Calgary election: Mayoral candidates talk bringing council together, paying for campaign promises

WATCH: With days left in Calgary's municipal election campaign, voters will have a lot to consider when deciding who will sit in the mayor's chair. Adam MacVicar reports.

Five Calgary mayoral candidates who have been top in recent polling joined Global News Morning the week before election day, Oct. 18.

Jan Damery, Brad Field, Jeff Davison and Jeromy Farkas all joined Dallas Flexhaug to discuss why they should be Calgary’s next mayor.

Jyoti Gondek will join the show on Friday, Oct. 15 at 8:10 a.m. This story will be updated with Gondek’s comments on Friday.

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Here are some of the questions and answers. The answers have been edited for clarity.

How will you lift the city out of the current economic slump as mayor?

Damery:

“I’ve always learned in my career that crisis always offers opportunity for change.

“People are struggling in our community. We’ve lost our confidence, and what I look at and reflect on the last four years and how council has operated — particularly during the pandemic — we need leadership and I’m not seeing leadership.

“That’s why I’ve actually felt almost compelled to offer my leadership at this time to help us create this vibrant city that we know we all can be about bringing us all together.”

Field:

“If we’re going to talk about the future of Calgary for the next 10, 20 or 30 years, why do we not have the future of Calgary at the discussion table?

“That’s why I’ve committed to the young adults 2030 advisory council. They will have direct access to the mayor’s office, so we can converse on a regular basis about the future of the city of Calgary and I open that up to any group that wants to have access to the mayor’s office.

“I’ve also committed to an Indigenous advisory group and a senior’s advisory group. They will all have direct access to the mayor’s office (if I’m elected as mayor).”

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Davison:

“I think we’ve really set the foundation for what I believe is going to be our greatest comeback ever. I think about, ‘Why do I want this job a lot?’ and it’s really, I’ve got three young people in this city and Calgary for me has always been a city of open doors and open opportunities. And I want to make sure we get that back and there’s a lot of work that’s needed to be done. We’ve been here before, we can do it again.”

Farkas:

“I have a strong 10-point plan focused on jobs, the economy, lower taxes and strong support for police, firefighters and other essential services. But I think Calgarians especially need change because we just can’t afford four more years of the same.”

How are you going to finance your campaign promises?

Field:

“We want to look at what we call priority-based budgeting and it’s a different way of looking at how we spend taxpayers’ monies. Currently what we do is we use last year’s spend to set next year’s budget. The problem with that is we’re continually asking taxpayers for more money. We can’t do that. We can’t sustain that.

“Our idea around priority-based budgeting is, with citizen input, to set the priorities, make sure the necessities are taken care of and when the money runs out, we stop spending.”

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Damery:

“If we spend now we actually save huge dollars over time and I am an economist by background and have found a way to pay for things ensuring that our taxes or expenses stabilized, and that we can manage this.

“Many of you know how we revitalized the East Village. We did that through a very unique arrangement with the province (a community revitalization levy). So this is about a really positive relationship with the province that helps us to get some startup capital. If we invest that now we get greater returns over time, so this is about building our future.

“This is about stabilizing taxes to inflation and population growth. We’ve got new expenses already on the books because of new communities that we are developing. We’ve seen that people are struggling with their services.

“We can stabilize and get them regulatory certainty so that businesses can recover. And so I’m talking about actually freezing business taxes so they can recover to generate economy, and we regrow our economy together.”

Davison:

“Number one, we have to get through the process of standing up businesses faster. Our job is to enable businesses and people’s success, so we’ve got to move people down that file along faster.

“We have to look at, how do we create a more competitive corporate tax rate here? The non-residential tax rate has got to come down just even to balance what Edmonton is doing.

“And then we’ve got to think about, how do we just get more people focused on Calgary? How do we expand businesses here? And so thinking through innovation, technology and how everything from energy to agriculture to goods movement to aerospace and fintech are going to be huge opportunities for job growth here in the city.”

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Farkas:

“Economists such as Jack Mintz have reviewed my tax freeze plan as being achievable and realistic, without the need for service cuts. And if we can actually better attract business and new talent to come to Calgary, that’s going to be able to reduce the tax burden on everybody.

“By getting more Calgarians back to work, more business activity, you have more people paying those taxes so that everybody benefits.”

How will you work with a brand new council and the provincial government?

Field:

“I’ve been a vendor with the City of Calgary for 25 years, so I’ve worked with city administration and a good majority of the employees at City of Calgary. They come to work every single day wanting to do the right thing and provide value to the citizens of Calgary.

“It’s the system that’s broken, not the people. So we have to look at empowering the city staff — 16,000 great staff — and give them a voice, make sure they’re heard because a lot of great innovation comes from staff.

“When you become an elected official, you’re a leader.

“I think change has to come from the outside.”

Damery:

“I’m a collaborator, I always have been. I know how to lead with influence. One of the reasons I have such a detailed platform is because the playbook that we all talk about and bring.

“How I work with council is we start to actually get a common vision, and we have new rules of engagement so we can break the toxicity that we’ve seen. When you think about the existing councillors running, they’ve not shown any leadership. This, again, is why I’m feeling compelled to throw my hat in the ring.

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“This is about a clean sweep but I’m hoping that the voters will think about what this city means to them and that we’re getting the right leadership and go forward.”

Davison:

“The first 100 days are going to be critical: really understanding the goals and aspirations of a brand new council, thinking about how we’re going to work together and ladder back to the overall goal of moving the city forward — that’s going to be key is getting council functioning again. Then we can think about the province and, how do we rebuild that relationship as well?

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“When it comes to standing up a half a billion dollar film sector, the province was with us on it and I managed that relationship. We’ve managed the relationship with all these tech companies that are coming to Calgary.

“It’s possible to build a relationship and further it. We just have to keep our eye on the prize.”

Farkas:

“I’m committed to working together with this new council and I think with 10 new faces around the table, it’s going to be a great opportunity for real change. We’re gonna have to work together.

“When it comes to relationships with the province, you know what I don’t answer to say Nenshi or Kenney or anybody else. I believe that the mayor of Calgary needs to be independent. We need to stand up against the provincial government when we think they get it wrong, but we also need to work together, row in the same direction where there is common ground.”

Salty or Sweet?

Field: Salty
Damery: Salty
Davison: Salty
Farkas: Sweet

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Field: Star Wars
Damery: Star Wars
Davison: Star Trek
Farkas: Star Wars

Winter or Summer?

Field: Winter
Damery: Summer/Fall
Davison: Summer
Farkas: Summer

Left or Right?

Field: Right
Damery: Right
Davison: Right
Farkas: Right

Coffee or Tea?

Field: Neither, hot chocolate
Damery: Coffee
Davison: Coffee
Farkas: Tea, black

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