Engaging with Calgary City Council Beyond Election Day

Engaging with Calgary City Council Beyond Election Day

By Kirsten Boda and Lee Stevens


The 2021 City of Calgary municipal election on October 18th turned-out to be a nail-biter, with former Mayor Naheed Nenshi deciding not to run again after three consecutive terms. It was a competitive and crowded race culminating in 27 individuals on the final ballot. The question of Calgary’s next mayor was not the only news closely watched by Calgarians leading up to election day. With only five out of 14 incumbents deciding to re-run in their wards and two former councillors throwing their hat back in the ring, voters had a lot to learn about the new candidates that would make up City council.

The final results of the election proved noteworthy, with only three out of five incumbents winning in their ward (Sean Chu, Gian-Carlo Carra, and Peter Demong). Further, while returning incumbent in Ward 14, Peter Demong, won by 15,070 votes capturing 66% of the vote it was a close call in Ward 4 with Sean Chu winning by just 100 votes (about 1%) and Gian-Carlo Carra in Ward 9 by just 161 (about 1%). Newcomer, Raj Dhaliwal also ran a tight race, winning by 378 votes (about 2%) in Ward 5.

At the end of a long and competitive campaign, Calgary voters made history by electing their first female mayor. Calgary’s new Mayor, Jyoti Gondek, captured approximately 45% of the vote, winning by 15% to second runner-up, Jeromy Farkas.

While elections are an exciting time that fill feeds with news, controversies, and opinions, the reality is that advocacy extends far beyond election day.

With the elections in the rear-view mirror, it is time to shift focus towards the future of this newly elected council and what it means for nonprofits as they work to recover from the pandemic. Organizers of The Nonprofit Vote believe nonprofits play a vital role in organizing civic action and educating the public on democratic processes as they understand the issues intimately. One of the objectives of The Nonprofit Vote is to support organizations by providing them with resources that will help them engage and raise issues that are important to them and those they serve.

This post provides an overview of the platform commitments based on each of the elected council members’ campaigns. While there are many ways to dissect a platform, the list below focuses specifically on how platforms align with the three priority areas of the #nonprofitsvote municipal election campaign: The Enough for All Strategy, mental health and addictions, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Nonprofits planning out their advocacy efforts can refer to this list to recall campaign promises made by council members, identify who might be a champion for their organization, and plan their strategies based on this information. These platform commitments were pulled from publicly available information such as campaign websites, candidate surveys, and other news sources.

