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RECAP: Calgary Chamber mayoral forum… tables turned

Wednesday’s Calgary Chamber of Commerce debate bore a striking resemblance to the Arts Commons one earlier this week, the only change was who went on the attack.  

The Chamber forum was hosted by Global Calgary and featured the same five candidates that participated in the Arts Commons forum: Brad Field, Jan Damery, Jeromy Farkas, Jeff Davison and Jyoti Gondek.

Once again, the debate centred on jobs, the economy, downtown revitalization and inclusion. Candidates were given recorded questions from local business leaders and given 60 seconds to respond. No rebuttals were provided.

The forum was called the Pathways to Potential forum, based on the Calgary Chamber’s platform for the municipal election.

Key moments in the debate

Much of the forum reiterated ideas and plans spoken about in the numerous other forums. We wanted to pull out key quotes from the event.

On the question of property tax, Brad Field pointed out that under the three councillors sitting on stage, his business taxes have gone up 50 per cent, “without an increase in property value.”

Jeromy Farkas touted his four-year tax freeze and began his assault on the two other sitting councillors.

“Based on their record, they never saw a tax increase they didn’t like,” he said.

On downtown revitalization, Jyoti Gondek reiterated Calgary’s commitment to investment in the core. She said it immediately resulted in more private capital flowing in.

“We have to keep believing in ourselves and sending a strong message to investors all over the world that Calgary is a place that has a strong future,” she said.

Farkas once again threw stones at his colleagues. He called it an “embarrassment” to push the “defund the police” ideological agenda. He also said that government doesn’t create jobs, and challenged the record of Davison and Gondek on being business friendly.

Damery challenged Farkas on the policing.

“I disagree with Mr Farkas. It’s not about more policing downtown. It’s actually about getting more people living downtown,” she said.

On inclusion, Gondek said this is an election where the city can actually begin to make gains, particularly with a diverse council.  She pointed out that in the business sector, women generate 2.5 times more than men with each dollar of investment, but get 2.3 per cent of venture capital.

Davison said he’s committed to being a mayor for all of Calgary. Believes Calgary’s growth will come primarily from outside Canada.

Debate winds down, then… fireworks

Candidates finished up talking about how they would make it easier to do business in Calgary.

Davison scored with the line: “We have to think of new ways to be competitive; and I think ultimately that means we need to move at the speed of business, not the speed of City Hall,” he said.

Gondek said the pandemic showed the city is realizing it needs to get out of its own way to look outside of its policies and procedures.

“We have done things the same way for too long,” she said.

Damery said she found it funny the councillor candidates talk about all the things they want to do that they couldn’t do in the past four years.

“Jeromy, you talk like you’re not even part of this council, which actually is a problem,” she said.

In the closing, Farkas went on the offensive, pointing out “dark money” being used to help candidates Davison and Gondek.  Farkas was likely referring to the connection between Jeff Davison and Calgary Tomorrow, and the recent endorsement of Jyoti Gondek by the third-party advertiser Calgary’s Future. The latter group is primarily funded by unions.

“The unions have put upwards of $1.7 million into a third-party advertising, an American-style super PAC that was designed to buy elections,” he said.

Farkas was endorsed by the third-party advertiser, Lead Calgary.

Farkas also took aim at Gondek’s campaign manager, Stephen Carter, saying he ran the same game plan with former PC leader, Alison Redford.

The remarks came after Gondek and Davison took aim during the Arts Commons forum at Farkas’s spread of misinformation.

The full debate can be seen here.