As a harrowing 2020 transitions into an apprehensive new year, first-time city council candidate Steven Phan’s vision for Ward 12 resonates within his campaign slogan: “Forward, Together.”
Phan, 32, hits the campaign trail with a strong focus on community engagement and hands-on problem solving. It’s a strategy he intends to maintain if he wins a seat on council.
“Over the years, I’ve seen lots of candidates stick to leaving mailers in people’s mailboxes, and that’s not my strategy,” said Phan.
“I want to meet my constituents face-to-face as much as possible. I want to really hear them out.”
Born and raised in Calgary, the Mount Royal graduate believes responsible spending focused on supporting local business is the key to building up Ward 12’s infrastructure.
“This ward has a ton of development. World-class communities, tons of amenities, many of them family friendly. Plenty of boutique shops that really come to represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the mom-and-pop shop,” he said.
“You pretty much have everything right at your fingertips, you don’t really need to go anywhere else.”
Much like Ward 12’s current city councilmen Shane Keating – who announced in June of 2020 that he wouldn’t be running for re-election – Phan believes the eventual construction of the CTrain Green Line, which will run from 160 Ave N to Seton when fully complete, will play an integral role in bolstering Calgary’s economy.
According to Phan, however, the city’s plans for the Green Line have been poorly managed and executed.
“I’m a fixer person, and one of my frustrations with City Council is that the discussions being dragged out about the Green Line right now, didn’t take place five or ten years ago,” said Phan.
“Whether it’s oversight or bureauoracy, it just shouldn’t be taking this long.”
Where it all began
Phan’s interest in local politics started during the 2015 federal election. He began working with Conservative MP Tom Kmiec for the riding of Calgary Shephard.
“I’ve always had that strong desire for public service, so around election time back in 2015 I was asking myself what I could do to start really giving back, ” Phan said.
Since then, Phan has continued working with Kmiec and the Conservative party, and is currently the board president for the electoral district association for the Calgary Shephard riding.
“When I started down this path in 2015, it felt like I was drinking from a firehose,” said Phan.
“Learning about politics and governance and accessibility; there’s a fine balance to all of it. But it naturally progressed to me being curious about what I would have to do if I decided to run my own campaign.”
Although Phan’s interest in local politics started in 2015, his penchant for helping others, and even his entrepreneurial interests, took form much earlier in his life.
Phan started his first of several online businesses when he was 14. Since then has received his Bachelors of Business Administration diploma from Mount Royal University.
“I always had a knack for learning how things work, and how to fix things that were broken,” he said.
“Even as a kid my friends would bring me all kinds of weird things to try and fix.”
Coming from a long line of tinkerers, Phan currently works at his family’s appliance repair shop, “Southland Technical Services LTD,” with his father, uncle, and grandfather.
Headed for the promised land
Phan and his family share a strong sense of Canadian pride. It began when Phan’s family fled Vietnam to Hong Kong in 1975, eventually making their way to Canada.
“My dad, my uncle and my grandpa had to flee Vietnam in the middle of the night, on this frigate so overloaded with other people trying to escape, that the water was inches away from pouring into the boat,” he said.
Phan said the real danger, however, came at night, when the boat would dock on land.
“Everybody would get off the boat and find somewhere to sleep on the beach, and suddenly they’d hear screaming. I guess you’d call them, “jungle pirates,” would come out of the bush and start pulling people into the trees, so everybody would race to the water to try and swim back to the boat and escape,” said Phan.
“It was crazy times back then.”
When Phan asked his father why he chose Canada over Australia, or the United States, his father said that Canada represents values you don’t find in other countries.
“I’m a first-generation Canadian, and I was raised to believe that Canada was the land of opportunity, freedom, and hope, and that’s the spirit I want to bring back to City Council,” said Phan.
True, patriot love
Phan’s deep-rooted patriotism led to him joining the Canadian Armed Forces in 2010.
“My time in the Canadian Forces could be a whole story in itself. You learn so much about being courageous, and camaraderie. The relationship you build with your squadron and the sense of pride in getting to serve your country,” he said.
“I’m at a loss for words when I try to describe it.”
Strong leadership has always been a prevailing force in Phan’s life, influencing many of his big decisions along the way.
“My life has always been enriched by mentors. Whether I was eight years old, or when I decided to join the Armed Forces. I’ve always been inspired by leaders, and it’s the kind of person I strive to be,” he said.
If elected to city council in October, he said he doesn’t intend to stay there forever.
“I don’t aspire to be a career politician; that’s definitely not my goal,” he said.
“I’ve always believed that you get in, you make a difference, then you get out and let a younger generation come in with new ideas.”
Phan will be stepping away from the family repair business in April to focus on his campaign.
He and his wife Jenna are also expecting their first child at the end of April.
“It’s going to be a busy month,” Phan said.