Nominations open for marathon Calgary municipal election campaign

Nominations are now open for Calgary's October 2021 municipal election.

One candidate finds gathering nomination signatures more challenging in a pandemic

Nominations are now open for the 2021 municipal election in Calgary. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Nominations are now open for Calgary's October 2021 municipal election.

The process is quite different from past recent elections held in the city.

Instead of the candidates all parading through the council chamber on nomination day in September to file their papers, the process is now spread out over nine months.

Last year, Alberta's UCP government passed an amendment to local election rules which created the longer nomination period.

Deputy city clerk Andrew Brouwer said candidates can now put their nomination forms and deposits into the mail, a city dropbox or make an appointment to present them in person at the election office.

However due to the pandemic, only eight appointments per day are being taken by the city.

"Most of the appointments have only been about half an hour," said Brouwer.

"We're basically just checking the paperwork and ensuring everything's in order. If they have any questions, of course we'll entertain those."

First nominations in

Heather McRae was one of the first candidates to go to the election office on Monday.

She's running for councillor in Ward 7.

McRae, a small business owner, said she wanted to get her nomination in early to show voters she's serious about pursuing a seat on council.

Getting in early also means she can now start raising money for her campaign.

"We're not able to start doing any serious fundraising until we're registered as candidates with the changes that have been brought in," said McRae.

"So if you're going to be serious in this game, you have to be serious about fundraising too."

Gathering signatures

Another wrinkle to a municipal campaign during COVID-19 is gathering the required 100 signatures for a nomination form.

McRae said she wasn't comfortable with going door to door asking people to sign in support of her candidacy.

So she tried other methods to gather signatures which she described as a bit of an adventure. Supporters who sign must reside in the ward that a candidate wants to run in.

"I spent a lot of time in public parks, approaching people at skating rinks, going to places where I could see people face to face and not going to their doors," she said. 

"It didn't feel like the right thing to be doing right now."

McRae said she'd prefer returning to the single nomination day as it puts more of a spotlight on local politics and candidates.

Familiar faces, new faces

At least two members of council also submitted their papers and deposits in person on Monday.

Diane Colley-Urquhart is seeking re-election in Ward 13, a seat she has held since a byelection in 2000.

Jeromy Farkas will complete his first term on council this October. But instead of seeking re-election in Ward 11, he submitted his papers on Monday to run for mayor.

Combined with the October resignation by former councillor Ray Jones and the decision of Ward 12's Shane Keating to not run again, it means there will be at least three new faces around the council table after this fall's election.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has still not announced whether he will seek re-election. He has in recent months promised an announcement early in 2021 on his plans.

Candidates for mayor, councillor as well as public/separate school trustee have until noon on Sept. 20 to submit their nominations with the city.

The names of those who file their papers will be posted on the city's election website as they're approved as candidates.

Oct. 18 will be election day for municipalities across Alberta.

Besides choosing local politicians, voters will also cast ballots that day on provincial matters like prospective senate candidates and a referendum on equalization.