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Calgary election: City provides info on election day, COVID on the campaign, CREB forum

The City of Calgary rolled out more details on its election plans Tuesday, and mayoral candidates made some waves on the campaign trail.

Elections Calgary said they’re trying to make voting easier for Calgarians, with more locations and more hours to vote.

“By increasing the number of voting stations close to home, we are aiming to make voting easier and hoping to reduce some of the wait times we experienced in 2017,” said Returning Officer Kate Martin, in a prepared release.  

“We encourage all eligible voters to participate in the democratic process. Look up your assigned voting stations, make a vote plan to decide when and where to vote and cast your ballot.”

The city said it has added 21 more voting stations (total 187) and extended hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The advanced vote goes from Oct. 4 to 10 and 11 more locations. More information can be found at the Elections Calgary website.

There will also be a special mail-in ballot option for Calgarians who may have a disability, illness, if they are working, studying or vacationing away from Calgary or if they are an election worker.

All voting stations will be reviewed for Elections Canada accessibility standards.

Voters will also be using the vote tabulators in this election. This scans the ballots and provides much quicker results, the city said.

“Tabulators were successfully used in The City’s 2018 Olympic Vote, as well as in several other elections across Canada,” read a release from Elections Calgary.

“Tabulators are rigorously tested prior to the election to confirm they are operating properly and accurately and have several physical and digital security measures in place.”

COVID and the vote

The city said they are working hard to maintain a safe area for voters.

Capacity limits, physical distancing, separate entrances and exits, and surface cleansing will take place at election stations.  Voters may also have the option to vote outside if they prefer.

Mayoral candidates jumped into the COVID-19 conversation on Tuesday. Their comments came after Alberta reported 4,740 cases in the prior three days and a substantial uptick in both hospitalizations and ICU admissions. 

Further, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a conference with Primary Care Network doctors, that Alberta’s Open for Summer plan set the stage for the fourth wave.

Candidate Jan Damery once again pressed the issue of proof of vaccination to use some Calgary services.

“Calgary has the jurisdiction in the Municipal Government Act to require proof of vaccination to remove your mask in an indoor public place where eating or drinking is taking place—or in a space where only maskless people are allowed,” said Damery.

“We must not be timid in the face of this existential threat. We must not shrink in the face of possible litigation. Lives and livelihoods are at stake.”

Meanwhile, Jyoti Gondek said that she wouldn’t be participating any longer at indoor campaign events unless there were distance protocols and there was proof of vaccination.

“We must demonstrate leadership on the campaign trail. This is an effort to navigate the uncertainty we face,” she wrote on Twitter Monday evening.

Forum with a tax freeze

Six mayoral candidates participated in a Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) mayoral forum Tuesday, with two of the candidates committing to a property tax freeze.

Jeff Davison didn’t specify a timeline but said we’d need to freeze residential property taxes. Jeromy Farkas said he would push for a four-year tax freeze in Calgary.

“I’m committing to a four-year property tax freeze, to be able to throw a lifeline to struggling residents and businesses, and to be able to give them the certainty that they need during such a tumultuous time like this, that it won’t be City Hall that’s pricing them out of their homes or businesses,” Farkas said.

In that forum, candidate Brad Field spoke on the ongoing development debate in Calgary.

He said the market should dictate where and how Calgarians live.

“We cannot continue to social engineer the City of Calgary,” Field said.

All of the candidates agreed that the Green Line was an important infrastructure project, though they didn’t agree on what should happen next.

Gondek said the Green Line should remain a priority and she’d continue to push it further north.

“If you talk to anybody in north-central Calgary communities, they will tell you that their quality of life would greatly be improved if they had access to rapid transit like the Green Line,” she said.

Field once again reiterated concerns about the tunnel in the downtown portion. He said that the southeast portion is ready to go, it seems straightforward to have pushed that direction right away.  Farkas said he rejects a north/south debate and that both should be a priority with an appropriate infrastructure plan.