11 ways to improve inclusivity in Ward 11 and Calgary

For Calgary to be inclusive, we need to guarantee equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalized. This is ongoing work that needs to be done and requires collaboration and meaningful consultation with multiple stakeholders. It is not a “nice to have” – it is a must have. Aside from being the right thing to do, there are several economic and social benefits to having an inclusive ward and city including:

  • Improved employment outcomes: Inclusivity reduces likelihood of adversity related to discrimination. It gives residents an increased ability to seek and find employment, reduces under-employment, and contributes to the economy as a whole.
  • Improved mental and physical health:  Inclusive neighbourhoods counteract isolation and increase community participation. This increases physical activity and helps with  mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which can reduce burdens on the healthcare and social services systems.
  • Inclusive growth: By increasing workforce participation and equitable wages the benefits of economic growth can be shared more evenly across Calgary and its communities.
  • Increased workplace productivity: Diversity can be a source of creativity and innovation from a greater range of lived experiences. Inclusion creates a more positive workplace environment which improves productivity. Social inclusion can also lift profitability and help better serve multiple market segments.

So how do we accomplish this? It isn’t an easy fix, however here are 11 ways I think we could help make our neighbourhoods and city more inclusive:

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Being Non-Partisan

I was recently asked why I was going to a public outdoor breakfast where UCP MLAs would be in attendance. A day or two later I was asked why I’d attend a NDP pop-up park event.

I’m not partisan. I have voted for different candidates from different parties for the 28ish years I’ve been able to vote. More often than not, I have voted based on research about my local candidate rather than the party leader, although the leadership aspect has influenced my end choice. I have voted for people I believe are the best option, or in some cases have values that align best with mine on key issues of the time. Sometimes I’ve voted because they seem like good people and would bring a good change to our government.

Municipal politics is designed to be non-partisan. Councillors are supposed to make decisions based on the information in front of them, their experiences and expertise. They are also supposed to incorporate feedback from constituents and other stakeholders. Sure – everyone has their biases and some have stronger leanings than others. But the job requires councillors to be open minded, demonstrate leadership and most importantly – represent their ward as a whole.

As a prospective councillor, part of my campaign is about getting out and talking to as many people in the ward as possible. Regardless of background, political leanings (perceived or actual), or level of engagement. Why? Because if elected, I will represent everyone. Young, old, conservative, left, centre, rich, poor, dog lovers, cat lovers etc. Everyone. So to me, it makes sense that I go where people are, say hello, and find out what matters most to them. 

 

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11 ideas to improve effectiveness and efficiency at City Hall

Image of Calgary city hallThe City of Calgary is a massive organization that has grown exponentially over the last two decades, in a world where technology, processes and procedures have shifted a lot (let’s think about what the internet looked like 20 years ago, for example). I do believe there are many really smart, skilled people working for the City, who care about the work they do and want to see the city be as successful and adaptable as possible. However, there is room for improvement in some critical areas, which could really help streamline how we operate while reducing costs, and providing better transparency. This would foster more trust in the City, improving relationships between the City and residents, stakeholders and businesses. Change can be tough. Changing an organization as large as the City takes time, resolve, buy-in and collaboration between all parties. I think there is an openness to new possibilities right now that didn’t exist to the same extent pre-COVID. That makes this a great time to push for innovation, better accountability and a shift in culture at the City.

Here are 11 ideas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency at City Hall:

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11 things I love about Ward 11

There is a lot to love about Calgary as a whole. And even more to love about the communities and spaces of Ward 11. Here are 11 things I love about Ward 11:

1) The trees. I will always remember the first time I turned down the street I now live on and saw the beautiful tree canopyframing the road. I had looked at several houses that day in many neighbourhoods outside of Ward 11 – but none of them had the treed landscape of my community. It was a big factor in why I chose to move into the neighbourhood and ward.

2) Small businesses! We have some really great businesses in Ward 11, with friendly staff and great service. While there are too many to list here, some of my favourites include: Bitter Sisters Brewery, J Webb Wine, the Calgary Farmer’s Market (and their many awesome vendors), Dogma, The Italian Centre, Bella Roma (there’s a strong food theme here…).

