The Politicians are Coming…

Paul Keating said, “Politicians come in three varieties:  straight men, fixers and maddies.”

Oh, please let there be a fourth kind of politician–a thoughtful visionary.   

Calgarians go to the polls on Oct 16 to elect a mayor and 14 councillors.  Candidates are out in full force and anyone who cares about the future is button-holing them at every opportunity.

Last week Ms Soapbox attended a Town Hall meeting at the Rosscarrock Community Association.  Only 39 people (!) showed up but the candidates performed as if the place was packed to the rafters.

The Candidates

Four people want to represent Ward 8:  Carter Thomson, who operates One Way Food & Deli, Karla Charest, an IT consultant, Chris Davis, a lawyer who works primarily with developers, and Evan Woolley, the incumbent.

Ms Soapbox wondered whether one of them would turn out to be a thoughtful visionary.


Everyone was against tax hikes and reckless spending.

Davis said he’d manage the budget by limiting tax increases to inflation (COLA).  While this sounds good in theory it would have left Calgarians underserviced from 2010 to 2017 when the average annual inflation rate was 1.6% and Calgary’s population grew by about 3% year after year.

Woolley pointed out that the budget was set during the boom in 2014 and increases had dropped significantly since then.  This year’s increase is 1.5% which is less than inflation which sits at 2.39%.


Evan Woolley

Woolley was the only candidate to focus on the real issue:  what services do we want and what are we prepared to pay for them?  

A vision for Calgary   

The candidates were asked about their positions on the Flames arena proposal, public art, bike paths, affordable housing and seniors who want to stay in their homes.  The candidates’ answers illustrate their vision (or lack thereof) for Calgary.

Flames arena:  Woolley said Calgarians must benefit from any public spending on the arena and it should be part of a bigger vision for Calgary that would see a sports arena developed along side of condos and businesses.  Davis said Calgarians thought the City’s offer was “a pretty good deal” and the City still had time to negotiate with the Flames.  Charest and Thomson preferred the original NEXT site.

Public art:  This question was triggered by the public uproar over the Bowfort Towers installation next to the TransCanada highway (for those who haven’t see it, it’s a $500,000 structure comprised of four upright steel beams cradling Rundle rock).

Woolley and Davis support public art as a way to make the city attractive to people and corporations but Davis questioned whether too much was being spent on it.

Woolley was comfortable with 1% of taxpayer funded capital projects being set aside for public art, noting that developers could spend 4% of their capital costs on public art in return for bonuses to increase project size and density.

Charest was against public art saying it wasn’t a civic responsibility.  Thomson thought the process for selecting public art was flawed.

Affordable housing:  This was a no brainer.  Everyone agreed Calgary needs to increase its stock of affordable housing and ensure it’s built to the highest safety standards.

Seniors aging in place:  Woolley suggested secondary suites and small condos with shops at street level would allow seniors to remain in their neighbourhoods.  Davis was willing to consider alternatives for seniors.

Bike paths and walkability:  Woolley is an advocate of bike lanes (there are 105 car lanes and only 4 bike lanes).  He said the world is changing and while cars will continue to dominate, young people are looking for alternative modes of transportation including bikes, Uber and Car2Go.  Davis questioned whether spending $15 million on walkability was a wise investment; he’d freeze the development of bike lanes awaiting more information on their usage and costs.  Charest would nix bike paths because “no one wants them” and Thomson said pedestrians and cyclists could share sidewalks if they were widened.


Karla Charest and Carter Thomson deserve credit for throwing their hats in the ring but it’s clear the only competition for Evan Woolley is Chris Davis.

Davis described Calgary as falling short of its potential.  He asked us to send a message to people who think you need a Ph.D to run the city because “ordinary citizens” can do it just fine.  The reference to ordinary citizens is disingenuous coming from a fellow with an LL.B.

Woolley said Calgary is ranked the 5th best city in the world by The Economist. (Woolley says its #1).  He asked the fundamental question we all need to ask:  What kind of city do we want to be?

Davis is focused on the status quo; Woolley is looking to the future.

Evan Woolley is the fourth kind of politician–a thoughtful visionary.  Ward 8 couldn’t ask for anything more.

