Raj Dhaliwal said he’s still seeing some of the same issues in northeast Calgary as he did when growing up in the community of Rundle 25 years ago.
He sees this Calgary municipal election as a pivotal time, with Calgary electing a majority of new councillors and a new mayor.
“This is a year which will impact for sure the next four years, from the city’s perspective, how we move forward as a city. But even beyond,” Dhaliwal told LiveWire Calgary
That’s why he’s running in Ward 5.
Issues of systemic racism, barriers of age and ableism continue in Calgary. On climate change, Dhaliwal doesn’t see the city as being very progressive.
He’s seen a lot of these issues come up through his work in the community. He’s volunteered with the Calgary Public Library, with his Sikh temple delivering meals during COVID-19 and he’s experienced more of these challenges.
Dhaliwal said many community members reached out to him.
“They said, ‘Raj, this ward, the incumbent is not running. Could you give us that representation at city council?”
“I said, ‘well, let me take it and discuss it with my wife. She was very supportive,” Dhaliwal said.
“My family was very supportive, and I think they all said, ‘we think you will be a good councillor,’ and that was it.”
Top Calgary issue: Disconnection
Dhaliwal said one of the first things the next city council needs to tackle is the disconnection with citizens.
He said that Calgarians need to know that councillors are making decisions in their best interests. Transparency in coming to those decisions is extremely important, Dhaliwal said.
Dhaliwal also said continued work on the economy is needed. We must hear from those with the talent and skills to drive Calgary forward so they can be retained, he said.
Rebuilding the downtown is a critical component of that, Dhaliwal said.
“We’ve got to make sure that when we work on downtown revitalization that the focus is to make sure that we attract people there to do business to shop, to come in, make it a tourist hub,” he said.
Green Line / Events Centre
Although the Green Line may not directly impact the commute for Ward 5 residents, Dhaliwal said it’s a much-needed infrastructure project for Calgary.
He said the job creation alone will help a lot of northeast Calgary residents.
“There will be quantifiable results out of it,” Dhaliwal said.
He liked the original plan of being able to stretch the Green Line to both the northern and southern communities in Calgary. It’s important to keep our eyes on the cost, however.
“That’s why we need to work more collaboratively with our provincial government and federal government, and see what funds we can procure from them, to make sure the original Green Line plan is executed in the near future,” he said.
Dhaliwal said it’s hard to comment specifically on the Events Centre as he wasn’t privy to the inner-circle conversations around the agreement. Either way, it’s important to get value for the public expense.
“I always believe that when you are spending every dollar like it was in the private sector but in the public sector, our taxpayers’ money, it should be treated like our own money,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be throwing it away at projects that do not bring the best return to our investors, which are our taxpayers.”
Development / police funding
Dhaliwal said for many Calgarians, when they’re buying a home, they’re buying a dream. Quite often that dream includes many of the services afforded to other Calgarians: Schools, retails, transit.
He wants to make sure that development in Calgary makes sense. Complete communities are important to residents.
“I think it has to be a very integrated approach. We’ve got to work with the developers, and residents, and as a councillor, I’m going to be that bridge to make sure that development is happening that makes sense,” Dhaliwal said.
The city must also be mindful of continuing to build on the periphery of Calgary, therefore stretching the delivery of services.
On Calgary police funding, Dhaliwal said it’s important to ask difficult questions. He said they need to sit down with the Calgary police and the police commission to understand what their needs are and where they’re stretched.
“That’s when we should be exploring more and seeing what other agencies or community-led groups or faith groups or whatever it is, how we can get them engaged,” he said.
Fluoride and final thoughts
Dhaliwal said he’ll leave it to the voters to decide if fluoride should be put back into Calgary’s water supply. He said many residents in Ward 5 are more concerned about putting food on the table and paying their bills than researching the benefits of having fluoride in the water.
As far as why people in Ward 5 should vote for him?
“I’m one of them,” Dhaliwal said.
“I have lived all my life in Ward 5. I grew up in Ward five. I’ve been engaged in the community for many years. I know the issues. I know the challenges that they face on a day-to-day basis. I worship in Ward 5, I volunteer in Ward 5, and my first work when I started working, my part time job was in Ward 5.”
He said he wants to lift a community up and be unafraid to speak up for them.
“They’re looking for someone who has been in their community for many years and worked alongside with them, shoulder to shoulder in improving our communities,” Dhaliwal said.
“Being a councillor will give me that extra step to do more for them.”