Candidate for Mayor
Emile Gabriel’s father was his first role model. Despite knowing that he had only a few months to live, he continued to work tirelessly to the last minute in the service of others. As a doctor, he was dedicated to his community, especially the poor, whom he chose to treat for free. He passed away at the young age of 42, due to kidney disease, but passed on his commitment and passion for serving others to his children (Emile was 11, 1/2 years young at that time).
His mother, a widow, trying to learn how to cope with this tragedy, left alone with the responsibility of raising six young children on her own, remained a strong loving example for her children. Her sacrifice, wisdom and guidance molded her children into strong, persevering individuals with a deep desire to give to others and to look for solutions.
As a young person, Emile was instilled with the values of giving to others and motivated by his parent’s inspiring examples.
As an immigrant, he came to Canada with just $200 in his pocket.
In order to support himself, he took jobs like working in a bakery, paint manufacturing firm, warehouses, loading docks, and security officer at Calgary Airport.
With his Civil Engineering degree, he worked with Alberta Transportation, building Highways, Bridges and Airports. During that time, he went to the University of Alberta to upgrade his knowledge in transportation.
As an entrepreneur by nature, he took a leap into the business world, started a small paving company, followed by starting his own businesses in the food industry (coffee trucks and small food kiosks at the farmers market).
His first-hand personal experience made him sensitive to other Calgarians' struggle in making a living, building a life and providing for family.
Throughout his learning journey, he took advanced courses in cities’ planning and transportation at both Universities of Alberta and Calgary.
Later, he obtained a PhD degree in Project Management Specialization from the University of Calgary and works now as a management consultant providing service to a variety of firms and organizations.
This combination of knowledge and experience makes him a good fit to lead a growing city like Calgary.
Question 1: What work experience do you have that’s relevant to the role of Mayor and how do you feel the skills and perspective you have gained will help you in your role as Mayor?
With a degree in civil engineering, I have worked with Alberta Transportation for more than seven years, building Highways, Bridges and Airports. As an entrepreneur by nature, I started a small paving company, followed by businesses in the food industry (coffee trucks, small food kiosks at the farmers market and coffee shop at Downtown Calgary). I have also worked with Innovate Calgary on one of my inventions. With my PhD degree in Project Management and more than 20 years’ experience in managing people and projects, I have a successful management consulting practice, working with firms and managers to assist in developing their business models and improving operation effectiveness and efficiency, as well as saving time and money. This above combination of character, direct knowledge and experience is what makes me a good fit to lead our city during these difficult times.
Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting Calgary are, and how would you approach these issues as Mayor?
Based on my knowledge and the understanding of how our City Hall works, and what I have been hearing from thousands of Calgarians over many years, The No. 1 issue, particularly during the period before the election day, is what I call, “The 15+”, i.e., finding honest, sincere and qualified people to form the members of the City Council (15). If we can succeed in finding candidates coming with a sincere desire to serve (not after a career, + having donors or “vested interest groups” climbing on their shoulders), most of our problems will have been solved already. My solution: IMPLEMENTING A NEW MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND A PROCESS THAT: - Will give a more active role to community associations. - Requires councillors to conduct sufficient town hall meetings and use all available technologies to inform, educate and democratically represent the prevailing wishes of their communities.
Question 3: What do you think is the role of a municipal government? Do you think the City does too many things, not enough, or just the right amount?
The current system is outdated, therefore, slow, dysfunctional and unproductive. My plan and solution: City Departments: Modernizing the function of the city hall through a process of integration among departments to eliminate duplication and generate true efficiency leading to: - Fast and strong economic recovery. - Diversifying our economy with green options and improving quality of life for everyone. In return: - No-layoff at City Hall, (re-training/re-assigning). - Offering retirement packages to senior managers in some departments and injecting "new blood" from within.
Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?