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28 Responses to The Politicians are Coming…

  1. Ed Henderson says:

    Works with developers ….Hmmmm. What have developers done for Calgary? Would Mr Davis just rubber stamp developers proposals? Would he work for his constituents or work for his friends in the developer business? Developers need to be closely scrutinized to make sure they follow the rules correctly and that their proposals are in the best interests of Calgary and it’s citizens. Would Mr Davis be the man to watch them closely?
    I suspect he might be pretty closely tied to developers. We may have too many like that on City Council already.

    • Ed, that thought also crossed my mind. Mr Davis did say that there was a need to reinvest in the inner city which was lagging behind due to the formula which pays for services on the perimeter of the city, but I don’t know how that would sit with the developers who really like the way the formula support development on the perimeter.
      And yes, I agree with your last sentence. That’s why I like Evan Woolley, he’s not tied to anyone.

  2. Ed Henderson says:

    Then we have Mr Wooley. He asks…Quote..”What kind of City do we want to be?”” I hope Ms Soapbox broke up over that one. What a ridiculous question!!!
    Think about it…What kind of City Do We Want To Be?…Who asks a question like that? Why a died in the wool cement headed politician pulling the fuzzy over your eyes and common sense, that’s who.

    • Actually I liked that question. We need to be thinking about how Calgary moves into the future. We all want the City to provide good protective services (police, fire, etc), but my vision of Calgary includes affordable housing for young people and seniors, good rapid transit, good libraries, cultural venues, good schools and lots of green space. Other people might put a higher priority on encouraging business ventures. I’m not saying these are incompatible, but it takes a while to sort out the right balance of spending priorities. .

  3. Donnella Perkins says:

    wasnt richard hehr there? #schooltrusteesmatter

    On Sunday, 24 September 2017, Susan on the Soapbox wrote:

    > susanonthesoapbox posted: “Paul Keating said, “Politicians come in three > varieties: straight men, fixers and maddies.” Oh, please let there be a > fourth kind of politician–a thoughtful visionary. Calgarians go to the > polls on Oct 16 to elect a mayor and 14 councillors. Candi” >

    • Donnella, Richard Hehr was indeed there, as was Lory Lovinelli who was running for Catholic School Board Trustee. Sabrina Barlett couldn’t attend and sent a spokesperson to read her statement. The focus of the evening was more on the candidates for City Council so I limited the blog to that side of the discussion. Richard made some good points, eg would it be possible for the public and Catholic boards to share busing services? It would reduce costs for both boards and be more efficient. He also had the best line in his wrap up speech. He said if you can’t bring yourself to mark a big X next to his name, a small x will do. He’s quite a character!

  4. Harce says:

    Davis is looking to the future: a future with reasonable spending, without expanding sidewalks, and without more bike lanes. Woolley is looking to the present: more spending, more expanding sidewalks, and more useless bike lanes.

    Once again this blog is hyperpartisan, biased, and socialist.

  5. Harce, you like your candidate, I like mine.

    • Don T says:

      But Harce is right. We have things like bike lanes, expanding sidewalks, and big spending increases. It is incorrect to say Woolley is change. He’s the establishment.

      Davis is change, by definition.

      • Don, my assessment of which candidate was more visionary was based on what they said at the town hall meeting. They agreed on a number of issues: the need to invest in the inner city, the need for more secondary suites and affordable housing, the need to reduce revenue, and that the City’s offer to the Flames was reasonable. However Woolley supported public art, bike lanes and walkability (amenities that attract people and businesses like Amazon to the city) while Davis wants to suspend and maybe eliminate these things. These amenities are only now coming to fruition, the fact that Woolley wants to continue with them isn’t a step backward, it’s a step ahead. I can’t say the same for Davis.
        I don’t know if you or Harce attended the town hall, but if you did and you heard a different message that supports the premise that Davis is the change candidate and not the status quo I’m open to hearing it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes Don – You may agree with Harce and that is absolutely fine. We can disagree that sidewalks are supposed to be wide so people have more space then cars.
        What I do not agree is that when one is in a discussion you do not need to call the other person’s opinion biased and socialist. First of all we are all biased and second being a socialist is a person’s choice. I am not sure in what way most Albertans think that being a socialist is worse than being a conservative? The word is even in a way derogatory because people are so brain washed. This is what bothers me about Harce’s comment. He can believe whatever he wants but the rest of us are biased socialists.

