Early on, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was energized by a group of councillors wanting to move the city forward.
“Well, it’s sunk in that we have a council that is incredibly committed to making decisions that are based on empirical evidence …” Mayor Gondek said in an interview 60 days into her first term.
“I wanted to build a team that could work with each other. I wanted to build a team that had respect for each other’s ideas. And I wanted to build a team that could demonstrate to the public that we are making decisions in their best interest.”
The mayor was very clear this didn’t mean they would always agree with each other.
Using City of Calgary generated council vote data, LiveWire Calgary has pulled together a look at voting patterns in the first 100+ days.
In recent mayoral 100-days interviews, Calgary political scientists said the emergence of a voting block might present a headwind for Mayor Gondek’s policy agenda.
“Are we starting to see a new, sort of conservative, anti-Gondek block emerging on council with McLean and Chabot and Sharp, Terry Wong, etc? Is that going to harden?” Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt said.
The early data shows that’s the case.
UCalgary political scientist Lisa Young said the last council had a clear divide. Couns. Joe Magliocca, Sean Chu and Jeromy Farkas often voted together.
“Part of the challenge moving forward is going to be keeping council looking like a functional group,” Young said.
“There’s a pretty wide spectrum of political views on the current council. Alberta politics is going to get a lot hotter over the next year or so… keeping the council functioning against that backdrop is going to be an ongoing challenge.”
Of note: There are no official political affiliations for Calgary city councillors.
What does the data show?
It shows three relatively clear tiers of voting. Though two of the groups are more aligned than the third.
Ward 13’s Dan McLean, Ward 10’s Andre Chabot and Ward 4’s Sean Chu were voted no the most.
The next group includes Ward 1’s Sonya Sharp, Ward 14’s Peter Demong, Ward 7’s Terry Wong and Ward 2’s Jennifer Wyness.
The remaining councillors – Raj Dhaliwal, Richard Pootmans, Evan Spencer, Courtney Walcott, Jasmine Mian, Gian-Carlo Carra and Kourtney Penner, along with Mayor Gondek, have voted together most often.
The highest number of yes votes is Ward 5’s Raj Dhaliwal (111). The lowest is Sean Chu (70).
This presents a theoretical 8-7 vote in most cases, should the first two groups vote together.
While the data shows an early trend, it doesn’t always manifest on all items. The recent push to explore vaccine passports was defeated 4-10. Mayor Gondek and Couns. Carra, Penner and Walcott cast yes votes.
Still, UCalgary political scientist Jack Lucas said thus far Mayor Gondek has been able to gain enough votes to get major items through.
“We’ve seen that as things have shaken out a little bit, we see people who have been pretty consistent voting against the mayor or the opposite way of the mayor,” he said.
“But that number is relatively small. It changes from vote to vote.”
Lucas said overall, there’s a path to moving policy forward. Even with a split emerging.
“It seems to me that there’s plenty of disagreements but there are also plenty of councillors that seem willing to vote with the mayor, and who and collaborate with the mayor, and who share kind of policy commitments of the mayor,” he said.