Civil Society in Calgary is engaged in this election! I've been asked all kinds of questions on a variety of issues. Here's a sample of my thoughts on the issues that are on people's minds:
Calgary is bursting at the seams with creative entrepreneurs, talented business men and women, and thoughtful, compassionate individuals. We need stronger economic resilience and stabilization through accelerating the diversification of industries thriving in our city. Attracting new industries and new opportunities for quality jobs means stability for our economy, our budgets and our communities. At the same time, there is much we can do to build our reputation as a leader in clean energy, without destabilizing the jobs our citizens currently rely on. It will require patience, flexibility, strategic thinking and action for a "Calgary that Works".
City Council and City administration need to support Calgary Economic Development and Innovate Calgary in attracting global firms and advancing our city as the home of energy, technology, science and arts and culture industries.
Community Associations are strongly woven into the fabric of our communities. They connect residents, provide safe spaces for families and community groups to gather, and host activities that give people a sense of belonging. Community associations also provide vital avenues for residents to participate in decision-making in our city. I have seen the incredible value they can bring to people’s lives when they partner with residents, non-profit organizations and local entrepreneurs. For example, I love and support initiatives like Calgary’s Tool Library, Antyx Community Arts and their partnerships in the NE, community gardening, community childcare, community kitchens and all the various innovations that support reducing poverty, honouring our seniors and growing active citizenship. As City Councillor for Ward 10, I am committed to pursuing these opportunities and building on the accomplishments these partnerships have already achieved.
A safe, warm home is foundational to the health and well-being of every citizen. Creating enough affordable housing is a complex issue that many groups, governments and cities have been trying to tackle for many years, with moderate success. However, industries in Calgary have come together to tackle this issue from many angles and we are seeing change and success. Ward 10 is particularly in need of a greater supply of low-income housing and I would very much welcome working with developers and city administration to push forward key strategies outlined by Build Calgary and the Smarter Growth Initiative as well as supporting groups like the Community Housing Affordability Collective and the Resolve campaign. Key municipal strategies include supporting the development of diverse housing options through tax incentives, permit processing, land-use and zoning and other policy levers. We also need to continue to re-design and re-structure policies within Calgary Housing through the Alberta Social Housing Act review. Additionally, we need to reduce the stigma surrounding low-income housing. We need to grow a culture of Yes-In-My-Neighbourhood through smart engagement, win-win partnerships and smart, mixed-use urban design.
With specific regards to secondary suites, I would work to move the decision making power from City Council to City Administration. I would request that Administration look at the common criteria City Council has used to approve over 83% of the secondary suite applications it has dealt with over the years, and have them come up with a list of requirements that Calgarians wishing to build or legalize their secondary suites must meet.
In my role at United Way of Calgary and Area, I helped develop and lead one of the key initiatives of the Enough for All poverty reduction strategy, called Financial Empowerment. Financial Empowerment is a core component of the strategy and essential to reducing poverty in half by 2023. Having been a leader in poverty reduction initiatives for the past 5 years, I am extremely passionate about this work. As your Ward 10 City Councillor, I will be a key champion on City Council, and will continue to push this work forward within all sectors and levels of government. I will advocate that The City continue funding initiatives, allocate staff, and collaborate in relevant initiatives.
Food insecurity, first and foremost, is a symptom of poverty. Emergency food programs are critical, but they are not sustainable. If we truly want to address food insecurity, it is critical that The City continues to champion the work of Enough for All and ultimately reduce poverty in this city. That said, there are poverty reduction strategies that have a more direct impact on food insecurity in the shorter term. Calgary Eats - the food system and assessment and action plan developed in 2012 - contains a number of strong ideas. For example, addressing areas in the city that do not have food outlets nearby. The report identified that there is a high percentage of low income households without reasonable access to grocery stores. This can be addressed through land uses, bylaw policies, and transit accessibility and affordability initiatives.
Libraries are cornerstones that anchor strong communities and our healthy democracy. Ward 10 hosts Village Square Library, a busy community hub that serves its residents with numerous opportunities to learn, connect and explore social service options, such as the City of Calgary’s Fair Entry program. The library and its partnerships with community services supports vulnerable Calgarians, new Canadians, seniors and young people. I am honoured to have played a small role in building the partnerships currently in place that connect Calgarians to financial empowerment initiatives like tax clinics, money management workshops and RESP opening events.
Many families and individuals in the Ward 10 neighbourhoods have been impacted by the fentanyl crisis. This is a complex issue that requires investment and action by all levels of government on the four pillars of prevention, enforcement, harm reduction and treatment. There is a strong evidence base for the benefit of safe injection sites as a key tool in the harm reduction pillar and I would support one in Ward 10 in an appropriate, accessible location such as near other health service infrastructure. I would also push for a strong collaborations with the provincial and federal governments, Alberta Health Services, the Calgary Police Service, community associations, leaders of ethno-cultural communities, the school boards and the business community to invest in best-practice solutions to address the prevention, enforcement and treatment pillars.
Public Art is a key factor in maintaining and growing our reputation as a dynamic, safe, community-driven place to live and do business. I would like to see council and administration expand the engagement process, and the mechanisms through which citizens can share their feedback and preferences for public art. I support the use of innovation in media and technology to drive resident engagement and decision-making in this and other appropriate areas. As a start, I would propose an online engagement process that would seek citizen feedback. I'd look to the average voter turnout rate over the past 4 elections and set this as the minimum percentage of online participants needed to go ahead with a decision made online. Should consultation and participation numbers not be attained, the decision would go back to council for final approval.