It’s been a few months for Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who made history by becoming the city’s first woman to hold the role.
There has been no shortage of challenges since then: the collapse of the new sector deal, a tough budget that led to a property tax hike of nearly four percent, and the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
He also received national attention for his campaign pledge to declare a climate emergency, which the city council voted to do in November.
On Monday, Gondek held a virtual meeting with the editorial board of CBC Calgary to discuss some of the city’s issues.
Discussions covered their concerns with the protests targeting the homes of politicians.
She also spoke about the Alberta government’s announcement on Monday that it would begin the process of reviewing the province-wide ambulance dispatch system next month.
Several municipalities, including the City of Calgary, have opposed the move to consolidate EMS dispatches, which took place almost a year ago, that would delay coordinated responses to 911 calls.
Some councils welcomed news of the review, but Gondek expressed dismay at how it was being handled.
The following question-and-answer includes excerpts from that discussion, which have been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Today’s announcement on EMS from the provincial government, they mentioned that they are going to put out an RFP [a request for proposals] To conduct a third-party review of Alberta’s province-wide EMS dispatch system. What is your initial reaction to today’s release from the government?
Answer: “I would say that maybe within the last half hour, when you all saw the release of the provincial government, when I saw it. It would certainly have been nice to have a part of this conversation. But as we are at 3:30 on different days Know what’s happening in our province when it comes to our public safety and public health, I think that’s how we’re going to find out about the EMS service.”
“I am disappointed that instead of engaging with frontline service delivery cities and professionals, they are taking it to third party review. We have long warned this government to get rid of the remittance system we have in place. What was recognized globally is its ability to integrate service and provide great service that it would be devastating for Albertans and it has been.And so now it’s time to come back and talk to stakeholders instead of going to a third party. For who could tell them what was wrong? Disappointing. Don’t feel like a participant at the table on this. I’m glad to see there are so many great quotes from people representing municipalities [in the press release], But as one of the largest metropolitan centres, I would have thought there would be more connectivity.”
Question: With Demonstrations outside leaders’ homes Do we need specific measures that can be implemented by the Calgary Police Service to address this? This is happening over and over again. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the right tools do not currently exist to deal with it.
a: “The provincial government has the opportunity to involve elected officials’ homes. But then where does it stop because it’s spreading everywhere. We know that health care workers were also targeted. And so where does it stop ? I guess not being able to protest outside one’s private residence is probably the ideal solution. And working with the Calgary Police Service, they are incredibly responsive to situations like this. But, you know Well, if we have the ability to show them on a camera that this is the one that was at my house and any kind of link to something that’s more dangerous, then you know, I think we can Serving yourself better than being away.,
Q: What do you want the provincial government to do? Are you talking about the need for additional legislation, or an amendment to existing law, to allow for a more effective response from authorities like Calgary Police?
a: “Ability to amend existing legislation. I think this is something that our provincial partners need to look into because it doesn’t just apply to local councillors, it’s happening in ministers’ houses. We saw this happening yesterday at the house of a Member of Parliament. This is wrong and we need to take strong action against it.”
Q: Your predecessor [Naheed Nenshi] There was a famously strained relationship with the province. How have you been with him for the last four months?
a: “It’s an interesting view that Mayor Nenshi had strained relations. I would say all the councils had relatively tense relations, probably for the 18 months we were trying to deal with the pandemic. I don’t know how much more difficult the situation could be. And the mayor, as our chief elected official at the time, took it on the chin for many of those things. For me, personally, I’m trying to do the right thing and reach out to ministers. I can ensure that the interests of our citizens are represented.”
“I can tell you that in most of my meetings, we’ve actually put together a lot of common beliefs and ideas. [Labour] Minister [Tyler] Shandro last week, and we talked about the power of being an inclusive society so we can improve our labor force participation to become a stronger immigrant-receiving city. We talked about ways to make Calgary more welcoming to newcomers. had a great meeting with [Jobs, Economy and Innovation] Minister [Doug] Schweitzer. We’ve talked about the strength of our economy if we really start investing in technology and innovation. You know, it’s been a really good conversation. That’s why I will keep meeting people as per my need and take forward whatever we need.”
Q: How does Oilpatch respond to you?
a: “The energy sector was really interested in understanding what our climate declaration meant, and on the day we were debating the declaration, we had an energy leader breakfast. And I can tell you that room I was very relieved that the city had finally reached the place where this area has been for years. So you have [the Oil Sands] way to net zero. … you have such a commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG among all major oil and gas companies. And they had never really considered municipal government as a partner until we stepped up and said, ‘You know, we need to do better. You are committed to zero zero by 2050. We should move towards the same thing.’ And so it was an incredibly positive conversation and it continues.”
Q: If we can talk about the failed arena deal. Are you able to provide any updates on your efforts to find new partners at this time? Is there anything special we can talk about?
a: “At the end of December, we were in a position where both partners had not signed agreements to proceed to a construction phase. This was something that we recognized on December 21, and the city was very transparent and public that What was happening. Since that time, the council has restructured and reevaluated its commitment to creating a proper entertainment district, which includes an events center.”
“I think what happens now is that we have a tremendous opportunity to identify all the components of that entertainment district and understand what rhythms need to move in. It was long felt that the event center Must be the first domino to fall, if you will. I don’t know if it’s necessary now. With the pandemic we’ve had a massive impact on the chain and supply of expensive ingredients, so I think we’re about to regroup and partners We’re still in a good place for your specific question. We’re still pleased to be reunited with Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corp. We’re happy to be on the table with Calgary Stampede, as well as all of the other stakeholders in that region. And we’ll see what happens go ahead,,
Q: Many civic events and community gatherings have been canceled during the pandemic. Do you have some strategic vision in mind that you want to bring to life for the city after this pandemic is over?
a: “It’s a good question. I think we’re all yearning for something that looks like, you know, I don’t even know if it’s a return to normal, it’s anything other than that I see a lot of high school students who just graduated without graduating, and I think, wouldn’t it be amazing if we were able to use our downtown circuit or location, let’s say Come on, the stampede is up to the National Music Center, at the Central Library, through the Arts Commons and then down Stephen Avenue and celebrate the graduating… and talk of some kind of weird parade celebration. I don’t even know what that looks like, but I feel bad that those kids missed out on a big celebration the same way I feel bad that people who were celebrating historic birthdays had to do this to their families. never got it.”
“So I really want to see the city different for a week, whatever you missed with us here and in our other communities across the city. Just let’s come together and celebrate anything that was important to you.” “