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Calgary’s first municipal political party launches

Calgary’s first municipal political party has arrived.

It’s called A Better Calgary and it calls itself a centre-right party that intends to field candidates on a platform of common sense and fiscal responsibility in next year’s municipal election.

The provincial government created legislation earlier this year paving the way for political parties in Alberta’s two big cities.

Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment, was tabled in the legislature in April. Among other measures, it allows for the creation of municipal political parties as a pilot project in Edmonton and Calgary. 

After coming under heavy fire from municipal leaders, the province clawed back parts of the bill that would have given Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet the power to unilaterally fire mayors and councillors. But the municipal political party pilot project remained.

Cheryl Munson, who speaks for A Better Calgary, says the current city council helped motivate like-minded people to form a party.

“Well, the mayor has the lowest polling of any mayor in Canada. Let’s start there. I think citizens don’t feel like they’re being heard or represented at this city hall and we would like to change that,” Munson told CBC News.

While she and other people involved in the party — including former UCP leadership candidate, and current Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCo) board member Jon Horsman —  have connections with the United Conservative Party, Munson says there are no formal links with the UCP.

“We don’t like labels in Calgary. Municipal politics is different. We are a bunch of Calgarians. We are concerned citizens who want to see change,” said Munson, who was involved earlier this year in the petition to recall Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

A woman answers questions from a reporter.
Cheryl Munson speaks for A Better Calgary, the first municipal political party to form in the city after new provincial legislation permitting parties was tabled this spring. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean says he expects this will be the first of several parties formed before the next municipal election in October 2025. In an interview with CBC News, he said he hasn’t decided if he’ll join one of them.

“I’m not involved with any parties. I’m interested in what happens … and I’ll decide if I join one or stay independent when the time comes,” McLean said.

Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, says slates of candidates have not performed well in the past with Calgary voters, who seem to place more value on a locally connected person.

“Parties make a lot more sense when you’ve got dozens or hundreds of candidates that have to be organized into a large, complex platform. At the municipal level, it’s much more about issues and ideas than it is about ideology or party,” said Williams.

She says that, unlike their provincial and federal counterparts, municipal politicians need to find solutions and work with people who may not align with their particular ideology or party affiliation. Given that, she said she won’t be surprised if the conservative-minded people currently sitting on council decide to give groups like A Better Calgary a pass.

“I think those who are incumbents who have a reputation and relationship with their communities might want to keep their distance,” said Williams.

Why so early?

She also questions the timing of the announcement of the new party — coming so far in advance of the next election.  

“Getting this far out in front does take advantage of the unpopularity of council today, but it leaves a whole lot of time for people to raise questions about what this new party is, what it stands for,” she said.

When asked why the party was being launched now, Munson said they need the time.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to get a start. We need to get a foundation going, so that we can get ahead of the game,” she said.

The official party kickoff will be at a public event Wednesday evening, where Munson says interested people can learn how they can get involved.

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