If there was a natural successor to retiring mayor Naheed Nenshi it would be Jyoti Gondek. Like Nenshi she is well educated (Ph.D. in urban sociology) with a thorough grasp of urban issues. Yesterday Calgarians, in their wisdom, chose her as their next mayor out of 26 aspiring candidates.
Mayor-elect Gondek will be the first woman to hold the office. She was born in the UK to parents who immigrated from the Punjab and then moved on to Canada when she was four. Interestingly, both Gondek and Edmonton’s new mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, have Punjabi backgrounds.
Her platform promises include an inclusive approach to the city’s economy, building the C-Train Green Line as part of environmental resilience, addressing downtown revitalization, housing and homelessness, and pursuing a “fair deal” for Calgary from the province. The latter is important with a provincial government which, as one of its first acts when winning office, cancelled Calgary and Edmonton’s city charters.
With downtown Calgary hollowed out and the resulting major loss in tax revenues, and faced with continued dependence on a sunset industry, this was one of the city’s most critical elections. Wisely, Calgarians chose the quality candidate to lead them into an uncertain future. Furthermore, the new council has an overall progressive face which should help the mayor in pursuing her goals. Indeed, with Sohi’s election in Edmonton, both Alberta’s major cities will have progressive mayors to counterpoint a very conservative provincial government.
Of course I voted for Gondek. I also voted for the candidate who won my ward. Courtney Walcott was recommended by both my MLA and my retiring councillor, and I have great respect for both, so it was an easy choice and a winning one. A progressive in a conservative province doesn’t always get to enjoy two wins in one election.