Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek said her council colleagues are committed to working with the newly elected provincial government to move forward on shared priorities.
The mayor met with the media on Tuesday at Calgary city hall, the day after the United Conservative Party won a majority government in Alberta’s provincial general election.
Mayor Gondek said she sent a note of congratulations to Premier Danielle Smith and will be seeking a meeting with her office in the very near future.
“As a council, we will endeavour to create opportunities for both Calgary caucuses to spend time discussing the priorities that we must share,” she said.
Affordability, housing, transit and recreational opportunities are some of the priorities Mayor Gondek said they’d look to advance with a new UCP government. She said infrastructure investments are a key priority for Calgary.
“We are focused on moving forward,” she said.
The mayor said that as they move forward, she remains concerned about a “small but loud faction” of Albertans with views that don’t align with broader society.
“There is no room for hate in a city or a province that is slowly recovering from an economic recession that stood to cripple us. We rose up from those dire straits and we have created economic stability,” Mayor Gondek said.
“We’ve created a workforce that is stronger because it is comprised of diverse people. That’s why homophobic, misogynistic transphobic and racist views cannot be tolerated.”
UCP loses seats but still wins the election
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean, who hasn’t hidden his affection for the UCP, said that concerns over Premier Danielle Smith being a far-right premier were misguided. He said Calgarians saw through the negative campaigning by the Alberta NDP.
“In my opinion, of course, I think the UCP is going to be better not only for the province but for the City of Calgary as well,” he said.
McLean said while there are fewer seats for the UCP in Calgary, he doesn’t see any issue working with the province, or the Official Opposition NDP – who gained 11 seats (unofficially) in the city.
“Municipalities are the children of the province, as they say, so we will always be fighting, whether it’s a UCP government or an NDP,” he said.
“I’ll be fighting number one for my ward residents and for the city.”
Mayor Gondek said that even though Calgary ridings moved orange and there could be the perception of a loss of a seat at the government table, she said a very strong government is one that has a quality opposition.
“That’s probably the best way for democracy to thrive is when one party is challenging the other and great decisions are being made,” she said.
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he hopes the notion that just because Calgary disagrees with a provincial decision that they favour the NDP. He said they’ve already been heavily criticized for being an “NDP-leaning council.”
“For us, it really is about the issue. I want to house people. I want to keep people healthy. I want to keep people safe,” he said.
“If we disagree on how we get there, that’s healthy. If, as part of that disagreement, we’re just seen as an enemy of the state, that’s a problem.”
Priority issues for an urban, rural split
In Alberta’s election, rural ridings went predominantly blue for the UCP. Urban centres largely went orange for the NDP.
Walcott said a big challenge ahead for a UCP / NDP split comes down to urban versus rural divides.
“Cities have unique issues the same way that rural municipalities have unique issues,” he said.
“But right now, the representation is inequitable across that distribution.”
Walcott said he was concerned that even though housing and homelessness is an issue for rural and urban governments alike, it didn’t play a large role in the UCP platform.
On the issue of housing, Mayor Gondek said it was critical all levels of government work together to unlock federal dollars.
That’s tied to maintaining affordability in the city, something Calgary needs to continue attracting and retaining top level talent in a growing economy, she said.
“I believe the top thing that we will communicate is something that will be well received and that’s to maintain affordability within our city,” she said.
“In order to do that we have to commit to things like housing, we have to make sure that a strong public transit network is available for Calgarians.”
When asked about the fate of the arena deal, Mayor Gondek said it came after 16 months of hard work and they remain committed to it.