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Win back trust: Geoffrey Vanderburg vies for Calgary’s Ward 11 city hall seat

Geoffrey Vanderburg said there’s one issue on Calgarians’ minds: Trust.

He said he’s the candidate to help win it back.

Vanderburg said that his communications background, with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in that field, makes him ideally qualified to reconnect citizens with their local government.

He’s always had a keen interest in politics. Class presidents, university senate, political boards – Vanderburg thought politics was for him.  So, when the opportunity to run in an open Ward 11 came up, he thought maybe now was the time to jump in.

“I thought maybe now’s the time, but I won’t make that move unless I get a phone call or somebody reaching out and say, ‘you know, Geoff, this is truly something you should do,’” he said.

“And when that happened, I thought, I gotta go for it, the stars have aligned.”

Top Calgary issue: Trust

Vanderburg said that on one level it’s easy to see what’s important to Calgarians. Based on citizen satisfaction surveys, roads, public safety and taxes are the top three.

“It’s my view that the first challenge facing the next city council is to win back the city’s trust,” Vanderburg said.

He said that what’s happened is the last council had a vision for the city and they pursued it.

“On some levels, it left people out of that process, it didn’t get the necessary buy-in to continue down that path,” Vanderburg said.

Vanderburg said the next city council must take a step back and ensure they’re taking voters along with them. He said the voters should always be directing council to set that path.

“We have to make sure that as councillors, we’re constantly checking in with those who put us in place to make sure that we’re still on the right track,” he said.

He said the checking in was a challenge for the last city council. It can be done much better, he said.

Vanderburg said there’s no doubt there are economic challenges facing Calgary. He said city council has been taking the right steps to move the city forward.

The downtown strategy is a nice step forward because the health of the rest of the city depends on it. 

Continued diversification of Calgary’s economy is also critical, he said. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in areas like aerospace, logistics, financial services and technology, he said.

Green Line, Events Centre

Vanderburg said quality public transit is essential in any healthy city.  

He said the next council has to be very careful not to revisit past decisions – we have to move forward on the Green Line, he said. Provincial and federal funding is in place.

Where we go with the Green Line moving forward depends on a number of factors, Vanderburg said. The next council will review those factors at the time and then make a decision on how the Green Line moves forward.

Vanderburg said he thinks the Events Centre deal is a good one for Calgary. What makes it good is that the city shouldn’t be on the hook for any more costs.

“I’m supportive of giving up some of the control about how that project evolves, in exchange for relieving us of any financial responsibility for additional costs that may be coming,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s an appetite in the city for additional funding for that project.”

Development in Calgary

The problem with how the recent Guidebook situation was rolled out, was the city was trying to make things more efficient with a one-size-fits-all approach, Vanderburg said.

“The problem with that approach is that it’s impossible with a city, the size of Calgary and with the variety of housing options that we have available to have one plan that fits all communities,” he said.

There’s no shortcut on this, Vanderburg said.

“We’re going to have to put in the time to do this right, which means looking at development to make sure that it’s happening in the right places, and in the right ways,” he said.

“It’s about making sure that we’re doing development strategically, and not simply because it meets the criteria.”

On Calgary police funding, Vanderburg said it’s important to separate out crime-fighting and address root causes.

He doesn’t want to see money reallocated from the Calgary police to other areas.

“What I’m hearing from people at the doors is there’s still tremendous concern about public safety,” he said.

Addressing mental health, addictions and poverty are important, Vanderburg said. It’s just not the purview of the Calgary police.

He said crime prevention means being responsive and proactive in Calgary communities. Community policing is expensive; having highly visible officers in a community is important for residents’ peace of mind, Vanderburg said.

Fluoride and final thoughts

Vanderburg said when weighing the fluoride issue, two things need to be considered: The experts and the people.

Personally, he’s in favour of putting fluoride in Calgary’s water. If residents don’t want it though, he won’t vote in favour of it.

Vanderburg said this is an election about trust. He said he’s got the skills to bring people together.

“I’m keen to build bridges between left and right and keen to build bridges with community associations, build bridges with civil society, to build trust, through focusing on the direction that voters want us to go,” he said.