Mayor: Jyoti Gondek
  • Website: https://www.jyotigondek.ca/
  • Add “Housing” as a standing item to the work of the Priorities and Finance Committee, “elevating housing from its present status as an intergovernmental policy issue to an actual priority within the City of Calgary.”
  • Create an interactive platform to measures the effectiveness of affordable housing incentives and demonstrate how these incentives balance policy and profitability needs. The platform could build on the Housing Development Dashboard created by the Terner Centre for Housing at UC Berkeley.
  • Reduce administrative silos, inadequate resourcing, and narrow conceptions of equity between the city’s various advisory bodies and strategies.
  • Empower citizens with lived experience, appointed to committees to identify the ways to disrupt and change the city’s systems and processes.
  • Place equity at the center of the budgeting process by attaching it to each service line, along with metrics.
  • Commit to evolving a progressive police force, and prioritize resources for truth and reconciliation.
  • Prioritize and advocate for services needed by marginalized populations, such as public transit and safe consumption sites.
  • Council must move to approve the necessary funding, in particular for the City’s Indigenous Affairs Office.
  • A portion of all City land sale proceeds should be allocated towards the building of an Indigenous gathering place within Calgary, a clear recommendation within White Goose Flying.
  • The City of Calgary must also better support Indigenous-led efforts to address homelessness. Research suggests that approaches informed by Indigenous worldviews, including elder-led service delivery, are most effective at addressing homelessness within these communities.
Ward 1: Sonya Sharp
  • Website is not available
  • Proponent of the Greenline but wants more transparency and accountability.
  • We need a balanced approach when dealing with deficit and spending.
  • On advancing the recommendations in the White Goose Flying Report: I will work closely with the vulnerable population of Ward 1, holding myself, other members of Council and City Administration accountable to implementing the advocacy, education and poverty reduction in their decision making.
Ward 2: Jennifer Wyness
  • Website: https://www.jenniferwyness.com/
  • “hands up not hand outs”- The City of Calgary is blessed with many engaged charities and non-profits that do an amazing job with very little resources to support the less fortunate in our city. As City Councillor I will make sure my door is always open for those who are looking to help the less fortunate in our communities and be an advocate for those looking to provide solutions that result in lifting people up out of poverty and not just providing a handout.
  • A prime example is Centre 4800. This is a transitionary housing project to help those who find themselves without the means or local family support to get off the streets. It also provides a safe and constructive platform for those to build up their confidence and reserves to afford to move into the normal housing market. This project already has funding in place and has been facing opposition from the current council. We must not treat the less fortunate as if they have less value to our society.
  • Supports the Greenline.
Ward 3: Jasmine Mian
  • Website is not available.
  • The Greenline is the single most important infrastructure project for Calgary and I will advocate strongly for the Greenline to go North.”
  • Rethinking how we Police is important as is supporting frontline officers, CPS staff and communities.
  • Budget cuts alone will not solve the economic problems the city is facing, this is known as the “race to the bottom” and it feeds inequity in our society.
  • We need to diversify and become more resilient to shocks like crashing oil prices.
  • On advancing the recommendations in the White Goose Flying Report: “I personally commit to acting on the calls to action in the report.” I will ask for a stop light report on the City’s website to keep the public apprised of Council’s progress.
Ward 4: Sean Chu
  • Website: https://seanchu.ca/
  • Website does not contain platforms commitments
  • “Council has tough decisions to make, and ones that will re-shape our great City for the next generation. I will be a steady voice of common sense for the next four years."
Ward 5: Raj Dhaliwal
  • Website: https://voteraj.ca/
  • Public safety task force – “I am committed to continuing the vital engagement by listening to the needs of residents and ensuring a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing domestic violence, gang involvement, mental health, addictions, and trauma.”
  • “This innovative approach to addressing mental health and addictions challenges in the City of Calgary is critical for the future well-being of Calgarians. Too often services are hard to access, disconnected or unavailable and Calgarians in need are falling through the cracks. I am committed to ensuring that we connect the dots and continue an evidence-based approach to funding projects and investments that really help and serve Calgarians facing tough times.”
  • “Following the death of George Floyd and the over 5000 Calgarians who protested on the footsteps of City Hall, the Committee of Community and Protective Services held a 4-day Anti-Racism Public Hearing, where hundreds of Calgarians shared their stories. The Anti-Racism Action Committee was struck to study and to make recommendations on steps the City of Calgary should take to address systemic racism in our City and organization. I vow to uphold the City’s Commitment to Anti-Racism and to take action based on the recommendations put forward in the White Goose Flying Report and those made by the Anti-Racism Action Committee and to work towards reconciliation and inclusiveness in all decision making as a councillor.”
  • “I commit to being a strong voice on Council for continued investment into public spaces that fit the needs of our communities”
  • “Housing affordability and high cost of living are top of mind for many residents. I look forward to working with our other orders of government and private developers to identify opportunities for subsidized housing and affordable housing to address the needs of those in our community who are struggling.”
  • Supports fare-free transit – “Fare free transit provides a lifeline of access for Calgarians who rely on it and reduces the cost of living for those who are working hard to contribute to our economy."
Ward 6: Richard Pootmans
  • Website: https://www.richard4ward6.com/
  • “economy and jobs are going to be the biggest issues facing the next city council.”
  • Public safety, taxes and affordability are top issues.”
Ward 7: Terry Wong
  • Website: https://www.terrywong.ca/
  • “Champion a strong and vibrant downtown through entrepreneurship, tourism, neighborhood revitalization, arts and culture, green spaces, and housing that is affordable.”
  • “I will commit to supporting our Calgary Police Services, Community Standards (Bylaw Services), and Community Services (ie. social services) lines of business in response to increasing public risk and concerns.”
  • “Calgary must operate within its means of existing taxation, fees, utility rates, and financial reserves.”
  • “I will pledge to enable the recommendations of the White Goose Flying Report in City Council protocols including criteria of the Triple Bottom Line Policy guiding all Council reports.”
