We are living in a time when mistrust in institutions and information is already low. The culture of our city institutions must not further erode public trust.
Earlier this year administration released its Spring 2021 Pulse Survey results and, disappointingly, only 50% of Calgarians agreed that they ‘trust’ The City of Calgary. That is a problem.
In the last couple of years in particular, there has been a sense that the interests of citizens are being put aside in favour of personal agendas. If the majority of people are hoping for a specific action from their councillor, why would any councillor not work towards that goal? When I think about my conversations with the citizens of ward 8, they feel left in the dark and ignored on both city-wide and ward-specific issues.
Taxpayers and citizens are owed the respect of knowing in advance and after discussions what is at stake. They should be involved every step of the way.
The sentiment of distrust in Calgary’s government institutions is a culmination of many things: perceived misconduct in council chambers (i.e. over-use of in-camera sessions) inequitable or inadequate public engagement practices, inaccessible or difficult to navigate information (i.e. councillors’ voting records), and hostile personal dynamics on council—to name a few.
It is the responsibility of a councillor to bring their ward’s interests to the council table for discussion. Every councillor and the mayor has only one vote. Persuading, collaborating, sharing, advocating, educating—that is what the role of a councillor is, and if we can’t clearly and respectfully talk about the issues, then we can’t solve them.
In an environment of outward hostility, judgement and condemnation, good outcomes are difficult to achieve. Collaboration and respect will be critical for our next council to lead us into a successful and sustainable future.
If elected, I will work with the next council to:
We need to make access to councillor’s voting records more user-friendly. Right now it is difficult to discern how and why a councillor voted a certain way. It may be the case that they have more facts than the public, well if the public had access to that information perhaps there would be more trust.
Regarding the city’s public engagement strategies, the “decide and tell approach” or “providing a solution before the public knows there is a problem” are two common complaints I’ve heard time and time again. We must ask ourselves: where is the disconnect? What can we do better?
Ultimately, I think more citizen involvement leads to more success but who gets to be involved is critical. Engagement practices must be equitable and able to capture the diverse circumstances and views of citizens.
For example, while leveraging community associations (rather than going direct to citizens) may be suitable for some engagement strategies, community associations are often unequally resourced—resulting in an uneven playing field and potentially flawed engagement outcomes.
If we’re to grow and develop our communities to the benefit of ALL Calgarians, then strategies must be rooted in equitable engagement, excellent communications, respectful dialogue and patience.