Civic Election Engagement 101

Civic Election Engagement 101
This fall, you’ll be voting in the next civic election and choosing leaders to guide Calgary through the next four years. Don’t forget that any democratic candidate you vote for swears to represent you and your community as best as possible. That means also deciding how best to spend your tax dollars in a manner that brings benefits to the most citizens possible. This money is yours. Think of it as the ingredients you purchase to make the meals that everyone eats in your household. Food is essential to survival and good food is essential to good health. If you can’t afford food or even good quality ingredients everyone in your household is going to suffer. That’s how you should think about taxes.

By focusing on cutting taxes instead of how those dollars are spent is a disservice to you and everyone in your community. For this election, I have compiled a list of questions that any candidate you vote for should be able to answer with confidence offering realistic plans. This candidate should make it very clear how they intend to put a good quality meal on the table for every Calgarian.

1) We are in the midst of a climate crisis. It may not appear to be the case now but, scientists around the world are ringing the alarm bell. We need to start planning for our survival as things start to collapse around us. We need to cut our consumption in an equitable manner so we can continue to thrive and give that same chance to our children and grandchildren. Ask your candidate about what steps they plan to take to ensure we are adapting and mitigating climate change. What is their climate plan? If they don’t have one or don’t even recognize the problem don’t vote for them. They should have good, viable solutions for food security, affordable housing and transportation options that pollute less such as plans to build more public transit instead of roads for the private car.

2) The energy industry in Alberta is at the mercy of global markets. This has made Calgary particularly vulnerable to the downward shift in oil and gas demand. We can no longer rely on this industry to keep the economic engine in Calgary running. We are going to have to diversify. Ask your candidate how they think we might achieve this. What industries will they help build to make our city resilient and sustainable in the long term? How do they plan to fill all the empty space downtown? How will they stem the tide of youth leaving for greener pastures? What visionary ideas do they have for the future of Calgary? If maintaining the status quo is their main goal do not vote for them?

3) Campaign finance rules have become more lax in recent years making it easier for special interest groups to buy political favour. That means candidates you vote for might not have your best interests in mind when it comes to spending your tax dollars. Be sure to ask your candidate who is supporting them financially. Who gave them the most money? How much money was given to them and what are they expected to do for receiving that money? If they can’t provide honest, open answers to these questions then they don’t deserve your vote.

4) We’ve hit the one year anniversary since the COVID 19 pandemic struck us. In that time, more Albertans have died from the coronavirus than 20 years worth of flu deaths. What have we learned from living with the pandemic? What has your candidate learned? What could we have done better at a civic level to enforce safety rules, prevention laws and generally given more support to individuals and small businesses owners? Is your candidate able to clearly articulate the problems that occured and offer reasonable solutions, if not, don’t vote for them?

5) Alberta and Calgary are becoming more politically polarized every day. Racism is a growing concern. The threats of violence are getting worse. What concrete steps will your candidate take to celebrate diversity, combat systemic racism and ensure inclusivity or equality for all Calgarians? Obviously, meeting diversity quotas is not working. What new systems will your candidate champion to end the violence? If your candidate is unable to show concern or care for all Calgarians, do not vote for them.

6) Women and children have been adversely affected due to the pandemic and the subsequent economic repercussions. For single mothers, the pandemic restrictions have wiped out two decades of economic progress in less than a year. Along with school closures and lack of affordable daycare, women are burdened with the bulk of childcare and receive no pay for this work. There has also been an increase in domestic violence. With little or no income and a shortage of social services many women have found themselves stuck in unsafe situations. What are some options that your candidate is proposing to fix this growing crisis? Does your candidate support subsidized daycare, increase of funding to women’s shelters and better access to mental health and healthy food? Does your candidate have any plans for employment programs? If your candidate can’t offer any progressive solutions, don’t vote for them.

I want to live in a great city and I’m sure you do too. It can help to define what this is. Then, start asking your leaders to find ways to create that. In my opinion, a world class city is safe, clean and interesting. A world class city looks after its citizens. A word class city has a thriving arts and culture scene. I believe Calgary could be a world class city too. I think all a city has to do is ensure that its citizens have access to necessary basic needs so they can start thriving instead of just surviving. What is your idea of a world class city? What basic needs do you require to help you flourish?

What would make your candidate a great leader? What makes your candidate stand out? What actions should your leaders take to make living in Calgary wonderful for everyone? Do they have visionary ideas? What challenges are they able to anticipate that might make executing their plans difficult? Can they demonstrate creative problem solving skills when presenting their goals? Would they work well with other leaders? What makes them better than anybody else? Are they only offering tax cuts, or do they have better ideas? If they think every thing is fine the way it is, don’t vote for them.

These are some of the critical questions that any candidate seeking YOUR vote in this year's civic election should be able to answer with honesty and clarity. If they can’t answer them they're not fit. If we don't ask them (& hold them accountable), we deserve what we get.

Next month, I’ll offer a bunch of radical solutions that candidates could champion to make Calgary a world class city. As citizens, it is also important to ask for what we want. If you have some ideas for me to include please email them to:


A Special Thanks to The Gent YYC who helped me write and edit this edition. Find more of his writing here.

"The Gent YYC is a citizen journo-activist covering the 'Politics of Climate' beat from the city of Calgary: ground zero for the Climate Crisis in Canada. He makes serially prescient predictions based on the best available info, works tirelessly to make the incomprehensible bite-sized and calls out the villains/bozos whenever it's needed”.

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