      • Carlos, you make a very important point. The best thing about living in a democracy is that we’re free to have our own opinions. Most of the people who comment on this blog provide facts to back up their opinions. Those who don’t, resort to name calling which pretty much ends the dialogue.

  6. GoinFawr says:

    Edmonton is going to have their civic election the same day! Go figure…
    Which dovetails nicely with this:

    When you cast your ballots bear in mind who voted which way on that one Edmontonians, and ignore it at your own peril.
    Be wary of incumbents bragging of a single budgetary ‘surplus’, because the reality is your public works monopolies, built over generations on the backs of yours and your families’ property taxes, are being sold to private, inscrutable interests for pennies on the dollar, with a guarantee to those interests that you will pay more and more and more.

    • GoinFawr, thanks for raising this issue. I don’t know anything about this EPCOR story other than what’s in the press but a few things come to mind.
      We’re continually being told that government should be run like a business, so I’d be very interested in seeing the cost/benefit analysis in support of this decision. For example:
      – EPCOR received $1 billion in assets, what did Edmontonians receive in return?
      – EPCOR says the transfer will save the public money. When and how much?
      – EPCOR says it will use the drainage system to learn how to “garner more out-of-city business”. What is the cost of this learning curve and what is EPCOR doing to ensure that its focus on out-of-city business won’t negatively impact its ability to serve the city.

      Lastly, this was a huge decision…but it appears the public consultation process left a lot to be desired.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Exactly Susan – the other question I have is – we have been privatizing since Ralph Klein invited his friend from New Zealand and blindly started a process without any proof that these privatized services were better and cheaper. The city is now on the bandwagon and like you said, where are the studies that indicate that it is a good decision.
        My experience is that the services are worse and the companies cut salaries to have more profits that go in most cases out of the country to some foreign bank account.
        Public consultation is of course for countries with democracy, we do not need that, after all our council and Mayor know it all better than all of us. I just hoped that those that approve all these great deals would be subject to the same rules. Lets deregulate the election process so we can have people from very poor countries come in and run the city for 1/3 of the costs. I am sure standards would disappear but hey it is cheaper. Who cares if the Mayor can talk? We do not need to hear him anyway.
        What a joke we are living these days.
        The public builds the infrastructures and then the smart Mayor and councilors give it away for peanuts and provide incentives and grants for the transition period.
        In countries around the world ports, airports, schools, hospitals …etc are being sold for pennies in name of privatization and efficiency.
        Anyway like my co-worker, tired of my political garbage, tells me – it is what it is.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Iveson lost my vote with this decision.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Good questions Susan

        ” EPCOR received $1 billion in assets, what did Edmontonians receive in return?”

        Wasn’t it ~75 MILLION and ‘a consideration’; wait, that can’t be right? Plus a guarantee that the rates will be allowed to be raised 15% over the next 3 years; oh yeah, I’m pretty sure of that one.

        And yes, if you can find an Edmontonian that knew how important this was, or that it even happened, you’ve found a rare breed indeed; cursory media coverage, at best, but everyone will soon notice their rates going up, no doubt.

  7. GoinFawr says:

    Excellent points carlos:
    If privatizing, for pennies on the dollar, infrastructure built on the backs of Edmontonian taxpayers over generations is such a great deal, why aren’t EPCOR’s financial successes resulting in LOWER costs, instead of steadily increasing prices, for the supposed “Owners”?

    • GoinFawr says:

      another concrete example might be EdTel’s privatisation compared to, say, saskatchewan keeping SaskTel public…. guess which province now gets the best deals for its population when it comes to telecom

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes GoinFawr you are absolutely right and if I may I had car insurance which in right wing Saskatchewan is still run by the province.
        Check what are the cheaper car insurances in Canada? Then you will have a laugh.
        I am tired of people complaining about government everything but no one really comes out with numbers that prove that public run services are worse or more expensive than private.
        I remember paying for my car registration 31 dollars a year – now that they privatized it is so efficient that costs 85.
        In Britain for example – the conservative government – I repeat the Conservative government is nationalizing again the railway system. That is how bad the private owners are doing. It is not even a promise from Jeremy Corbyn – it is the Conservative government that cannot take it anymore.
        Yes GoinFawr the telephones here in Alberta was another joke. We pay for the research, we built it and then the ‘Government is not in the business of being a business’ politicians sell them to their friends at pennies because of course they are so badly run. 🙂
        On the other hand they cut because government should be run like a business. My goodness anything more absurd than all of this. Basically anything that the government has that makes money is privatized and we stay with the worse so that we are never successful and convince people that we are really bad. This is an old conservative strategy to enrich more of their politicians in business.
        To me it is ROBBERY and should be dealt with that way.
        By the way I work for private industry – I am not trying to save my ass here.
        These are the facts. It is horrible that people lie so openly about this public versus private efficiencies and costs when no one actually shows any analysis.
        Thank you GoinFawr

