Rob Ward said when he was putting the feelers out for a run in Ward 11, he heard from area residents that they weren’t being listened to.
Ward said as he’s been out campaigning at the doors, residents have told him about issues they’ve contacted the city about and never received a response.
“I’m not even in yet but I took it upon myself to pursue that and I’ve already fixed a lot of issues here in the community with that people just aren’t getting action on,” he told LiveWire Calgary.
The 13-year Ward 11 resident, who has lived in Haysboro and Willow Park, is an IT and marketing consultant for many Calgary small businesses.
Ward’s connected with a lot of those citizens and small business owners and when current Ward 11 councillor Jeromy Farkas jumped to the mayoral race, they urged him to run.
“They said, ‘You know Rob, you understand the local politics quite well. You’re a passionate guy, you’re well-spoken, you understand how an economy runs, how our city runs,’ and it kind of pushed me to go for it,” Ward said.
When he said he was going to need support to go all out, he said it was overwhelming. And that’s what prompted the leap into the Oct. 18 municipal election as a candidate in Ward 11.
Top issue – dealing with tax issue
Ward said the tax shift is still a serious issue. It will be for some time until Calgary can revitalize the downtown.
“The tipping point is, I would say, coming in quite soon is we’re all going to have to pay more,” he said.
“You need a strategy of how you’re going to manage that.”
Ward said there needs to be a continued push to not only find efficiencies at the City of Calgary but also looking at new revenue streams for the city.
“Where we’re at right now isn’t sustainable,” he said.
He said tied to that is diminishing core services, things like snow clearing, filling potholes, fixing sidewalks and public safety issues.
“I always say to people we’re spending like we have nailed our core services, and we haven’t,” Ward said.
“We need to nail the core services first before we go spending on projects.”
Ward 11 and development
The concerns of Ward 11 residents are similar to those across Calgary, economy, taxes, jobs and transportation.
One thing he singled out was the age of many neighbourhoods in Ward 11 and that they’re primed for redevelopment.
There are issues with that that both residents and the city will have to overcome, Ward said.
“I think there’s a bad narrative out there of people in these communities, in Willow Park where I live, is one that they don’t want to see any sort of densification,” Ward said.
“I’ll tell you, every single person I’ve talked to, I have not come across somebody that is completely against redevelopment, or densification.”
What they’re after, he said, is to be heard, understood and a meaningful part of the process.
He pointed out parcels in his particular area where redevelopment was exceptional – along Anderson Road across from SouthCentre and along Southland Drive near the Walmart.
“I think that’s what’s troubling for people is that nobody’s opposed to densifying, it makes sense,” he said.
“If I’m going to call myself, fiscally responsible, that’s a fiscally responsible thing to do. So, there are solutions, people just want to be heard and to be part of the process. That’s the biggest thing.”
Green Line / Events Centre
Ward said people want the Green Line. The biggest problem? We haven’t moved forward on construction yet, Ward said.
While there’s now a plan in place to lay tracks on the $5 billion transportation project, Ward said a lot of time has been wasted.
“If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to get going. The longer you wait on things the further behind you get,” he said.
In terms of going north or south on the future Green Line, Ward said there’s no perfect answer. He said you won’t please everybody.
He said that the real top priority of Calgary city council should be an airport link to the city’s LRT line.
“I personally think it’s crazy that our LRT system doesn’t go to the airport,” he said.
“I just think it’s necessary in any major city to have transit access to and from the airport.”
On the Event Centre, Ward responded the same as many candidates: “I’ll be forthright – I’m a Flames fan,” he said.
He said the city needs a new arena. New business, new acts, new opportunities for the City of Calgary.
“Now, I have a big problem with funding of a business’s capital project,” he said.
“I always say to people, ‘how much money has a city given you for your business? And the answer is usually zero.”
Police funding, fluoride and partisanship
Ward said public safety is important.
Coming from a marketing background, he said “defunding” is the worst term that could be used. He prefers reallocation of funds – and he’s behind that.
Ward said we have to look at how police response in Calgary can be better.
“If we can reallocate funds – the correct term – to better help them in call response times, I think that’s key,” he said.
He’s said he has friends that are officers and they’ve told him they know they’re not the best equipped to handle mental health or social services calls.
If more money can be directed to professionals that can better address those issues, police can focus on their expertise, solving crimes and doing investigations, he said.
Like many other candidates, Ward said he’ll listen to citizens in his ward on the fluoride issue. While he’s spoken with dentists and personally supports the use, he’d vote at the will of residents.
Ward said there needs to be a more collaborative effort on Calgary city council. He said it’s been divisive, and he wants to be a part of changing that.
He thinks councillors should be working for the people, not an agenda or political affiliation.
“I believe that council should be nonpartisan, that’s the way it’s meant to be,” he said.
“And I’m proud to say that I’m not affiliated with any political parties, unions, special interest groups or other candidates. I work for the citizens of Ward 11, and that’s it.