  • “Many of our vulnerable populations affected by homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health are also involved in our community safety concerns. I pledge to support this population with their challenges by working in unison with the Government of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Calgary Police Services, City Community Services, and our various community, non-profit agencies partners under a common mandate and framework.”
Ward 8: Courtney Walcott
  • Website: https://www.courtneywalcott.com/
  • “In the spring of 2020, a student of mine asked me what was going to happen when people stop protesting, when people go back to their lives, when BLM chants quiet down and George Floyd turns from a chant, to a whisper, to a thought, to a memory. I said, “Don’t worry, there will be another protest.” And there was. For Dalia Kafi. For Joyce Echaquan. For thousands of unmarked graves. And thousands more to be found. It was harsh, inappropriate, and raw. But we looked at each other and knew this fight wasn’t over.”
  • The systems that we live within were built with inequities at every level. Too often, systemic inequality is seen as moments in our past. And yet, you and I still see, hear, and feel the inequalities of our systems and institutions. They are not moments from our past, they are realities of our present.
  • we have waited too long to respond meaningfully to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action within our municipal powers, and as identified within the White Goose Flying Report.
  • Support and expand housing access as a first response to poverty.
  • Identify specific resources to investigate, plan, and execute recommendations from the White Goose Flying Report which require collaboration between City departments and arms-length organizations by end of 2023, including reports back to relevant committees, Council, and the public.
  • City Council and City departments to fulfill their respective recommendations from the White Goose Flying Report, with a goal of satisfying the recommendations by end of 2024, including a report back to Council and the public.
  • Expand services and programs offered with Fair Entry.
  • Investigate and create strategic partnerships to end food insecurity.
  • Expand partnerships between The City and organizations offering mental health supports for the community.
  • Advocate and expand affordable housing under a mixed-income model.
Ward 9: Gian Carlo-Carra
  • Website: https://www.carra4ward9.ca/
  • believe that our best future lies in building an actively anti-racist city and that the decision to rise together is not only an aspiration but an obligation.
  • Completing the build-out and funding of the Indigenous Relations Office at the City of Calgary.
  • Achieving a deep structural commitment by the City of Calgary to Truth & Reconciliation and the White Goose Flying Report.
  • Building a more robust and formalized relationship with Treaty 7 First Nations.
  • Supporting Indigenous communities to identify and plan for an appropriate and significant Indigenous Gathering Place and ensuring it is funded.
  • Supporting efforts for the formal recognition of St. Dunstan School as a former residential school site and ensuring appropriate memorialization is funded.
  • Funding the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, that addresses both prevention and response, which was passed by Council in the previous term.
  • Supporting local area plans that promote a diversity of housing options in every Ward 9 neighbourhood, from heritage preservation, through a variety of lower-density forms, to vibrant, transit-oriented town centres.
  • Removing regulatory barriers and reducing process timelines so the private sector is able to deliver an increased supply of diverse, market-based housing options.
  • Continuing to support the not-for-profit sector in delivering a wide variety of affordable housing options through ongoing partnerships with other orders of government and continuing to make City of Calgary land available for purchase to these groups.
  • Facilitating the conversion of lands owned by not-for-profit actors and communities of faith to include affordable housing opportunities, such as the new affordable family housing at the Ogden United Church.
  • Developing a plan to deliver the 15,000 units of affordable housing required in Calgary.
Ward 10: Andre Chabot
Ward 11: Kourtney Penner
  • Website: https://www.co11aborate.ca/
  • Yes, to the Green Line - We need to fund the extension of our LRT network.
  • Yes, to Social Services AND Police Funding - We must make room to support vulnerable populations and our first responders.
  • Yes, to Compassion: Leading with a people first mentality means we are focused on impacts to real lives, not the balance on a spreadsheet when we make our decisions. Calgarians come from numerous backgrounds offering different perspectives, obstacles, and opportunities. We must serve the diverse needs of our citizens be it age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, income, or other demographic factors. We must look to serve our most vulnerable with care and attention. We must look to see who has been excluded from the decision making process and work to fold in more layers of guidance and leadership into our processes
  • I believe the calls to action from the White Goose Flying Report must be championed by this next council
  • There has been a call for a dedicated Indigenous gathering place in Calgary. It is time to honour the commitment and move forward on finding a location in Calgary.
Ward 12: Evan Spencer
  • Website: https://www.evanspencer.ca/
  • Supports the Greenline.
  • Supports affordable housing (mixed use development) and quality childcare.
  • Diversity and inclusion advocacy.
  • Champions the mental health and addictions strategy.
  • Community safety and complete communities- related to community hubs and free public spaces, as well as justice lever.
  • Supports sensible bylaws
  • Must nurture small business and procurement reform.
  • Supports the arts, culture and entertainment.
  • Think long term.
Ward 13: Dan McLean
  • Website: https://www.danmclean.ca/
  • No explicit campaign promises or publicly available information that addresses the Enough for All Strategy (poverty), mental health and addictions, or reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Ward 14: Peter Demong
  • Website: https://www.peterdemong.ca/
  • No explicit campaign promises or publically available information that addresses the Enough for All Strategy, mental health and addictions, or reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.


While this list presents information on campaign promises, surveys and interviews that address the Enough for All Strategy, mental health and addictions, and reconciliation, we encourage organizations to look through the websites provided or contact councillors directly through the City of Calgary website to discuss the issues that are important to them and the nonprofit sector.

Below are links to additional advocacy support tools that are made available through The Nonprofit Vote website:




Kirsten Boda
Research Manager

Lee Stevens
Policy & Research Specialist
Vibrant Communities Calgary

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author and do not represent those of The Nonprofit Vote or its Partner Organizations. Interested in publishing a guest post on our blog? Connect with us today at [email protected].