Candidate for Mayor
I was born and raised in Western Canada. My experience and life course in business and community brought me throughout North America and finally to Calgary in the early 2000’s. Working with the business community and becoming deeply involved in the non-profit sector helped me to realize how diverse, dynamic, and multi-facetted Calgary is. That inspired me to call Calgary home and to add to this wonderful community.
Since 2003, I have worked to bridge together the worlds of oil and gas with clean tech. I did this by working to reduce carbon gas emissions by utilizing innovative technology that reduces emission at well-heads. I have also worked with Innovate Alberta to introduce pipe turbine generation at well-heads (resulting in the creation of zero-emission electricity), as well as developing a line of natural gas compressors that exceeded California EPA standards (which are the highest standards in North America). This initiative truly tested my leadership abilities in order to bring together two industries people think are opposed to one another but instead utilizing them both in harmony to benefit all of Alberta.
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?
I have experience working in both small and large businesses in Canada and across the world. Additionally, I have tens of thousands of volunteer hours committed to organizations like the Kerby Centre, of which I was president for 5 years. My experience gives me a business-friendly perspective that many other candidates either do not have or are unable to implement due to lack of experience. Through my volunteer work, I have learned how to support stakeholders and work with City Hall in a way to get things done, make reasonable goals and make things more efficient for those who relied on these organizations.
Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting Calgary are, and how would you approach these issues as Mayor?
Overspending and an extremely divided City Hall are the issues I think affect Calgary the most. Our city wastes money on a scale that should frighten all Calgarians, and this needs to stop. Additionally, our current City Hall is extremely divisive. Many councillors focus more on bolstering their own egos than providing Calgarians with tangible results. To address overspending, I have multiple platform points that include the Gainshare program, managed competition, and biannual reviews of all major capital expenditure projects. To address City Hall’s divisiveness, I am unique among other mayoral candidates as I have a lifetime of business and volunteer experience to call upon, where one of my most valuable traits was collaboration. I am willing to work with all members of council and hear their concerns and ideas, so that as mayor I could implement the best possible policy to benefit our city.
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?
I do think to an extent that our city overreaches its mandate, but the main issue for me is that in the areas our city is supposed to be working in, it often falls behind or totally fails. Things like snow removal, road repair, as well as safe, clean, and effective public transit are all areas that our current city hall fails to deliver. Calgary’s municipal government needs to stop focusing on the areas beyond its control and work on improving the services that all Calgarians need. The city seems to focus more on over regulation and finding new ways to access funds from taxpayers through service fees, etc.
Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?
Property taxes are certainly too high. Acknowledging this, we must understand that our city’s current spending scheme needs to be addressed before taxes. We must reduce our extremely wasteful spending so that Calgarians can benefit from lower taxes.
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?
The city should spend less, but we must be pragmatic. If, as mayor, I have to increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, I will do so in order to ensure Calgarians continue to have access to the essential services they need.
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?
I would prefer that the city be in control of its own destiny as fully as possible. We have the talent and skill in this city to create our own prosperous future. However, giving more power and access to matters such as increased taxation powers, or abilities to run deficit budgets are all dangerous areas to enter into, so I would prefer to not explore that route at this time.
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?
Most of this money should be returned to the population in the form of a tax break or rebate. Some however should absolutely be saved by the city, in the event that some sort of emergency (like another flood or pandemic, for example) hits our city. The city’s so-called “rainy-day fund” is currently bloated, and its savings are being allocated to areas that are inappropriate. I would like to reduce the total amount of money being put into this fund while simultaneously curbing the spending that draws unnecessarily from this emergency backup.
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?
Calgary consistently falls behind the rest of Canada’s major cities when it comes to providing affordable housing options. We also have a City Hall that refuses to work with private developers who have put forward options that could benefit Calgary in this regard. As Mayor, I will work with developers and other stakeholders to ensure that our city provides affordable housing for those people that need it. We also need to develop a far better relationship with our provincial government. Currently it is at best an antagonistic relationship and we often suffer by getting second hand treatment. Point in case is how far we lag behind Edmonton in the low cost housing sector, much of which is funded by the province. We have 3.6% of our housing that qualifies, Edmonton has 6%.
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?
Any incorporation expansion will have to be done with full disclosure and dialogue with neighboring partners. I am not against growth and expansion, but it has to be done with a 30-year plan that includes all stakeholders and the environment. We need to grow to prosper.
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 think the guidebook is a decent plan for NEW communities, but trying to force its application on older, established communities; some that have been around for the better part of a century, is untenable. People come to Calgary because it is one of North America’s best suburban cities. It is a place where people can start families and live in lush, green communities close to forests and playgrounds. I think the market reflects this reality. Other cities that have tried to force the housing market in a certain direction often fail, and the results can be unused land and empty properties. We need to be sure that we offer housing that is accommodating to all. Some prefer densification, some prefer a front lawn, a backyard, to be near a playground, and a school. We are not Vancouver or Toronto and I do not want us to be. We are also not Regina or Winnipeg. We should offer a well balanced housing option. In the past, the city council has tried to control this mainly by promoting densification as it is low hanging fruit for a tax grab with low infrastructure support. This has resulted in the explosion of growth in outlying communities such as Cochrane, Airdrie, Okotoks, and Chestermere. However, those same individuals still put a burden on our infrastructure but do not contribute to our tax base.
