When Gurbir Nijjar came to Calgary 10 years ago, he came for one big reason: The opportunity.
Now, the engineer and father of two wants to give back to the city that’s provided a rewarding life for he and his family.
Nijjar is vying for the Ward 3 city council seat vacated by Jyoti Gondek, who is now running for mayor.
“The reason I run, to be honest, is that I want to be a part of helping the city back onto its feet and set it up for the future for those who will come and call it home again one day,” Nijjar told LiveWire Calgary.
“I want to restore the Calgary advantage, and really make Calgary the place people want to live, work, play, and ultimately invest.”
Nijjar has had experience already working with the City of Calgary, albeit through his role with Rocky View County. The experience has been in recreation and planning. It’s that interaction that began his journey toward a potential run in this year’s election.
The tipping point, however, was having the full support of his family to take the challenge on.
“It’s not something that one comes to lightly; it requires the effort of many to actually move a campaign forward and make a good run,” he said.
To Nijjar, the importance of this election, and where Calgary is right now in its history, helped him gain the support of those around him.
“We need the right people at the table now more than ever before,” he said.
Economy is a top priority
If leading Calgary’s economic back to prosperity isn’t job one, it’s certainly at the top of the list, Nijjar said. Most things revolve around it: Budgets, taxes and services.
The city needs to continue its push to diversify the economy, he said. But, don’t count out the energy sector. It’s still a major employer in Calgary and fits into the economic puzzle moving forward, Nijjar said.
“It’s just about how do we bring in other industries, other employers, other investment to employ our workforce and have those good, high-quality paying jobs,” he said.
“With that comes more investment with that comes the ability to create better and more connected and communities and have the ability to invest in different kinds of infrastructure to create a better quality of life for our residents.”
Of course, the Green Line project and how it manifests in Calgary’s north-central communities is a big talker in Ward 3, Nijjar said.
He’s concerned with the first phase of the project. Nijjar also said he understands the engineering and technical constraints of such a project but was a little puzzled with the alignment.
Nijjar said he would follow in the previous councillor’s footsteps and continue advocating for improved transit service in the area. That’s what he’s heard on the doorsteps.
“I’m also being realistic in the sense that we’re having trouble funding phase one. How the heck are we going to fund phase two going north?” Nijjar said.
“So, I also have to be realistic with our constituents.”
He will continue to push for expanded bus rapid transit service along Centre Street and ensuring that work done today sets up for an easy transition to LRT in the future.
Events Centre, Calgary police funding
Nijjar said the Victoria Park area needs a little bit of love. He said he supports investments, like the Events Centre and the BMO expansion, that will catalyze continued growth in Calgary.
“I’ve always been a big proponent that a healthy downtown is a healthy Calgary,” Nijjar said.
He believes the arena investment will be one of those catalysts for further development in the area. Nijjar said as we continue to redevelop the downtown into an attractive area for Calgarians and visitors, the by-product is less reliance on the typical homeowners’ taxes.
“I feel like catalyst projects like the Events Center will go a long, long way in sparking growth, and bringing additional investment into the downtown, which will help all of our communities,” he said.
Nijjar said it does need to be a good deal for the city, with a good return on the investment and a robust cost-benefit analysis.
“Are we simply subsidizing lining the pockets of the wealthiest, or are we investing into our future? I feel like these projects are an investment into Calgary’s future,” he said.
On policing, Nijjar said the role of city police is constantly changing. It’s become more complex, with officers being put in increasingly difficult positions.
“I feel that we need to provide our police with the right resources now more than ever,” he said.
It’s about having the right response to the call, he said.
“I feel that they need different resources, different education and need different training to help them along to be more successful,” Nijjar said.
Speeds, fluoride and believing in Calgary
As an engineer, Nijjar knows the data around traffic impacts associated with speed. He questions, however, whether this is something that’s important in Calgary today.
He doesn’t believe a blanket drop in the speed limit will have the desired effect the city wants. Nijjar believes that more targeted, localized traffic calming would be more effective in dealing with high neighbourhood speeds.
“I know it’s a simpler way to address the problem,” he said of the city-wide speed reduction.
As for fluoride, Nijjar is in favour of it being boosted in Calgary’s water supply. He said for a relatively small financial investment the health gains are enormous.
He said not everyone has access to regular dental care. This could have a substantial impact on Calgary’s lower-income citizens.
“I think it’s an overall minimal investment for a big benefit to our health and especially the health of our children,” he said.
Nijjar is hoping to bring his passion for Calgary and what it has to offer to the Ward 3 city council seat. He said he’s been fortunate to build a career and family in the city.
Nijjar believes his combination of municipal experience and job skills as an engineer will serve citizens well.
“We need to continue to believe in the city. I know that we’ll get through this,” he said.
“We have to believe in ourselves, we have to believe in our future. I believe it will be brighter than ever before.”
Calgary’s municipal election will be held Oct. 18, 2021.