Heather McRae said an overwhelming message she’s hearing from people is that they’re frustrated by the lack of civility on Calgary city council.
That’s one of the reasons she’s decided to step forward to run in Ward 7 for the October 2021 municipal election. That ward is currently represented by Coun. Druh Farrell. It’s not yet known if she will run again.
McRae mustered support for her decision after spending time listening to Calgarians in her ward during COVID-19. Residents were bunkered in their homes in the early going, only getting out for such things like taking the dog to the off-leash area.
A loyal group from her area met every morning at 8:30 a.m.
“The dog park became a lifeline for us,” she said.
“The thing I love about the dog park is it’s this really rich mix of people that you wouldn’t normally socialize with.”
There was a doctor, a personal trainer, a teacher, a school trustee, an engineer and a worker in Calgary’s service industry “all there chatting about all sorts of things,” McRae said.
“A few people in the group started saying to me, ‘why aren’t you running for something?’ They were so persistent that I said, ‘OK, fine. I’m going to go away and talk with some friends of mine that I’ve worked on campaigns with and who I felt I could trust to say, ‘Heather, that idea is crazy.’
“What I found is a whole bunch of people saying to me that it’s a really great idea.”
The COVID-19 effect
One of the things the pandemic lockdown put into acute focus for McRae was the need for healthy communities.
“We have been living in our own communities for quite a while now,” she said.
“We need to make sure that they are sustainable places where people can live a pretty enriched existence within this much smaller bubble than what we’re used to.”
She said simple quality of life issues like vehicle noise and neighbourhood speeds can be addressed with smaller projects that have a bigger impact – without a bigger budget.
“I’m going to be really focused on health community centres in our communities because I think we’re going to need them more than ever,” she said.
Downtown collaboration – a blueprint for Calgary
As McRae’s been meeting with different groups in her ward, her talk with the Calgary Downtown Association was an energizing one.
She said she was struck by how they’re looking at things in a much more collaborative way than before. The survival of downtown Calgary was at stake, so they’re looking at innovative partnerships to keep it moving forward.
“That’s the kind of thing that I think is going to be super encouraging moving forward,” she said.
“I love talking with people and I love talking with people from a variety of backgrounds and political points of view, to be honest,” she said.
“I think that diversity only shapes and enhances our communities and makes them better and richer. It’s incumbent upon us as individuals to try and understand where people are coming from when they don’t necessarily agree with us.”
But, it’s not what she’s seen from the current group on city council. She said people in Ward 7 are telling her that their voices aren’t being represented at city council.
“It’s very frustrating to me to see people posturing from ideological positions,” she said.
“There’s no consensus building. Surely to goodness we can do better by Calgarians. There’s got to be opportunities for us to try and understand our differences and not eviscerate one another because of them.”
The Green Line and the economy
McRae said she’s talked with the Crescent Heights community about the Green Line and she’s heard generally that people are excited about the $5 billion project cutting through their neighbourhood.
She supports the transit vision; her two daughters are avid transit users. She wants to encourage that behaviour.
“There are concerns about the work that might get done – as there should be, especially given what’s happening with our tax base and our economic uncertainty for the city,” McRae said.
“I hope we can still pull off a really great Green Line and that it doesn’t get compromised, because that won’t serve anyone in the long term.”
That uncertainty linked to the economy is forefront for Calgarians, McRae said.
“Nobody can deny the economic reality facing the city and it’s quite a scary one,” she said.
She’s met with many of the Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) in her ward and she’s collecting information on what they need moving forward.
Wanted a strong start for a yearlong campaign
McRae is energized for the 12-month grind ahead of her. She said she’s put together a solid team that’s excited to tackle the challenge.
Seeing more women stepping forward already is an encouraging sign for her, too. It takes a lot of asking for women to put their name on the ballot.
“Women typically have to be asked many, many times before they say yes to running. They do a lot more groundwork to make sure their making a choice they’ll be supported in,” she said.
“I had a lot of conversations with people before I made a decision. I wanted to ensure that the decision would be well supported, and people thought it was in the best interest of the community going forward.”
Calgary’s municipal election is Oct. 18, 2021.
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