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?
I believe our current city councillors spend first and ask questions later. All of these projects in combination with the green line will be a tremendous financial burden on our city that likely won’t be sustainable. I think the event centre is the most important out of these, as it will bring tremendous vibrancy to our city. I am not standing against the other improvements completely either, but we must think rationally and act in the interests of the taxpayer. While these other revitalization projects may be beneficial to our city, implementing them all at once will be financially destructive to our city. I will always be a strong supporter of recreational infrastructure projects such as a fieldhouse, but it has to be sustainable. The question that most councilors and the mayor rarely ask is, What are the operational costs? They focus on the construction cost but never discuss the operational costs.
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?
The green line in its current form would be disastrous for our city. I am not against a new LRT line, but in its current configuration the green line should not happen. Tunneling through downtown, building up 2nd street, building a bridge over Prince’s Island, and neglecting the airport and NE, in general, are all huge oversights. Additionally, according to the city’s figures on the green line creating 20,000 jobs, they neglect to mention that this is measured in man years. In reality, the Green Line will only create 1-2,000 jobs at any given time. As mayor, I would be emphatic in altering the Green Line in the following ways: building an elevated track through east downtown instead of underground, using City Hall station as a hub for all three train lines, avoiding blighting Prince’s Island with a massive bridge and building it elsewhere, as well as directing the new line to the airport. To avoid cost overruns, I would focus on building the most crucial parts of the green line first, specifically the connection from downtown to our airport, and take it stage-by-stage, assessing and reassessing potential overruns as time goes on. My programs of managed competition, gainshare, and public reviews of expenditures would ensure that projects like the green line are in line with financial expectations and the interests of Calgarians.
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 am against the government picking winners and losers in the economy at all levels. The best way to attract businesses to Calgary is indeed to lower their tax burden, but also to create a vibrant city that attracts the business owners and employees we want to work here. In order to achieve this, we need to work on developing a bottom-up strategy of creating vibrancy. Currently, City Hall is focused on a top-down approach through things like the downtown revitalization plan, and I think these strategies will be disastrous for Calgary. Through things like rezoning for open liquor, reducing regulation on buskers, and constructing a trolley on Stephen Avenue, we can focus on creating a city where businesses want to come for its nightlife and great family environment.
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?
The only profitable city-owned golf course is Shaganappi, the rest are a sink for taxpayer dollars. I do not think they should be sold, however, contracted out to private businesses with an interest in making a profit.
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?
I do not think defunding the police is a reasonable answer to the problems we face as a city. I believe the police should receive training and participate in outreach programs that bring them closer to the communities they police. Prevention is always a more effective law enforcement strategy than reaction, and by focusing on improving CPS’ ability to prevent crime and build trust and collaboration with communities will go farther than any other strategy in preventing injustice. Examples include a buddy-system where police officers are partnered with a youth and spend time with them, programs like this have been successfully implemented in other North American cities and would work here too.
Question 16: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?
No, I do not. I do however understand its intention, which is to keep city workers and the public safe from the spread of COVID-19. Simultaneously, I believe mandating all city employees to receive a vaccine is unjust and coercive. As Mayor, I would give all city employees two options: receive the vaccine or receive bi-weekly rapid testing. I would also encourage all city employees, regardless of vaccination status, to receive frequent rapid testing to ensure that all municipal workers cannot spread the virus.
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?
My main issue with the recent speed limit reduction is how much it cost the city to do it. Lowering the speed limit is one thing, but it cost the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars just to change the signage. This is the exact kind of wasteful spending I want to stop when I become Calgary’s mayor. That money would have been better spent targeting the problem areas that are well known and reported through such things as 311 calls. Spend the money on the actual issues rather than blanket sweeping actions such as this but completely misaddressing the actual problem. I know for a fact that the situation in many of the problem areas has not been positively affected by this costly misdirected action.
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?
I think public spending on art is important, but the way our city has gone about it is unfair. Public funds for art should go towards local artists, and not artists from international locations that produce art not relevant to Calgary’s culture and history. Our budget for art has increased, but funding for sports for our youth has not at all followed pace. This is not acceptable.
Question 19: Serving as Mayor you are elected by and responsible to all Calgarians, but some policies and government actions inherently benefit one part of the City at the expense of another. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of some Calgarians conflict with the best interests of Calgarians in other parts of the City?
Utilizing my experience as a business owner, volunteer, and most importantly collaborator, I would work with all stakeholders and facilitate the most effective possible compromise. There will be times when one area of the city will possibly receive a project or a benefit that another area doesn’t. However, the overall picture has to balance out. Currently, that is not happening. There are several communities that are ignored with infrastructure projects and have fallen far behind.
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?
I would prefer to keep that confidential.