Virginia Stone believes that politics can be a force for good.
But, she said she’s hated it for the longest time.
“I never for a second saw myself in politics,” she told LiveWire Calgary.
“I literally got so tired of listening to myself complain about it that it was absolutely my responsibility to step up and try to change what I didn’t agree with.”
That’s what got the ball rolling towards her decision to run for mayor of Calgary. Stone saw an opportunity to disrupt the current system to create something better for Calgarians.
It was one instance in Calgary’s downtown, however, that triggered her to move forward.
She’d just been downtown to go to the courthouse and she saw the ongoing homelessness and mental health issues still not being addressed.
“I got surrounded by a group of men, and I couldn’t get to my vehicle just walking two blocks, and it was very intimidating and very scary,” Stone said.
“And I thought, ‘you know what, this needs to be fixed.’”
Stone said she’s the type of leader that wants to do what’s right for everyone.
“I just don’t find that the average politician is doing that,” she said.
“Real leaders rise everyone up to their greatest potential, real leaders try to create positive change for absolutely every single life that they can touch.”
Top issues in Calgary: Economy / budget
Stone said that without a doubt, the economy is top of mind for Calgarians.
She said overtaxing has worsened an already difficult problem.
“It’s unacceptable to take that much from your businesses that you lose them, and that you lose investment in your city,” she said.
“We must give people a break, we must take the burden off.”
To do that, Stone wants to cut “the fat off the budget.” She said we need to pause some of the legacy projects the city has undertaken.
She’d like to see the city help people get back on their feet.
“We need to get roofs over people’s head, food on their tables we need to get them jobs. This is key to me,” Stone said.
She said it’s going to take a disruption to the system. Stone said something drastic needs to be done to turn things around.
“We need to stop spending more than we have, and we need to take care of the people first,” she said.
“As soon as we can take care of our people, we can then start bringing on these really big, very expensive projects.”
Green Line, Events Centre: Want versus need, Stone said
Stone said the first focus should be on recovery from the last few years.
While Stone said the Green Line is a great project, it should be paused until there’s a sustained 10 per cent vacancy rate in the downtown – up from the current 30-plus per cent.
She also said the city really needs to drill down into the Green Line budget.
Same goes for the Events Centre, or even the BMO expansion.
“It’s all great and good to have these beautiful buildings but we don’t need a conference center when we have no businesses,” she said.
“We need to be a thriving city to actually earn that kind of demand to a conference center.”
She said there’s a lot of money tied up in these projects, cash that could fix a lot of the city’s other issues.
“We need to put money in areas that are going to give us an instant return that’s going to improve people’s lives right away, not in five years,” Stone said.
100 per cent support for police, fire
Stone said she wants to live in a safe city. She’d like to work with first responders, including police, to ensure they have what they need.
She doesn’t support the idea of defunding. Stone said that the funding police get should be focused on fighting crime.
“It is not their expertise to deal with mental health issues, it is not their expertise to deal with drug addictions,” she said.
“We need to implement other initiatives and put funding and other areas where we can genuinely attack the problem at its root.”
Stone would like to implement a plan that she said could be up-and-running in six- to-12 months – Citizens without residence.
It’s a plan to create affordable, sustainable homes for marginalized Calgarians. It then involves a suite of wraparound services to help them get the social supports they need.
She said delivery of those services needs to be separated from fighting crime.
“The police need to focus on what they do best,” she said.
Unsustainable development / Fluoride
Stone said she’s not pleased with the way the city has developed.
“I don’t think that the way we’re developing is smart. I don’t think it’s sustainable. And I don’t think it’s efficient,” she said.
She pointed to European cities such as Vienna for guidance on what could be possible in Calgary. Stone said Calgary is decades behind in providing sustainable social housing projects.
She envisions minimalist homes for young Calgarians and seniors in locations with community gardens and the delivery of necessary services in a nearby location.
Ultimately, a lack of affordability is going to drive a lot of people away from Calgary. Stone said that not everyone is going to be able to afford a home in the suburbs.
“They want to live simplistic lives that are affordable. So, we need to offer that; we need to be a lot more creative, a lot more forward-thinking.”
On the question of fluoride in Calgary’s water, Stone’s personal thoughts are no. But, she’s willing to do what the majority of Calgarians want.
Stone said she’s running for mayor because the last thing the city needs is another “paper-pushing politician.”
“We need a real forward-thinking leader that’s going to take care of the people and that’s really going to bring Calgary into the future as a modern, smart city,” she said.
Calgary’s municipal election is Oct. 18, 2021.