Calgary mayor already straying off course

Declaring an environmental emergency without debate is manipulatively undemocratic

Marco Navarro-GenieCalgary recently swore in its first female mayor, Jyoti Gondek, and she has already delivered a troubling message.

A week earlier, less than 24 hours after winning the mayoral race, she gave her first post-election talk-radio interview to 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen, mostly involving a series of softball questions. He asked her the obligatory woke questions about her gender and skin colour. Toward the end, he asked what her “top priority” and “first order of business” would be. What would she “sink her teeth into” upon arrival?

Punctuating the question with more immediacy, Jespersen sought to hear about “the first thing that would come across [her] desk.”

It’s worthwhile to transcribe verbatim her response for content as well as attitude.

“We [Calgary city councillors] have had a chance to declare a climate emergency for years. We have had various documents presented to us as a council and I think we have had more than enough time to review them. So let’s get serious, let’s declare this and let’s start going after the capital that we will see flow in once we make a bold move like that.”

The dream of transitioning away from hydrocarbons, though not entirely without merits, is constantly overstated. Its radical proponents in the Prime Minister’s Office, for instance, believe that its advent will only be expedited with the destruction of the oil and gas industry. To her credit, Gondek did take the time to say her climate emergency and oil and gas production are not mutually exclusive “ideas.”

Ideas are the place where ideologues reside. Although Gondek believes that the emergency declaration will, almost by magic, generate money for Calgary, she didn’t elaborate how.

But mentioning money counters the reality she likely knows. Her wish – which many have understood as a declaration of war on the oil and gas industry in Alberta – would simultaneously decrease investment and prompt a flight of capital. She concealed the reality of money fleeing with the idea of unspecified money arriving.

Curiously, Gondek didn’t say what her climate emergency declaration really means or how it would help the environment. The omission raises the question as to whether the emergency she wants has anything to do with the environment. Politicians now know well that “emergencies” give them new powers. Do Calgarians want to give anyone powers to create new environmental decrees on top of the existing health decrees?

And while we are on decrees, some say the new mayor is Naheed Nenshi 2.0, giving her an unwarranted level of independence from her predecessor. She seems more like a Nenshi 1.1. After working with Nenshi, Gondek tacitly slammed him for lacking the required seriousness about the environment. She hints that she possesses the courage to do what Nenshi failed to do for years.

The indirect Nenshi smear rings hollow, however. It presents as a disingenuous attempt to distance herself from him.

But is Gondek different?

Given that the emergency declaration is her first order of business, the apparent rush to declare it is highly disrespectful to the newly-elected councillors, who are in the majority. There are 11 new councillors who don’t have the mayor’s familiarity with the “documents presented to … council” and have not likely had time to ponder their content and consult with their constituents.

Click here to downloadIn addition to her implied uncollegial disrespect for new councillors, the move is devious and condescending to Calgary’s citizens. Gondek’s dream climate emergency declaration came as a surprise. There was no reference to “emergency” among her three top priorities on her campaign website, and only a veiled bromide about “bold action” on the environment. It did appear as her second priority on a CTV News candidate’s page, so while the notion was not entirely concealed she made no effort to put it at the forefront as her “first order of business.”

Announcing one’s top priority after the election is manipulatively undemocratic. The unstated subtext is that Calgarians need not bother debating the climate emergency the mayor wants to impose on them. She knows what’s best for Calgarians. Even before taking the oath of office, Gondek gave herself the authority to declare war on the city’s most beneficial industry without a real mandate for “a bold move like that.”

As an attention-catching gimmick, her announcement worked. But municipal jurisdiction is in the mundane realm of streets, sidewalks, garbage and other pedestrian but important practical issues that affect real lives. Her straight flight to abstract planetary issues doesn’t portend well for Calgary’s immediate future.

Marco Navarro-Génie is president of the Haultain Research Institute and senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. With Barry Cooper, he is co-author of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).

Marco is a Troy Media Thought Leader. For interview requests, click here.


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3 Responses to "Calgary mayor already straying off course"

  1. Bridget Colbourn   Dec 12, 2021 at 9:55 am

    Thank you. Gondek is not as intelligent or as capable she presents herself. Her immediate raising of property taxes is mindless in the times we are enduring and the proposed 10% increase in business taxes and her blithe assurance that it will mostly affect only strip mall businesses is arrogant and mindless.
    Her witch-hunting of Sean Chu, who serves his constituency well and has since long before anyone ever heard of Gondek, and her very early announcement that she would not swear him in (which is her mayoral duty) is a slap in the face to democracy.
    I live in her constituency and the main triumph of her tenure as Ward 3 councillor was the ridiculous and unnecessary “traffic calming” installations peculiar to this area. Nobody in my large family and circle of acquaintance (most of whom reside in Ward 3) saw the necessity of these ungainly installations.
    At the risk of being called “racist”, which anyone who knows me and my unusually multi-racial family knows I am not, I would point out that many of the voters in Ward 3 are elderly immigrants who do not speak much English and likely vote as they are told.
    Gondek is arrogant and gets her way by nagging or springing surprise decisions on the city.
    I beg the newly elected council to stand up to her.

  2. Joe   Dec 19, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    For the record Ryan Jespersen was fired fmonths ago from 630 Chef for referring to a worker for an elected official as a “monkey.” The internet is a great tool for fact checking.

  3. Janna Vaisman   Mar 2, 2022 at 2:10 am

    Unfit for public service by far. Combative and simple-minded Ottawa-type careers politician who is hoping for generously guaranteed compensation and luxurious jets as Justin Trudeau’s ” historic alignment.” I am not interested in her being a Calgary representative and she should resign at her earlier convenience.

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