A tax cut promise is not a “plan”, it should be an outcome of a short/long-term plan. Different from all mayoral candidates, my plan for taxes: The plan: - Rolling tax assessment into a 3-years cycle to provide a sense of stability to business and property's owners, and save time and money on appealing the assessments. - Studying and discussing the option of using the purchase price value as a base for the assessment. Generating more revenue 1- Focusing on helping home-based businesses, start-ups, small and medium-size businesses, by: 2- Simplifying the rules and creating efficiency at city hall through multiple actions including consolidation departments to produce true efficiency, also, to attract new investors and capital. 3- Incentive: The UCP’s Bill 7, introduced in June, allows municipalities to offer tax breaks and incentives for specific classes of businesses, or an industry as a whole, for up to 15 years. 4- Building on the above, we can reduce taxes, make it affordable and attractive to new business, investors and capital. (No promise of a "tax freeze" for the next 4 years. it's a false promise that can be broken if circumstances change, and there is no guarantee that enough counsellors will support this proposal).
Question 5: Over the next four years, should the City spend less in absolute terms, increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, increase by the rate of inflation and population growth, or increase faster than the rate of inflation and population growth?
Our city is in a debt, reaching the ceiling threshold, therefore, has a limited room to maneuver. For the sake of simplicity and by referring back to my previous answer about the current outdated and broken system, as an experienced manager, I recommend starting with fixing the tax system, as explained in my answer to the previous question.
Question 6: During the introduction of City Charters a few years ago there was a lot of debate about new taxation powers for the big cities. Would you support the City being given any additional taxation powers by the Province? If so, what taxation powers should the City have?
Question 7: The City often claims that they’ve found savings in various budgets, but instead of actually cutting spending, they just put the savings into a reserve account and then spend that money on other things. If there’s money left over at the end of a financial year, do you think that money should be saved up by the City to spend in future years? Or should it be returned automatically to taxpayers the following year through some kind of rebate?
Another option: To be returned in the following year in the form of a tax reduction.
Question 8: Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two? If so, how?
Some combination of the two sounds more practical.
Question 9: The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is currently debating their Growth Plan for the Calgary region. What do you think about the plan? Do you think we should be limiting development in certain parts of the region? If so, are you worried about how that will affect housing affordability?
The city is facing a $56.9-million shortfall across: utilities, transportation and community services over the next three years. Yet, the city has an ongoing commitment to pour money into 14 new neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city. We, in Calgary, actually have negative interprovincial migration and negative international immigration to Canada as a result of COVID. The real problem: Members of council admitted and described current planning as: Hodgepodge. - City council has been warned by the administration, but they went along, ignoring the warning and approved 14 new communities in 2018. We paid with a 0.75% property tax increase last year to cover these new communities. The solution: As a person with a civil engineering degree and experience in transportation and urban planning, I say: 1- Define the Goal - The kind of city we aspire to have. Building a world class city, which means: - High level of efficiency, modern infrastructure, a hub for culture, science and economic activities. - A city that works for current and future generations. - Applying all knowledge and experience in designing modern cities with fast and affordable transportation systems.
Question 10: There’s been a lot of debate about the City’s new “Guidebook for Great Communities”. What do you think about the Guidebook? What do you think should be the split between greenfield and established community growth for new housing? Should the City have a specific target? Should this be determined by market demand?
I take a clear position on the document called “𝐆𝐮𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐥 area planning”. As your new mayor, I will ask to remove the word “Statutory” from the document. Mr. Jim Gibson, was named the Chief catalyst at SAIT, for advanced digital technology. He said that every city and every country around the world is trying to build that sector we are going to see changes in everything, how we construct our buildings, how we design our cities. I strongly believe we should start thinking outside the box, move away from trying to work with our current broken system and allow science and common sense to prevail.
Question 11: When the City voted to approve four projects - the Event Centre, the BMO Centre expansion, the Arts Commons transformation, and the Foothills Fieldhouse - they did so against the advice of the City’s own CFO, who said the City could only afford one of them. Do you think that was the right move? Why? If, as the City continues through the process with each of these projects, it becomes obvious that the City’s CFO was correct, and Calgarians can only afford one of these projects, which would you choose?
Again, thinking outside the box and providing a better alternative, as far as the Event Centre, the Foothills Fieldhouse, I proposed the following: New Arena Deal -Taxpayers' Contribution = $0.0 -There were councillors in favour of reopening this deal. I am proposing: Alternative Arena location involves a state-of-the-art field house. No taxpayers' money is involved. Building a new and magnificent sports complex, bigger and better than any other similar building exists in Canada. More income for the owners and more revenue for the city. A win-win new deal. Location: The Aurora Business Park - A city owned parcel of land. - Much more land is available. - Excellent access to the Ring road and Deerfoot Trail. - Can have more than 19000 seats - Will help to expand the LRT to the Airport and planning the city with a fast, efficient and affordable transportation. - Far away from the flood zone (Victoria Park, the proposed current location). There isn’t one major flood protection project built since the 2013 flood.