3)The Calgary JCC (Calgary Jewish Community Centre). I joined the JCC in 2020 – and I regret not doing it sooner. Not only do they have awesome amenities that I use almost daily like their pool and fitness centre, but they offer a wealth of programs for all ages. Even during COVID they shifted many of their programs to virtual to stay engaged with their members. That was super important as they have a number of seniors who rely on those programs for connection, physical activity and social interaction. Also the folks I’ve met there(both staff and members) are all very friendly.

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Creating a competitive Industrial Strategy for Calgary

Picture of industrial building in SW CalgaryWhile it isn’t the sort of thing that would make the front-page news, Calgary has real challenges when it comes to our competitiveness in industrial development growth and attracting as well as retaining companies within the city. For reference, industrial spaces are used for things like manufacturing, supply chain management (think warehouses for retailers like Amazon and Sobeys), fabrication shops, storage and more.

Our neighbour to the north, Balzac in Rockyview County, has developed an industrial-friendly reputation in the province and at national and international levels. In the last 10 years, Balzac has seen immense industrial property growth, with a number of businesses leaving Calgary to move there. This year Rockyview County’s industrial growth will surpass Calgary’s. The ripple effect of this affects all Calgarians.

What’s the problem? Why aren’t we competitive?

Industrial property tax puts Calgary at a disadvantage in terms of getting companies to locate within the city's boundaries. While Calgary is competitive across Canada; in the region Calgary had the highest non-residential mill rate in 2020 at 0.019407. In simpler terms, that’s almost $20,000 in taxes a year per $1 million of assessed value. In Rockyview County it works out to about $11,000 for the same amount of space. 

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Affordability and Choice: Aging in Place

Imagine – you and your significant other are young, recently married and looking for a home to start your lives together. You search for a place that fits your life and find a new neighbourhood with a home that is just perfect! You move in, you paint the walls, you plant gardens. Maybe you raise children or get a dog (or both!). You get to know your neighbours over the years. There are neighbourhood birthday parties and barbeques, anniversaries and holidays. You join your community association, volunteer at the ice rink in the winter and play tennis with your friends in the summer. Years turn into decades. You redecorate, buy a new sofa, get a new roof. Some neighbours come and go, but you stay because you love your quiet tree lined street where people wave as you walk your dog, the nearby reservoir park where you take the grandkids for picnics, and of course the home you’ve filled with beautiful memories. There is no place you’d rather be. 

I recently read a post on a neighbourhood connection mobile app. A man we’ll call Bob was introducing himself, as many folks do when they join.

“I’m Bob. We have lived in Oakridge for 50 years but we may not be here for much longer as we are getting older and are looking for a one story condo. As there is not much selection in Oakridge and area, it means we likely will have to relocate. We have a dog and except for a few months have had one all the years that we’ve been here. Many people around here will know Sally as she is out twice a day walking Daisy winter or summer, rain or shine. We will be sad to leave as we have really enjoyed Oakridge.”

The challenge this couple is facing is prevalent across much of Ward 11. Many of our Ward’s residents are original or almost original owners of their homes. They moved to their neighbourhoods, more often than not raised families, made friends, participated in their communities and love where they live. However most of our neighbourhoods do not have the variety of housing choices that would allow these long-time residents to “right size” while remaining in their communities. Right sizing means finding a home that better serves physical, mobility, and financial needs as people move into their retirement years. As Bob noted, they will likely have to leave the area (and quite possibly the Ward) to find what they need. 

Imagine building a life, investing in a home and a community over decades only to have to leave it in your senior years because it wasn’t built for you to age in.

What does Calgary need?

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Supporting Small Business in Calgary

We hear a lot of talk about small businesses in Calgary – especially since the COVID-19 restrictions started in March of 2020. We all know SO many of our small businesses have struggled in some way or another. Many continue to face challenges today.

It is critical that we find a way as a city, and as neighbours to support local businesses as they attempt to adapt and evolve in response to the ever changing economy and restrictions

I’ve heard some people say – why do small businesses matter so much? Well here is why. 95% of all businesses in Calgary, are small businesses – that means organizations that employ 1-50 people. Many Calgarians depend on small business for employment and income. Our small businesses are tech companies, retail stores, professional services, homebuilders, restaurants, manufacturers- the list goes on. In fact, over 125,000 Calgarians are self-employed small business owners. It’s a critical time for these businesses, and I want to make sure they have what they need to not just survive, but thrive.

Here are three ways I would help small businesses if elected to City Council:

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