Calgary’s 2021 Civic Election promises to be interesting!
The mayoralty race will be hotly contested. At this writing, Mayor Nenshi has not yet announced his intentions, but several other candidates have stepped forward. [UPDATE: Mayor Nenshi has now officially announced he will not be running, which will significantly amp-up both the mayoralty race and election engagement overall.] Each of the candidates brings something unique to the discussion, and Calgarians will have their work cut out for them to determine who is best to lead Calgary into the future.
Several longtime Council incumbents have decided not to run again, and each of their Wards have exciting candidates vying to take up the challenge. We are so very lucky to have a wide range of people willing to put themselves out there to champion their causes. Running for public office is an onerous task – one glance at the vitriol public representatives face on social media shows how difficult such an endeavour must be. Candidates know they put themselves in the path of abuse by putting their names forward, and yet they do so willingly to advocate for a better Calgary.
Encouraged by members of the community, colleagues, friends, and family, I have decided to enter the fray. I do not do this lightly. I have never before aspired to be a public figure or to run for office, and I’m not gonna lie, I am more than a little intimidated by the viciousness with which people who enter the public realm are treated. But ultimately, this decision is not about me. A brief conversation with an elder community member in Mission made this clear.
“I don’t know who to trust”, said Linda. “There are so many people with agendas… it’s all about them and what they say I should want. I wish you would run… at least I know you care about the community.”
Linda and I were having our regular chat that accompanied the grocery delivery I was doing for her. At the outset of the pandemic, the Cliff Bungalow – Mission Community Association (CBMCA) created a program to deliver groceries to seniors and those in quarantine, and Linda was one of my favourite recipients. Her daughter had been trying to help, but was stretched thin raising her own kids and navigating the shifting new reality of the lockdown. Fiercely independent and incredibly plucky, Linda did not want to burden her daughter, so was thrilled to find another option.
I was flattered by Linda’s endorsement but, not being a politician, I brushed it off: “Oh, I bet you say that to all the grocery delivery guys!”
She persisted. “I most certainly do not! Seriously, no one wants another one of those squabbling politicians, we just want to vote for someone who actually puts others first. I think you’d be great… I like your values.”
This last comment struck me. Values are what matter to people, in their personal lives and in politics. I reflected on my own values and what matters to me. As a citizen, I want representatives who guide the strategy of the City following values of fairness, honesty, compassion, courage, inclusivity, and most of all humility – I don’t need someone to have all the answers, I just want someone willing to ask the right questions. Was I that person?
In the days that followed, a trend started to appear. As more and more candidates announced their intentions to run, more and more people began to encourage me to run. A handful turned into a dozen, which turned into scores. The encouragement followed a similar theme: We want you to run because we trust you to do the right thing. Ben, another grocery recipient, put it succinctly: “I trust you because you’re not a politician!”
So, it is with great humility that I have decided to throw my hat in the ring. I am not a politician, and I do not have a political background. I am far from perfect, and I am a work in progress. I am just a regular guy. I do not have all the answers. What I am is a community advocate who believes that true prosperity for our city can be found only when none are left behind, and when we can leverage the contributions of everyone in it regardless of race, gender, sexuality, economic standing, or life circumstances. The challenges we face can be overcome, but we will need all hands on deck to do so. We simply can’t afford to marginalize anyone, or to not fully realize the potential of everyone.
As the campaign progresses, I look forward to speaking with and learning from the citizens of Ward 8, and to sharing what I learn here. This election is not about me, and it is not about the other candidates. It is about you, and together we can ensure your vision is reflected in the representation you have the day after the election and for the next four years. It’s gonna be a wild ride, Calgary! Let’s do this.