Calgary Mayor Gondek shares vision for economic recovery

Calgary’s new mayor has a specific vision of how she wants to see Calgary’s economic recovery manifest, including a transitioning of the energy industry, cultivation of the growing tech sector, embracing more women entrepreneurship and the continued support of small business.

“The list of challenges and worries that Calgarians face is as diverse as it is long, but what warmed my heart and fueled me is how all of these people showed up for their city,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Friday. “They believe that change is possible here, and they set about turning their own challenges into opportunities.”

Gondek addressed a lunch with members of the city’s business community, the largest one hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce since the start of the pandemic. Attendees needed to provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

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The mayor said the city has “borne the brunt of a global energy crisis and an accompanying recession,” has also been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been on the “front line of climate change” with fires, flood and hailstorms all affecting Calgarians in the last decade.

Gondek said the cost of inaction on the climate file is “far too high.”

“People cling to the notion that you either support economic recovery or you support environmental sustainability, that you simply can’t do both. This is not true. We can and we must take action.”

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She added that, with oilsands companies already having made net zero commitments, city council’s recent declaration of a climate emergency is the municipal government aligning with industry.

“As the world demands cleaner energy forms, we cannot afford to be left behind and we simply can’t lose our seat at the table. The risks are real, but the possibilities are equally real. We must be leaders here.”

Gondek agreed with Chamber CEO Deborah Yedlin’s characterization, that declaring a climate emergency is “table stakes” for a municipality like Calgary.

“You have to use the words climate emergency to be taken seriously,” the mayor said.

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“We have a very hard time understanding that things transition over time, and declaring the climate emergency means that you are committed to that transition over time. That’s what we’re demonstrating as a municipality and that’s what the energy sector is committed to as well: a transition over time.”

Gondek reiterated her support for small business in the city, saying council is working to make Calgary “the best place for small business” by ensuring fair tax rates, reducing city bureaucracy, building out transportation infrastructure and investing in the downtown core.

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The mayor also said that governments need to continue investing in the increasingly pressured non-profit sector.

“I am no longer comfortable with this idea that a certain order of government has a certain responsibility,” Gondek said. “I think it’s going to be incredibly important moving forward to understand that federal, provincial and municipal governments must work together to address issues like homelessness to address issues of poverty and mental health. Because we, locally, see it in front of us.”

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Read more: City of Calgary on standby to send help to areas impacted by floods in B.C.

With overland shipping routes from the Port of Vancouver to the interior of B.C. and onwards to Alberta knocked out due to flooding, Gondek said it might be time to reconsider reliance on the international supply chain.

“We have relied very, very heavily on global players and external ports to provide us with the things that we need,” she said. “If you talk to the experts in supply chain and logistics in our city — and there’s a network of them — they’re telling us that’s come at a grave cost.

“So I think we need to rethink how we manufacture goods in our own country, and I think we need to understand that the cost of that will be higher than going out internationally, but it might give us some of the stability and predictability that we need.”

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