Fourteen new Calgary city councillors and the city’s first-ever female mayor were sworn in Monday, beginning a new four-year term at city hall.
Youth and diversity highlight a nearly brand new city council, with five women and six members from racialized Calgary communities.
The event began with a bagpipe-led procession through the city hall atrium as councillors were brought into council chambers for the ceremony.
COVID measures prevented the gallery from being filled with family and friends for the historic day. Instead, new members and one guest were allowed to take part. Others took part in a separate gallery outside council chambers.
Justice John Rooke first swore in Calgary’s 37th mayor, Jyoti Gondek. In his introduction, Justice Rooke said he was honoured to be a part of this council swearing in.
“It’s of particular significance that during (Gondek’s) term as councillor in Calgary city council, from 2017 to now you’ve gained the trust of not only your council, colleagues of that time, but also of the vast majority of Calgarians who elected you in every award in the city,” Justice Rooke said.
Gondek’s husband, Todd, put the Chain of Office around his wife’s neck to begin her term as mayor.
In her address, Mayor Gondek said she was grateful to have such a “brilliant group” of councillors to work with.
“Together, we will build a team that acts with integrity, with a focus on offering all Calgarians a great life in this city,” she said.
Mayor Gondek swore in all of the elected reps, except Sean Chu. She said last week she wouldn’t be a part of doing it. Chu is embroiled in controversy regarding his contact with a 16-year-old girl 24 years ago. Weekend protests came out on both sides of the issue.
Lots of conversations with Calgarians
Mayor Gondek was asked about the brevity of her opening remarks. They were roughly one minute and 45 seconds.
“Over the course of this campaign, I believe (Calgarians) voted in a council that gives them hope and makes them feel like they’re part of a city that has a strong future,” Gondek said.
“And I felt today, it was appropriate to make sure that we kept the meeting brief and allowed families to enjoy this incredible victory.”
Up next is conversations with councillors to determine where they see themselves fitting into the new team, Gondek said. With budget coming up, she said administration has created an orientation that will allow councillors to tackle big things to start. Then they’ll take in what they need to do next.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who was one of three councillor re-elected, said one of the reasons why he ran again was to ensure continuity at council at a critical time in its history.
“I felt, and my team felt, it was important to have some veteran strength on the roster,” he said.
Carra was asked about the message Calgarians sent with the election of this council.
“I think what was resoundingly clear, was… there was a clear victory in terms of a set of values and a set of aspirations regarding where our city needs to go at this critical moment in time,” Carra said.
Ward 14’s Peter Demong, who was appointed the first deputy mayor, said he believes this council will get up to speed quickly.
“In the long, long run, yeah, it’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. But I’m sure we’re going to get through it just fine,” he said.
Young, diverse faces on council
Ward 3’s Jasmine Mian said wrestling and politics are quite similar.
“They’re both blood sports, first of all,” she said.
“And second of all, I think, more than anything, what I have learned from sport, and what I’ll be bringing with me is that as much as it might be you out there, it looks like it’s you. It’s a huge team.”
Mian, along with Ward 8’s Courtney Walcott are the youngest Calgarians to serve on this council. Both Walcott and Mian are 31 years old, with Mian’s birthday Dec. 31.
That youth represents Calgary, Mian said.
“I think Calgary is a is a younger city to begin with,” she said.
“I think having younger people on council will bring that perspective, that longer-term vision.”
Walcott said what got lost in the last council is a degree of humanity.
“I think for a long time, we got tied up in issues and sometimes forgot to treat each other as a very large community,” he said.
“I think that’s what this election looks like is you look at the slate of people that came in from all for all 14 wards, there’s a degree of positivity.”
‘I didn’t want to swear him in.’
The swearing-in of Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu was held until the end. Justice Rooke administered the oath of office.
“I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to swear him in,” said Mayor Gondek.
“The Justice was willing to do it and I felt that was more appropriate.”
A judicial recount was being sought by Ward 4’s DJ Kelly. Chu won by 100 votes, according to official results.
Carra said that they’ve reached a “line in the sand moment” with Coun. Chu. Many of the other members want him to resign, Carra said.
“I think that we have to stay laser-focused on the idea that this is about much more than councillor Chu,” he said.
“This is first of all about HH, whoever she is, and all victims of sexual assault.”
Mian also said it’s important to acknowledge those who have been hurt by this story.
“I think we need to acknowledge the Ward 4 residents and keep our citizens at the center of this and I think that’s what our council is trying to do,” she said.