Question 12: Do you support the construction of the Green Line LRT as currently envisioned by the City, would you prefer changes be made to the plan (and if so, what changes), or would you prefer to cancel the project entirely? If, as Mayor, you find out that - despite all the previous assurances - there has in fact been another cost overrun on the Green Line, what would you do?
What do you want Calgary's future to look like? BUILDING GREENER TRANSPORTATION 21st.-century modern technology in transportation - I will champion the building of the high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton linking the city centres with connections to the two international airports. - It will contribute to reduced emissions, congestion, accidents and pollution. (It can be fully and privately funded). My blueprint for the future way we live, work and travel will include: - Firstly, enhancement of the current design of the green line to make it more expandable, faster and affordable, using a system like spokes on a wheel by taking advantage of our Ring Road. A combination of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) (a grid net) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) service. - Secondly, allocation of strategic locations for charging stations, due to the increased popularity and move to electric vehicles. Deficiencies in the current Green Line design: - Current design puts more of the train line on the street level. "The city hasn't had much success in designing on-street LRT alignments that integrate well with surrounding communities." - It makes a small street even smaller or unsafe, resulting in fatalities. - It is already a 10-year discussion on this project and will take at least 10 more years to build. There are urgent needs for transportation today, especially in the Northern part of our city. - There is absolutely no room for a “re-do”, if the current design ends up to be like the Ottawa's Confederation Line light rail system that continues to be plagued by serious problems. WE JUST NEED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Question 13: What do you think is the best approach to attract businesses to Calgary? Direct incentives to specific businesses, paid for by slightly higher taxes, or lower tax rates for all businesses?
I prefer the option of lower tax rates for all businesses, among other measures (explained in my previous answers).
Question 14: Should the City be in the business of operating golf courses, or should they privatize or sell them off? How about garbage collection or other services?
In general, fair, ethical and unbiased system of competition between public and private provides good service and reasonable cost.
Question 15: Should we defund the police? If yes, what exactly does defunding the police mean to you? If not, what should the City do to address both historical and ongoing injustices?
Defund vs. define: We will need to continue modernizing the service, improving interpersonal communication and de-escalation skills, working along with different communities.
Question 16: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?
Question 17: Council recently dropped residential speed limits to 40km/h, do you agree with that decision, and what do you think about the proposal by some to go further and drop it to 30km/h in the future?
Question 18: For years there has been an ongoing debate about the City’s public art spending. Some say that the problem is the selection process for what art is commissioned, while others are opposed to any use of public funds for art. What do you think?
It was decided that a new independent public art organization would be created, similar to the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park. The City council approved a motion to move the program to an external organization. I believe an appealing art in any form is a source of inspiration and revenue from locals, and from tourists; it is vital for our souls and our economy. Therefore, it must be promoted.
Question 19: Serving as a Councillor you are responsible to both your local constituents and every Calgarian. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of your local constituents in your ward conflict with what you feel is the best interests of the City as a whole?
Unlike other mayoral candidates, I have been an active concerned Calgarian who has run before to serve Calgary, debated, and challenged prominent former mayors and premiers to do the best they can for our city and our province. Now, I am ready to lead Calgary into a better future. The real change would not happen by career politicians, they call them the front-runners (they are just "the well- funded" with no management experience of large corporations). We need an expert manager, free from outside influences. I am Not a politician, and I am not backed by a specific donor or any special interest group. Therefore, I will work, and fight for all Calgarians - equally. I am a professional manager with more than 20 years matching experience and I am a problem solver.
Question 20: While the concept of a secret ballot is essential, many of our supporters have told us that they’d like to know the political alignment of their candidates. So, if - and only if - you feel comfortable saying so, who are you voting for in your local ward race and why, and if you are affiliated with any provincial or federal political parties, which ones and why?
No affiliation, I prefer to take the best ideas from each. Thank you very kindly. Emile Gabriel for mayor.