Three minutes with the future mayor
by Aaron Chatha
The key to speed dating is making a strong first impression, laying your best cards on the table and hoping that, after meeting everyone there, someone liked you best.
On Oct. 7, the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University invited students and members of the community to meet Calgary’s mayoral candidates in rapid succession, speed-dating style.
But with only three minutes to spend with each candidate, students had to know what they were asking. For candidates, the best impressions were made by those who were most prepared.
“(For) some questions, they don’t have well developed answers,” Sadiq Valliani, an accounting student at Mount Royal, said. “For instance, the rezoning of secondary suites in Calgary or about some of the weirder decisions council’s made in the past few years.”
The issues with secondary suites — small living spaces usually consisting of one bed, one kitchen and one bath, developed on the same property as a single family home — are availability and legality. Calgary has the second-highest average rental rate in all of Canada’s major cities, and secondary suites, usually basement suites, are more affordable than apartments. But because of complex standards and zoning regulations, it has become very hard to build or rent out these suites legally.
Another key issue, especially to Mount Royal students, is transit, specifically to and from the school.
While every candidate had his or her own answer, they were also just excited to meet with students to try and win their vote, especially in such an unusual setting.
“It’s interesting,” mayoral candidate Ric McIver said about the three-minute time limit. “A good inspiration to cut to the chase and have people focus on what they think is most important.”
The event was organized both to encourage students to vote, and to give them some face time with the candidates to express what was important to them.
Meghan Melnyk, students’ association VP external, explained: “We thought that people were tired of debates and forums. The speed dating method seemed like an interesting way to facilitate some one-on-one time between students, other members of the Mount Royal campus community and the mayoral candidates.”
Valliani did find it helpful meeting candidates, but also said that three minutes was not enough time to get past the “politician” style of talking.
“Politicians have a way of being very big and repeating their points over and over again,” he said. “Which of course stems against students asking real questions and trying to get real points. So three minutes is great, but maybe not the best way to get a concrete answer.”
The event lasted two hours, and new students were constantly making their way to the second floor of Wyckham House to sign up, or check out the tables and pamphlets the candidates has set up. Some of the more enthusiastic supporters took to the entrance of Wyckham, distributing pamphlets to any that walked through the doors and made eye contact.
In attendance were Ric McIver, Naheed Nenshi, Barb Higgins (arrived late), Barry Erskine, Oscar Fech, Craig Burrows, Bob Hawkesworth, Joe Connelly, Wayne Stewart. The election happens Oct. 18. Advance voting on campus Oct. 12.