      • Don T says:

        SaskTel should be sold and the proceeds applied to pay off the debt. Every other jurisdiction in North America has privately run telcos. The people’s republic of Saskatchewan should be no different.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well I know understand your point and that is fine but is not at all the way I look at the issue.
        So just because everyone has privatized they should too. Why is that? Because privatization puts all the money in the hands of a company so they can pay their CEOs millions?
        To me the issue is very simple. Governments exist to protect its citizens interests and the territory. So if SaskTel makes money for its citizens and provides good service they should stay and they should be improved. It is in the interest of the public. If they cause a lot of problems and as a consequence they create large deficits then the privatization, if within what the Government is willing to pay, should be considered.
        Privatization is not the right of anyone or any company. Unfortunately in many cases it is used has a way for politicians to pay their political debts to friends or to enrich someone that donates money to their party.
        From your sentence ‘Every other jurisdiction in North America has privately run telcos. The people’s republic of Saskatchewan should be no different.’ I can easily see where you are coming from and we do not agree on this one for sure.
        Just because other jurisdictions do it does not mean that it is the right thing to do. Most jurisdictions in North America are way more concerned with feeding their billionaires than the public interest.
        One curiosity about your ‘People’s republic of Saskatchewan’ – I am surprised that the most right wing premier in Canada right now, Brad Wall, is already looking like a communist to you. That is worrisome to me.

  8. jerrymacgp says:

    “People’s Republic of Saskatchewan”? Really? So what do you say about a Crown-owned bank started under a Social Credit government in Alberta and perpetuated through 44 years of PC rule, long before the NDP came to power in 2015? Or publicly-owned car insurance in formerly “Liberal” (read, small-‘c’ conservative) BC? Canada’s sparsely-distributed population means the private marketplace cannot always function well and needs some public levers; these will vary by province, priorities and political stripe, but that fundamental principle remains constant.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I agree Jerry – the market functions only when there are profits to be made but they are quick on blaming government for never being able to run anything.
      Trash talk that is all that is.
      Government is to be run like a business but cannot make profits – when they do the private sector gets what was built with our money and then blames the government for incompetence. Absurd that is what this all narrative of the last 3 decades is. Just brain washing that public everything is bad.
      I for one do not think so and if I was the government I would invest in the basic structures that should be in government hands including energy.
      Open energy co-ops and let the people run them. If you do for big corps why not the public.

  9. Gary Beaton says:

    Funny, is there another Chris Davis in Calgary who was seriously injured in a cycling accident whilst volunteering at a medical charity fundraiser this year? Is there another Chris Davis who annually makes a donation to a cycling NGO?
    Was Chris Davis the incumbent Ward 8 counsellor who abandoned the 13 Ave SW cycle track and urban renewal project after millions of tax dollars were spent?
    It was Evan Woolley who proposed and voted to kill Calgary’s most successful on-street bike route (10 Ave SW) to make room for more on-street car parking.
    When 4 out of 5 proposed/built bike lanes are on the wrong streets and one of those is built in pedestrian space so a city counsellor can ride his bike to his son’s daycare you can bet that cyclists are certainly relieved to hear that there are candidates are calling for a review of the existing cycle track network.
    Evan Woolley’s role in the bike policy implementation is a significant factor contributing to the public antipathy to the bike network.
    It is especially heartening when a challenger of the calibre of Chris Davis enters the race and is leading in the polls.

  10. Gary, I don’t think we’re talking about the same Chris Davis. The one who is running for councillor in Ward 8 is a development lawyer who’s gone on record at both of the candidates debates I attended as not being in support of bike lanes. He’s calling for a “pause” because he doesn’t think the program delivers value for money. Here’s a link that describes his legal practice and professional and volunteer activities.
    I found a link to a Chris Davis who was injured in a motor cycle accident, is this the fellow you’re talking about

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