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Access for all: Courtney Walcott launches bid for Ward 8 councillor

Courtney Walcott believes that we need to make Calgary accessible for all citizens.

That’s why the high school teacher and community advocate is putting his name forward to represent Ward 8 for Calgary’s 2021 municipal election.

Walcott’s campaign launched on Monday, the first day of Black history month. It’s something he said is of great significance.

“Launching on the first day of Black history month was really important to me because, in a way, I’m honouring myself,” said Walcott.

“There’s no shame in it.”

Backed by a desire to be an example for those he teaches, Walcott promises to bring a people-first mindset to the city and his ward.

Time to get involved

Walcott, who teaches English and social studies at Western Canada High School, said that a lot of his students ask him how best to navigate the world during the times we live in.

“The answer is to get involved,” he said.

Walcott himself has been doing just that. He’s the spokesperson for the Defund2Fund coalition and is a member of several other advocacy groups in the city.

But he emphasized that he’s not a one issue candidate.

While dismantling systemic racism is important, there are also several other problems that Walcott wants to tackle.

Courtney Walcott announces his bid for council in Ward 8 on Monday, which is the first day of Black history month. (OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

Access and opportunity

Walcott’s platform is centered around building an accessible city where everyone’s needs are addressed.

Different people need different things, he said.

“Some people will be more concerned about property taxes; some people will be more concerned about finding a place to sleep tonight.”

For Walcott, accessibility means having an effective transit system. It means investing in communities that exist, rather than the constant sprawl and finding ways to make sure that we’re not subsidizing the growth of the city.

“And that’s going to be the foundational principle of this campaign, is everybody getting their fair share,” he said.

Regarding accessibility, one major issue comes to mind.

“When I talk about access, the Green Line is exactly what I’m talking about,” he said.

“If you can effectively expand the train line, what does that do except open up access for this city?

“Imagine the city that we can live in and everybody had the same access.”

Beyond issues of transit and infrastructure, Walcott believes that the city needs keep the dollars that people pay in the communities circulating in that community.

That way, they can build them up. They can make sure that places such as parks, libraries, and community centers are effective and well-funded.

Taking action

While there will be no incumbent candidate running in Ward 8 after current councillor Evan Woolley announced that he’s stepping away from politics, Walcott said the vacant council seat had no impact on his decision.

“A vote is, to some degree giving away your power. You’re investing your power in the candidate, and you’re hoping to get some return on that investment. I don’t exactly feel like I’ve gotten that return,” said Walcott.

“I’ve spent a lot of time asking people to speak for me.”

As a teacher at a large high school in the heart of Ward 8, Walcott said he understands those living in the community very well.

They’re the parents of the kids that I teach, he said. They’re owners of the local businesses I support and help fund.

Setting an example

Walcott prides himself on being a positive example of what happens when someone is given opportunities with an effective social services program.

Growing up in low-rental housing in Scarborough, Ontario, Walcott credits his experiences for shaping his ideology and his drive to get involved and create a positive social impact.

“My mom, she was sick when we were young,” said Walcott.

“And she was just trying to figure out how she could pay for medication and keep us in school.”

His mother died when he was 14.

After living with his aunt for a period of time, Walcott eventually moved out west to be with his father in Calgary, and that’s when things started to change.

He ended up getting a job, graduating high school and attending Mount Royal University where he got a history degree. It’s something he said wasn’t even a remote possibility in Toronto.

“What I experienced was something I want all Calgarians to experience,” said Walcott.

“I experienced a city where there was opportunity everywhere.”