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Helping the vulnerable: James Desautels bids to be Calgary’s next mayor

James Desautels is running to be Calgary’s next mayor, and he has a big list of goals in mind.

Desautels said he has been mulling over running for Calgary mayor since 2017. He said the pandemic acted like a sign and invitation for him to run in the October municipal election. In the end, instinct and data have charged Desautels’ decision to run.

“The majority of Calgarians are underserved. I feel it’s a wake-up call to create a brighter future for our next generation,” he said.

“I don’t think one needs to be a parent to feel that and to want to create opportunities, resources, and hope for the people that will take our place. So, it’s really to give a voice to the majority of Calgarians who historically are underserved at the expense of the extremely wealthy.” 

Another factor contributing to Desautels’ decision to get involved with this year’s election is the support from his wife and friends.

“It was the immediate support from them. If I have my wife on board, and I have people who know me, the real me and the vulnerable me, on board from the get-go. That’s all I need,” he said. 

The Calgarians that Desautels wants to help, he said, are those who need access to resources, education, and opportunity. One of the most important issues to Desautels is livable wages for Calgarians.

“There are people of all nationalities who are working minimum wage jobs here in Calgary, some are working two to three minimum wage jobs. One is never going to get ahead working a minimum wage job,” he said.

Desautels’ goals

Desautels mentioned many areas he hopes to improve within Calgary. Issues such as defunding police, how minority populations are treated, how women are treated, revitalizing downtown, keeping Calgary’s youth involved, and partnering with the University of Calgary for vaccine research, are all on Desautels’ to-do list. 

“If we look at the police budgets here in the City of Calgary, it is substantial. And not all of those professionals are trained and equipped and experienced to handle calls that they go on,” he said.

“So, let’s eliminate spending resources in the wrong places. And let’s eliminate, again, that sort of padding of people who don’t need the help and don’t need the resources and don’t need the capital and let’s redistribute it to those who do.”

As for revitalizing downtown, Desautels said there are many possible directions to take.

“Does it involve repurposing office towers or vertical food production? Does it mean repurposing retrofitting office towers for artists for musicians, for content creators, for all of those things that have also been underserved through the pandemic?” he said. 

“What are we doing at a city level to make access to resources equal for all people, education, to healthcare, to access to vaccines, to public transportation?” 

Desautels said he especially hopes to give resources to Calgary’s youth.

“What are we doing to give young people opportunities? Opportunities to study here, opportunities to work here,” he said. 

Musicians, artists, and small businesses

Another item on Desautels’ list is the treatment of musicians and artists. 

“One thing we can do here in Calgary specifically is instead of taking half a million dollars and giving it to one or two people for an art project, we can take half a million dollars and we can employ musicians year-round,” he said. 

“That money generally stays within the community, if it’s given to more than one, two, or a handful of people.”

As well as artists, he hopes to help small businesses get more opportunities.

“A small business of two employees cannot compete with Suncor. And so expecting these business, treated economically, the same way so I propose a sliding scale based on liquidity and the profit margin in and out of the doors,” he said. 

“There should be a sliding scale for those business fees, for those non-residential taxes in order again to help the majority of people who don’t fall in the category of the CEO of corporation X, Y, Z.” 

Events centre deal and fluoride in the water

Desautels said he doesn’t support the Events Centre deal or fluoride in Calgary’s water.

As he said fluoride can be found in toothpaste, so there’s no real need to adjust the water. The events centre deal is arguably more complicated.

While he said he has been a Calgary Flames fan since before the Saddledome, he also said how the deal is structured will not be beneficial for Calgarians.

“There are seven Canadian NHL markets. Five of those seven are privately-owned arenas. Two of the seven are publicly owned—Edmonton and Calgary,” he said. 

“Will the city take on owning it, and managing it? Probably not, because that involves government employees who have much more attractive benefit packages than private corporation employees.”

Desautels said his main concern is how the deal will affect Calgarians in the long run.

“Think about the revenue, or could non-governmental employees work side by side with private with government employees within the same physical structure. So there are many gray areas.” he said.  

“Is it an economic boom for the City of Calgary to have a franchise within one of the big four sports? Absolutely. Is the deal good for the average everyday Calgarian? Anybody would tell you that at first blush, and then go ‘no, it isn’t. ‘We have to restructure it and look at what we’re doing with it.” 

Police funding

Desautels supports the reallocation of police funding. To him, he said altering the police funding means restructuring how the money is being spent.

“That money needs to go to mental health professionals and resources. It needs to go to addiction and homeless help and resources. The pandemic has really shone a light on these things, and how we’re structuring society, and we can do better,” he said. 

“When people feel valued and treated with respect do people feel that they’re not specifically targeted by institutions.”

Green Line LRT

Desautels supports the Green Line LRT. Public transportation, Desautels said, is important to him as walkability is important for Calgarians.

“[The LRT] is a way to access public transportation, and it’s a way for people who choose public transportation or who choose a combination of that with biking with walking. Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect,” he said. 

“I think Calgary’s hearts and their intentions for the majority of Calgarians are in the right place with the LRT.”

Desautels said that voting for him means a better future and a more economically prosperous future for Calgarians. 

“A vote for James Desautels, a vote for yours truly, is a vote for the majority of Calgarians. I want to do things to help people, and to uplift people.” he said.

“In order to change the world, we can change Calgary.”