Calgary, meet your new mayor; councillors; trustees
By Alex Luong, Contributor
Calgary has decided the new leader of its people is Mayor Jyoti Gondek on Oct. 18 with 174,649 votes, conquering 45 per cent of the city total. She makes history through the 2021 General Election as the first female mayor and second person of colour to be mayor of the city after former mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Gondek also shares the title of being the first city mayor with a Punjabi background with Edmonton’s new mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
Gondek’s platform focuses on the importance of investing back into the city. She believes that every tax dollar Calgarians pay deserves to be spent on them and their community through affordable housing and a more extensive transit system.
“I will ensure that we stay focused on a recovery that is rooted in economic, social, and environmental resiliency,” Gondek said to a small group of media and staff.
Gondek is looking towards building the Green Line LRT as a way to better serve citizens in overlooked communities. The new transit line will also create investment opportunities for communities and aid in affordable housing. She also plans to assemble a recovery fund of at least $15 million to support artists and art organizations.
As a way to create more economic opportunities, Gondek is planning to combine agencies like Tourism Calgary and Calgary Economic Development that promote Calgary as a destination for investment and visitors.
She also plans to rebuild Calgary’s downtown core into a thriving space for people who wish to live, work and play in the core within the following years. Gondek aims to achieve this by collaborating with the Arts Commons, the Glenbow Museum and the National Music Centre to make downtown “radiate creativity”, her website says. Also included in her agenda is taking action towards addressing the issue of homelessness. Finally, she also is working towards a solution for a fair and equal distribution of revenues with the provincial government.
“Together with the business community and our creative sector, your city council will deliver on the vision of a revitalized downtown that brings about spaces and places that are welcoming and alive,” Gondek said in her victory speech after winning the election.
Gondek was born in the United Kingdom to parents who immigrated from Punjab, India. She later settled in Calgary where throughout her years of formal education, she was focused on using applied research to push for change. She has a PhD in urban sociology and has opened a successful consulting practice called Tick. She also led the creation of the new Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business in 2014 before she entered politics.
Gondek is not the only new face the council will be seeing. The election results also displayed a huge turnover as the Calgary city council has 11 new members elected with only two incumbents returning, Peter Demong for Ward 14 and Gian-Carlo Carra for Ward 9.
There are also two previous council members returning with Richard Pootmans in Ward 6 and Andre Chabot in Ward 10. In addition, the elected Ward 4 councillor Sean Chu is currently under pressure as people including Gondek and his fellow council members are demanding for his resignation as reports of Chu having a sexual encounter with a teenger while serving as a Calgary police officer 24 years ago has resurfaced.
The school boards also have an almost complete overhaul with only Marilyn Dennis returning as an incumbent while the other six trustees are new faces. On the other hand, the Calgary Catholic school board will have almost all of their incumbents returning except Cheryl Low, former chair of Ward 9, 10 and Chestermere.
Various provincial referendums were also included on Calgarians’ ballots. Fifty-point-two per cent of Calgarians have voted in favor of rejecting permanent daylight savings time as the majority wants to carry on with changing the time every spring and fall. Regarding the idea of removing equalization payments from the constitution, 61 per cent of Calgarians have voted in favor of it. Majority of Calgarians also voted to reintroduce fluoride back to the city’s water, dominating the vote total with 62 per cent.