sitting on-stage, nobody was talking to Alnoor. He is now fully immersed in this, and he's going to come out of this race as the Mayor, or as a total pariah. He attacked Bronco on roads. He attacked him on taxes. He attacked him on a "culture of confrontation" with unions and other levels of government. He wants an accountability by-law, including an ethics commissioner and an auditor general (long overdue). He says a world class city needs a world class transit system. He pledged to bring in campaign finance reform within 60 days of being elected. One policy he brought up which may cause problems is the idea that, to combat urban sprawl, Calgary needs to "grow up, not grow out". The problem with this is simply that Calgarians come here for the mountains. If you build apartment and condo towers allt he way down 14th Street West, you are going to have 75% of the city very angry that their west-facing windows, which they paid a premium on the house for, now have the same view as their cousin in Saskatoon. "Look, honey - apartment buildings. How romantic."
With thanks to Kyle Olsen, Alnoor's campaign contributors are located in the "comments" section of this post.
Alnoor's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.
Alnoor Kassam's website is located here.
Jonathan (J.J.) Sunstrum has some good ideas. The problem is, he can't decide whether he wants to be Mayor of Calgary, or Michael Moore. Your credibility as a contender for the Mayor's job goes DOWN when you chase the incumbent around with a camcorder, it doesn't go UP. That said, Sunstrum's use of a blog and YouTube to get out his message are a harbinger of things to come, so he deserves credit for making use of the new technologies that give you the best "bang for your buck". That kind of ingenuity and forward-thinking approach is sometimes sorely lacking on a city council that has members dating back to when Commodore 64 was "the next big thing".
J.J.'s main policy points include:
- Snow Removal (FINALLY someone brought it up!)
- City Finances
- Downtown Services
"I look at this as a 28-day job interview."
"Every member of city council should park their SUV's and ride transit for 3 months a year."
Sunstrum looks uncomfortable on-stage. In the minutes before the event actually started, he spent the time talking with one of his hangers-on rather than with the other candidates. He feels that the city should be open to great ideas from other jurisdictions, and that someone needs to restore some openness and accountability on council.
Sunstrum's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.
J.J. Sunstrum's website is here.
(note: Sunstrum's campaign for "A Better Calgary" is not, in any way, related to The Better Calgary Campaign. The similarities are purely coincidental.)
Jeremy Zhao will not be our next mayor. He has known that from the second he picked up nomination papers. All the same, he has gone to the trouble of running - and in the middle of university mid-terms, no less. He deserves nothing but respect, on that point alone.
More shocking, though, is the fact that some of the campaign's best ideas weren't coming from the heavy-hitters, they were coming from the 19 year-old university student! Most of these ideas aren't NEW, and they will likely resurface again in the future, but it is rare to hear them coming from a mayoral candidate, and for putting these suggestions on the radar of the average Calgarian, Jeremy again deserves our thanks. His use of Facebook, blogs, podcasts and other internet-centred media should be required reading for future political candidates. He has created a LOT of buzz, with a combination of media-saavy, knowledge of the issues and all-around political instincts. If the unthinkable happens, and Jeremy somehow wins this race, it will be a credit to him and his campaign team - they have done a brilliant job garnering a LOT more attention than anyone else in this race who spent less than a million dollars.
The only - and I mean THE ONLY - plank in Jeremy's platform I have an issue with is his plan to combat voter apathy by changing the nomination rules: No deposit, and 5 signatures. Don't get me wrong - it would work. We would have DOZENS of candidates for every position. Therein lies the problem: If people can't find good information when there are only a few candidates, where are they going to find good information on dozens of them? People will be elected with less than 25% of the popular vote, because it's been split so many ways. And how on EARTH are we supposed to have a mayoral forum with 60 or 70 candidates? We had one with only 9 candidates, and it still almost got away from us, time-wise. "Have 6 or 7 forums". Fair ball. But everyone wants to be in the forum with the incumbent, because that's the one voters will actually attend. It's a logistical nightmare - good in theory, just impossible in practice.
Among Jeremy's issues:
- Affordable housing
- Infrastructure Maintenance
- Voter Apathy
"I want to be a voice for ALL Calgarians..."
"Building C-Train lines and recreation centres doesn't help the thousands of Calgarians with no place to live."
Jeremy seemed quite at ease. This could be because he's just a naturally cool cat. It could be because the mostly college-aged audience was VERY pro-Zhao. Or, it could be because he had no idea he was supposed to be terrified. Either way, he came across very well. Shocking as it might sound, he came across at time as the most moderate person on stage - the voice of reason. The person on stage who seemed least married to dogma, and most in possession of common sense, was the 19 year-old. He played to the college crowd VERY well, especially when discussing the ridiculous notion that he, as a U of C student, had a train station on his doorstep and paid about half of what MRC students have to for a transit pass, with no station even in the planning stages. I was secretly hoping he'd stand up and rip up his U-Pass, but to no avail. :) Jeremy even came to Alnoor's defence, insisting that people need to look at the policies of a candidate rather than digging up muck from his or her past. Naive? A little. But the world is always changed the most, for better or worse, by idealists. And if on "Planet Zhao" the candidate is judged by his policies, and not by rumours of past misdeeds, you might someday see 'Alderman Enlightened Savage' in the mix. :)
Jeremy's responses to the Better Calgary survey (which impressed the hell out of them!) are here.
Jeremy Zhao's website is here.