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Accountability at city hall: Sonya Sharp runs for Ward 1 Calgary city council seat

Sonya Sharp said a run for council has been in the back of her mind for a while.

It wasn’t until the start of 2021 that the 20-year employee at the City of Calgary really gave it serious consideration.

“It was about I would say mid-May, around June, that I decided that the best way for me to do what I can do and do well, was to resign from my position and focus my efforts on running this campaign,” Sharp told LiveWire Calgary.

Sharp has spent the past couple of years as the city’s leader for Business and Local Economy, helping create opportunities for Calgary small businesses.

Now she’s running for the Ward 1 seat.

Sharp grew up in the northwest community of Silver Springs, and has lived in Royal Oak, Rocky Ridge and now lives in Varsity. She feels that she’s got solid knowledge of the area.

“I really built my life in Ward one. My dad also ran his businesses in Ward one,” Sharp said.

“And now my parents live with me, so I feel like it’s this big full circle of supporting community and family after 41 years.”

When asked, Sharp said the timing of her decision had nothing to do with the departure of Ward Sutherland from the race.

Challenge: Changing Calgary’s narrative

Sharp has had the unique experience of recently being employed by the City of Calgary and she said she knows the challenges ahead.

One big challenge is helping the city back to its feet after the pandemic and the oil crash, she said.

To do that, we still must respect – and not discredit – the industries that got us here, Sharp said.

“One of the challenges is, what are the new industries, how are we going to kind of change the narrative of our city, and really be on the map of competition?” Sharp said.

“We have a beautiful city. We have got to use that to our advantage and we’ve got to draw people here.”

Sharp also said that Calgary must about what’s attracting and retaining – and employing – the city’s youth. She wants jobs to be available locally when they graduate from university.

“I think having this election is so important right now and having a lot of new people come on board with a different mindset is really going to be telling us how we shape the city in the next four years,” Sharp said.

In Ward 1 specifically, Sharp said she’d like to amplify what’s going on in the area communities. That means a better level of communication with ward residents to find out what’s going on and what’s important to them.

“That’s a really big deal for me, because I need to bring these people to the table,” she said.

“I can have a personal opinion, I’ve lived in ward one my whole life, but I really need to understand from constituents living in ward one – what do you want to see as the city grows?”

Green Line and arena transparency

Sharp said she’s keen to share with Calgarians exactly what the Green Line will mean to them. She’s hoping with the new Green Line CEO Darshpreet Bhatti, that citizens will get more answers.

“I think what we are lacking is the transparency, the accountability; What is the Green Line doing, how is it affecting ward one, and how are my tax dollars being put into use for this Green Line,” Sharp said.

“We can’t forget this is a cost to everybody, even if it doesn’t, the actually impact the roads in ward one.”

She believes the Events Centre project will bring in jobs and generate economic activity, particularly around lost concerts and other events. With that project as well, Sharp wants to see more transparency and accountability from city council.

“I think the one thing that I would recommend is more engagement with folks that live in the city,” Sharp said.

She’d consider looking at a phased approach for the construction of the arena, hoping that it might stretch out and potentially reduce costs.

Balanced growth in Calgary

Sharp is aware that Ward 1 has the split of new suburban growth and established area development.

She circles it back to proper communication and engagement.

“I think what’s important is again finding that balance. Do we need this now?” Sharp said.  

“And if we build this, are people going to find this is something they want for their community.”

Development issues have become rather divisive in Calgary in recent years. Sharp said we must have honest, difficult conversations with residents.

“We’re building the city for our community, the people that live here, and our taxpayers, and that is really important because we’re public servants,” she said.

That’s the message she wants to send to the voters of Ward 1. She believes that public service is about serving the public.

Sharp said she wants to take her experience of working as a bureaucrat, pushing things through city hall, and work from the other side as a city councillor.

“Ward one will always be the forefront of my mind when I’m making those decisions and those decisions will be based on the communication with my constituents,” she said.