Monique Auffrey said her main priority is making Calgary a vibrant place for everyone, not just those who are privileged.
Auffrey has been involved in community service for 20 years, including serving as CEO of Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society.
“I thought I would take my leadership to the next level by running in municipal politics,” Auffrey said.
A political discussion with friends over dinner led her to decide to run, after hearing Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley would not be seeking re-election.
“I think this really is a great opportunity to take what I’ve been doing for communities, both in Calgary and earlier in Halifax, and really try to advance some of the initiatives that I think we are looking at, advancing at the community level,” Auffrey said.
Having worked with a number of nonprofits and different governmental parties at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, she has gained insight and built connections with stakeholders.
“I know how to balance the budget and I know the importance of working with taxpayer dollars,” she said.
The range of Auffrey’s experience includes financial acumen, collaborative governmental negotiations and her registered social worker license.
“I think Calgarians are really ready to see collaboration on city council. They don’t want to hear city councillors insulting each other, or the public … they want to see higher-level leadership, and I’m excited to be able to bring that to city council,” she said.
“At the end of the day, of all the candidates in Ward 8, I don’t think there’s anyone with [the] level of experience and breadth of experience that I will bring the city council.”
Auffrey said she hopes that Calgarians, particularly residents of Ward 8, will hold value to her social work profession, as someone who has worked with vulnerable people and being someone that people can trust.
Top Issues: Mental health and crime prevention
Auffrey said mental health and addictions is one of three pillars she has zeroed in on. It’s something she’s been passionate about for a number of years.
COVID-19 has had an impact on mental health that could take generations to overcome, she said.
“There are underlying things that have come to the surface with regard to COVID. Whether it’s job loss, domestic violence or heightened substance use, etc., which means that we will all have to take care of each other, more than maybe we have in the past,” Auffrey said.
“I know that the city has done some significant work already on the mental health and addiction strategy or plan, and I want to make sure that continues.”
Auffrey said she has a desire to ensure that those sitting on council have a sense of how important funding is and what that funding does for the community.
Her second priority is addressing crime prevention and safety. She knows it can be a sensitive topic for some. Auffrey said by taking better metrics and tracking crime to report back to the community they can see progress being made.
“I would like to make sure that as we’re navigating crime prevention and safety in our communities. And that we recognize that violence takes many forms, racism would be one form of violence,” Auffrey said.
Calgarians want a high quality of life, including safe, vibrant downtown streets so that everyone feels they will not be attacked based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc., she said.
“That’s something we can become very proud of as Calgarians that we can confidently speak to a community and a culture change that allows us to celebrate more diversity and more safety in our city.”
Housing and redevelopment
The third issue Auffrey highlighted is housing and making sure there’s a safe place to live for everyone.
She’s worked on the eradication of homelessness in Calgary for about nine years and lived in co-op housing as a single mom years ago.
“I’m a homeowner now and I’m very proud to be able to invest in my community in a different kind of way and to have a space I can call my own,” Auffrey said.
“It’s a privilege, but certainly it has provided me with an opportunity to understand the different elements that come into conversations about our communities.”
Auffrey said she wants to make sure that we have the right services of support in our neighbourhoods. It should support more density and be able to celebrate the characteristics of our neighbourhoods that keep them vibrant and interesting.
When you talk to people about what the root causes of the problems in their neighbourhoods are, you can come up with a solution that will satisfy people and create opportunities for better community management, Auffrey said.
“The idea of urbanization is very important and people really can appreciate why urban sprawl is not a good thing.”
“People still care about land use within their neighbourhoods. [We need to] look at some of the other issues that are going on that contribute to people opposing some land-use changes.”
It’s about finding a balance between the needs, wants and wishes of a community. It’s a hot topic in Ward 8, Auffrey said.
As a city councillor, Auffrey said she would look at what’s creating development stress for people.
Supportive of Green Line, Arena deal and Arts Commons
Auffrey said she was for the Green Line before the recent announcement, and she is still for it now.
“I understand that many Calgarians want to make sure that the Green Line is extended to be able to serve as many people as possible,” she said.
“I think the Green Line is really critical for economic vibrancy and our city is also incredibly important for environmental reasons. So, if we’re taking any financial equation out of it, I can’t see why we wouldn’t all be supporting the green line.”
As a huge proponent of the arts, I think that anything that can be done to support the arts and recreation in the city will contribute to a higher quality of life and help improve mental health for all Calgarians, Auffrey said.
“[They] really do make a significant positive return on investment for the community and for the economy,” she said.
“There are all sorts of other benefits to something like the arena deal.”
She used the example of the offshoot advantages of having a world-class event centre in the city, including augmenting tourism, jobs and economic benefits.
As Calgary continues to grow, we want Calgary to be a leader on the world stage and in order to compete at that level, we need to have state of the art organizations and the arts commons really demonstrates the importance of the arts in the city, Auffrey said.
“Our identity as a world leader in the city is more than just oil and gas. It’s innovation in technology, it’s becoming more of a hub for the film industry, music, etc,” she said.
“It all plays a part in creating this beautiful fabric of Calgary.”
Auffrey said she recognizes that systemic racism exists within multiple organizations in our city, but defunding the police doesn’t answer the question around systemic racism within any institution.
“Policing is not the only place where we are suffering from systemic racism. Systemic racism exists in our schools, in our healthcare system, and even in our community organizations,” Auffrey said.
“I don’t know why we would be talking about police funding, any more than we’d be talking about any other municipal source of funding.”
She said that the question she would be asking is if there is a difference between funding the police versus funding the fire department.
“I think we really need to make sure that we’re accepting responsibility for racism within our society in our community and how you address that is going to be much broader than just thinking that dealing with the police is going to solve that problem,” Auffrey said.
“My hope is that while we’re having conversations about making sure that we have diversity and equity within our system and municipal departments, etc, or what the municipality funds, that we’re making sure we recognize the role we play in addressing racism as a whole within the community.”