Theo van Besouw has been a Calgary resident since he emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1977.
Recently he has been getting frustrated with the current city council for acting in what he calls an unprofessional manner. That’s why he’s decided to jump into the race in Calgary’s Ward 2.
“There has been a lack of a professional approach to important issues in the city,” van Besouw said.
“What I mean is that processes need to be in place for getting decisions made on facts and realistic situations rather than feelings. There is a lot of emotional garbage going on distracting from the essence of decision making.”
Although van Besouw doesn’t have a background in politics, he said that his experience as a project manager means he knows what it takes to manage effectively. There were thoughts of retiring, but van Besouw wanted to give back to the community by using his experience.
The experience van Besouw wants to use the most is that of finance, which he sees as the most pressing issue facing the city today.
van Besouw said that every decision the city makes is costing taxpayers. He believes it is a dangerous approach to have.
“Every time they turn to the taxpayers they’re asking for more money,” he said.
“The first thing that needs to be done is a rigorous system to track expenditures. Getting the economics of Calgary on stable ground, so we are not mortgaging the future of the city to the next generation,” Van Besouw said.
Concern with finances
The concern about fiscal responsibility also extends to major projects. The Green Line is one such project that van Besouw doesn’t support. He said that there is nothing wrong with the idea of the Green Line. The issue is how the money is used.
“I don’t believe for a second the current estimate for the price of the project. It is going to be much higher. There has not been one railroad project in the world that has not come in at least 50 per cent over budget,” van Besouw said.
For Van Besouw, this means the messaging needs to be very clear to all residents about how this is going to cost them. Concern mostly surrounds the possible ballooning of costs. And van Besouw is even in favour of pausing the Green Line for three to four years until costs are ironed out.
van Besouw said that the current cost is only including the Green Line itself, like the stations and the rail. However, he believes it doesn’t include other work surrounding the Green Line. This includes advocating for a plebiscite to let Calgarians decide whether the city should go ahead with the project.
(Editor’s note: The city has included the cost of enabling works in the project budget.)
Assessing how money is spent
When it comes to contentious issues like police funding, Van Besouw said that the police are not looked upon in a favourable light and should look at their priorities to determine what are the greatest threats to society.
When it comes down to their funding, van Besouw said that decisions are not made with a clear understanding of the situation.
“To outright say the police should be defunded, I would nearly say is immature. You first have to understand what the situation is and make informed decisions and not just shoot from the hip,” van Besouw said.
van Besouw said the most egregious example of city spending is with the Events Centre. The handling of the project is less than ideal van Besouw said and shows that those running the project are not handling it correctly.
Nothing is being released to the residents, and van Besouw said that the whole situation is disconcerting.
“This is a typical Calgary council approach. It is already over budget, which should never happen,” he said.
“As a project manager, you are accountable for a project. You have to know where the money is going and inform your employer. It should never happen that we are faced with issues like we are suddenly low on money.”
Handling ward 2 and pitch to voters
van Besouw said that Ward 2 has 10 neighbourhoods, each with its own problems and identity. For that reason, van Besouw wants to involve community associations more in decision making, linking everything to a grassroots level.
He gave the example of speeding in residential areas. van Besouw said that this may be an issue in one community and not another. This is tied to the idea that the structure of input needs to be more formalized.
“It is about recognizing that the need for one is a want for the other. This is how I will approach the issues for ward 2,” Van Besouw said.
In the end, finances are the most important issue, and van Besouw said that he will be running on a message of being fiscally conservative.
“We cannot afford to go on with the way things are being done now. It is irresponsible the way money is being handed out. It is unsustainable,” he said.