Cornelia Wiebe believes a city is only as strong as the communities within it.
Wiebe is running for Ward 8’s seat on city council in this year’s election. A business owner herself, Wiebe wants to bring focus to the importance of local business, especially when it comes to Calgary’s post-COVID recovery.
“Small business is so vital to our economic recovery,” said Wiebe.
“We’ve seen a full year of conversation about what’s in our community, and small business is in our community.”
Wiebe has owned and operated her own Beltline-area small business, Leo Boutique, with her husband for the last 20 years. She understands all too well the importance of small businesses within her community.
“Calgary is very forward-thinking. We’re understanding the importance of climate change initiatives and environmental concerns. We want to have products and services that we can access by walking or taking transit,” she said.
“Small business plays a role larger than just in our economy.”
Originally from Manitoba, Wiebe received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Winnipeg.
After completing the final year of her degree in Calgary as a visiting student, Wiebe and her husband opened their first Leo’s Boutique location in Winnipeg before making the move to Calgary shortly after.
“We quickly realized our dreams and aspirations for the business, and I just kept saying to my husband that Calgary is the place,” said Wiebe.
“The people and the energy that’s there, the can-do spirit, the entrepreneurial support. We need to be in Calgary.”
Leo Boutique also went online in 2011, giving the business a leg up when facing the health restrictions of the last year.
Wiebe said she watched other businesses scramble, and fail, to make the same move at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a cautionary tale that applies beyond the world of small business.
‘If you’re understanding more than just what’s in front of you, if you’re forecasting and paying attention, you start to make those moves in early days,” said Wiebe.
“You want to be on the vanguard of change.”
The people’s city councillor
Wiebe has put community engagement at the forefront of her campaign, and plans to use her voice to represent that of her community.
Like many other candidates in this year’s election, Wiebe feels that City Hall has lost touch with its constituents, and it’s time to change the lineup.
“What I’m hearing from other members of my community is something I already knew to be true, which is that City Hall isn’t speaking for me,” said Wiebe.
“I don’t see myself there, I don’t see my councillors bringing forward the concerns of my community and things that matter to me today.”
Following City Council’s recent vote to reduce residential speed limits starting on May 31, Wiebe said she supports improved safety on the streets, but she questions City Council’s ability to prioritize the issues.
“I’m a parent, so obviously I’m 100 per cent for safer streets, but this issue didn’t seem to align with the economic and health crisis that we’ve been facing for the last year,” said Wiebe.
“I think this speaks to the larger issue of City Council being disconnected from the priorities of their citizens.”
What a ward wants
Despite the ongoing challenges of maintaining a business during the pandemic, such as staff layoffs and limited customer capacity, Wiebe said the past year has served as an opportunity to connect with her community.
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt throughout Calgary. Wiebe wants to ensure it doesn’t overshadow other important issues pertaining specifically to her ward.
“Ward 8 is incredibly diverse. The Beltline has an ecosystem and an infrastructure that supports residents in different ways than we would see in Elbow Park. So I’m listening to the residents in those communities and understanding what specifically is of importance to them, like the upcoming vote for the Guidebook for Great Communities,” said Wiebe.
The Guidebook for Great Communities provides direction for Calgary’s future city planning and growth – a contentious topic.
“It’s definitely a concern for the immediate future,” said Wiebe.
The final vote on whether or not to approve the Guidebook will happen March 22.
When it comes to other hot-button issues such as defunding the police, or reintroducing fluoride into Calgary’s water supply, Wiebe said her vote will always come down to what best represents the wants of Ward 8 residents.
“For me, my opinion is less important than the what the ward has to say.”
“But I’m ready to lead the charge. I’ll be the champion for Calgary.”
The Calgary municipal election is Oct. 18, 2021.