Grace Yan said it’s time for a whole new Calgary.
Yan, a Calgary commercial real estate broker, said the city needs a new blueprint to move forward and she wants to be the one to chart that course.
That’s why she’s thrown her name forward to run for mayor of Calgary.
Yan was born in Manila in the Philippines and her family emigrated when she was young. Her family first lived in Edmonton where her dad got a job with General Electric and her mom was a registered nurse. Yan’s dad also began his own business at the time that did well, she said.
“That was sort of started my background in business. I was working with my dad since I was 14, delivering flyers, whatever it took to help with the family business,” she said.
That’s when the family got into real estate. They grew their holdings all over Alberta. That’s where Yan built her resume.
The decision to run for mayor came after people from different sectors reached out to her and encouraged her to tackle the challenge.
“These different sectors – business, sports, arts – were all approaching me and asking me, ‘Can you please just step up,’ because it is not an easy job. Not right now. It’s a big job,” said Yan.
Economy is job one
Yan said without jobs for Calgarians, the city doesn’t function. That’s why getting the economy back on track would be her top priority.
“Without the businesses then, people don’t have jobs. People don’t have jobs to go to,” she said.
Yan said Calgary needs to be more aggressive with incentives and tax breaks to attract business into the city. With talent and resources, Calgary should be attracting bigger international companies while helping stimulate smaller local business to help provide jobs – and tax dollars.
“Businesses are the biggest contributors for taxes, which then supports programs and other initiatives,” Yan said.
In the downtown in particular, Yan said we need to look at innovative ideas to get people back into the core. She supports the repurposing of downtown towers – where possible – into living space.
But, she’d also take it one step further.
“In places like Hong Kong for example, they are restaurants on the eighth and tenth floors… we need to fill those buildings with viable options,” she said.
Green Line, police funding
Yan said she believes in reliable transit in Calgary, as long as it’s beneficial to citizens – both in moving them and the cost.
It’s important to examine how many people it’s helping based on the cost to citizens.
“It looks like the Green Line, where it’s going to be sort of positioned, is not going to be helpful or effective,” she said.
She said we need to take a step back and see if it’s the best use of taxpayer cash. She said we need to look at all our transportation priorities – including bike lanes – to see that they’re effective.
“There’s bike lanes and people can only utilize it so many months out of the year. Is that really an effective, efficient way to use taxpayers money?” Yan said.
On police funding, Yan said that we need to support the city police. She tied it back to the budget and being able to support and fund them adequately – along with other social, arts and entertainment programs.
From citizen to mayor
Yan put to rest any question of going from a citizen right into the mayor’s chair. She said experience on council isn’t a prerequisite.
“A lot of great leaders didn’t come from political backgrounds,” she said. She listed current Prime Minister Trudeau (though his family was political, she said), Ralph Klein and even current Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
She likened it to painting. Yan said just because you know how to put brush to canvas doesn’t make you Michelangelo.
“So being in city council, knowing policies… I don’t think that’s a prerequisite,” she said.
Not only that, but she thinks it’s time for Calgary to have a female, Asian mayor. She doesn’t want to make the campaign about that, but she recognizes that it breaks down a lot of the typical tropes about our city.
“We need a new blueprint for our city,” Yan said.
“The old is clearly not working.”
Calgary brimming with positives
Yan said Calgary is a great place to live.
Others are seeing that, too. In her field, she’s seen the growth in foreign investment in Calgary. She said companies are seeing what Calgary can provide and making an investment.
“I think we’re doing a great job of getting the word out there that hey we’re open for business,” she said.
Now, it’s making sure that those companies have the package they need to make the jump to our city.
Yan wants to see the city she’s lived in for 40 years thrive. She believes she has the ideas and experience to bring people from all sides together.
“I think what we really need to focus on is a common sense approach of really all the different sectors in Calgary working together,” she said.
“We can have a whole new Calgary – and we are capable of doing it.”