Zane Novak believes there’s a better way to operate at Calgary city hall, and now he’s stepped forward to lead the charge.
Novak joins an increasingly crowded slate of candidates to become Calgary’s next mayor after an announcement Tuesday night. Current Mayor Naheed Nenshi hasn’t yet announced if he intends to run again.
After first conducting business here in 2001, the Lloydminister-born Novak bought his first condo in the city back in 2007.
“I came to work here, I started doing business here and I just fell in love with the city,” he said.
“I loved the vibrancy and I loved the opportunity. And now, I just don’t see that same spirit in the city.”
Novak, president of ZKO Oilfield Industries and former president of the Kerby Centre in Calgary, said he’s worked with the city and city hall over the years and he said it could be run more effectively.
“I’ve always been the type of person that’s felt if I don’t do it, how do I have the right to ask anyone else to do it?” Novak said.
He said his time with the Kerby Centre, a Calgary location that provides services for seniors, gave him a well-rounded perspective. He’s also worked with other non-profits as well.
Novak said he recognizes how important it is to provide support for Calgary marginalized populations.
“This is why it comes back to a balanced view of the social community and a balanced view of the business, for-profit community, because they work hand-in-hand,” he said.
Better-run city hall
Novak said Calgary lacks political leadership.
“You go to council meetings, you read the news, there’s so much fractious behaviour, there’s no sense of leadership, there’s no sense of accountability to stakeholders,” he said.
“Everybody runs their own agenda. That’s not how you run a business and Calgary city hall.”
He said whoever is elected to council this upcoming term needs to work together to find common ground and a direction forward that revitalizes Calgary.
“If you have a board of directors that fights, you know what will happen to a company? It won’t survive and that’s basically what’s happening here,” Novak said.
While citizens – and candidates – tend to focus on areas for improvement, Novak said Calgary has a lot going for it.
He said Calgary enjoys one of the better police forces in the country. Novak admitted it’s not perfect, and there’s room for improvement, but it’s a force citizens can take pride in.
Calgary’s vibrant immigrant community is another untapped resource, he said.
“I think we can do a better job of engaging them and giving them opportunities and structures to find their own success and make Calgary their home,” Novak said.
A connected downtown is a high point, as is the city’s ability to host major events and conferences. It’s also important to note that Calgary borders some of the most scenic landscape in the world. Calgary needs to become an international hub for outdoor activity.
Aiding Calgary’s crippled economy
Novak wants to harness the exceptional business minds in the city of Calgary to help propel it forward. He wants to breathe life into a struggling downtown core.
“They love the community just as much as I do and they want to see prosperity in this city as much as I do,” he said.
Novak’s plan is to push technology even harder – clean tech, agricultural tech, financial tech.
He said he’s already put together potential advisory boards to investigate opportunities in agriculture, but also in ways to harness natural gas and other clean energy.
His team has plans in place to encourage that business in Calgary. Novak wants to foster its growth and build long term, sustainable employment.
Green Line, defunding police
Novak said he supports strong transportation infrastructure, but “has serious questions” about the current $5 billion Green Line project. He said it’s not properly accessing catchment basins and that it needs to go further south.
Novak believes the bridge and the construction of the north portion is expensive. He said the project overall needs further review.
“This could easily balloon to being a nine- or ten-billion boondoggle that could cast a shadow on our ability to build infrastructure in the future,” he said.
To that end, Novak said the city needs to take a long look at its list of infrastructure projects to limit the impact to Calgary taxpayers.
“Every day you get up in the morning, it seems, and you read Facebook or the news and you find out that you’re paying more and getting less,” he said.
As he mentioned, Calgary should take pride in its police force, but it’s not without its imperfections. When asked about defunding, Novak said he believes Calgary police wear too many hats.
Novak said we need to draw on successes from other cities. Examine ways to make officers a part of the community.
“It’s been done in many other cities in North America and the world. Better ways to help our police be a part of the community and not just an authoritative figure in the community,” he said.
Novak said he believes some of the growth problems the city faces have been created by the city. He said there needs to be better engagement with the development industry to create a structured growth plan.
He doesn’t want Calgary to be a Vancouver or Toronto. Novak said people want to have their own home and a backyard and live close to their schools.
“We need to address that and make sure that housing is accommodating for more than people who just want to live in multi-million-dollar homes or downtown in the 30-storey high rise,” he said.
Novak said he recognizes that greenfield growth does come at a cost. But there are other quality of life measures that help compensate for that, he said.
When asked what action he’d take once elected mayor, Novak said he’s already taking it.
He wants to build relationships with fellow potential councillors. He wants to know the team he’s working with.
Novak said he brings the ability to draw people together with differing interests to champion a greater goal.
“Everybody comes out with a win on the table. It’s maybe not the win they wanted when they went in, but it’s the win to move the city forward,” he said.
Calgary’s municipal election is Oct. 18.