131 Calgarians declare as candidates as election campaign officially kicks off

A total of 131 people have submitted names for Calgary city council and vacant school board trustee jobs by the deadline of noon Monday, as the campaigning for the Oct. 16 election officially kicks off.

Full list of candidates to become mayor, city councillors, school board trustees will be made public Tuesday

Laura Kennedy, the returning officer for the City of Calgary, said 131 candidates filed papers on nomination day in 2017, an increase from the last election. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

A total of 131 people have submitted names for Calgary city council and vacant school board trustee jobs by the deadline of noon Monday, as the campaigning for the Oct. 16 election officially kicks off.

"This is an increase over 2013 and this is an indicator of a strong democracy," said City of Calgary returning officer Laura Kennedy. "So thank you to all the candidates."

The first person through the process was Karla Charest, who's running in Ward 8. 

"I think there'll be a lot of change," she said after filling her papers at city hall, adding "people are really, really pissed" about the "arrogance" of the current council when it comes to dealing with the recent downturn.

Paul Denys, the city's election and census manager, says the list of candidates' names will be finalized and released at noon Tuesday.

Appearing on the Calgary Eyeopener, Denys explained the process of becoming a municipal candidate. 

It involves aspiring candidates going to city hall and presenting at least 100 signatures they've gathered from the community they hope to represent, along with a cheque.

"There is a deposit that needs to be paid by each candidate," Denys said. "It varies, depending on the office. For mayor, it's $500. For council, it's $100. In essence, they're promising that once their name goes on the ballot, if they do get elected, they will in fact assume the office."

  • Click on the Facebook Live special below to hear from some of the candidates running to be mayor, city councillors or school board trustees, as they share their visions of what they'd do if elected.

While it's all a bit ceremonial, Denys said the ritual is a significant aspect of the electoral process.

"It is an essential component of our electoral system. It's not simply enough to say at the moment, 'Yes, I'm going to run.' It's in fact the first step in a very heated campaign process, when you have essentially told the public that I've taken the time to get the required number of signatures of individuals who believe I am in fact a good person to be a candidate."

Once the official list of candidates is available, it'll be posted on the Elections Calgary website and printed in a special election brochure that gets delivered to homes in Calgary.

"Obviously everyone will have a much clearer sense of what the race is going to be about, who the characters are going to be, and of course, based on their positions, what the issues are going to be," said Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.

Open races

She says the long list of names that are currently intending to run suggests there's an appetite for change and says it will be interesting to see what form that change could take. 

It's not just the fact there are more open council seats than is normal — meaning there's guaranteed to be new faces at the council table — there's also some vulnerability in the mayoral race.

Mayor candidate Naheed Nenshi is surrounded by reporters after filing his nomination papers in council chambers Monday. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"Much will depend, again, on the candidates and whether they kind of split the change vote, or the anti-Nenshi vote, or whatever that's going to look like," Williams said.

She sees it's shaping up as a two-way race between Bill Smith and Naheed Nenshi, who are both running against council veteran Andre Chabot and a host of other intended candidates.

"It will come to whether backroom experience translates into a successful contestation of the election," she said of Smith, who was once president of the now-defunct PC Party. 

Smith said he'd be focused in the early days on bringing council together. 

"Number one priority is going to be to sit down with all the councillors and say, 'Hey, what's important in your ward? We need to figure that out. Here's what I think is important for the city.' And then I'm going to bring all those folks together in a room and we're going to try to work out a plan for the next four years on how we tackle everything for the city," he said.

Chabot, on the other hand, said he's focused on city finances and taxes. 

"We're spending way too much property tax dollars on capital projects and cutting back on services and I think that's going in the wrong direction," he said. 

As for Nenshi, he said Calgarians are concerned about transit, taxes, the economy and safe communities. 

"All the rest? Kind of a distraction," he said. 

Council dynamics

Behind the candidates, Williams says as a political scientist she sees the economy as the big underlying theme, with the arena debate forming an interesting central debate. 

Lori Williams said nomination day will help clarify how much change is in the air for Calgary's election. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

"It's not just about hockey fans. It's about music fans. It's about other sporting events fans. It's about the kind of city that we want to have and how much we're willing to spend to get it," she said. 

Whatever the outcome, there's sure to be some new ways of doing things on the next council. 

"I think it's not just going to be about who is there. What kind of balance, what kind of dynamics are going to happen on council, because there's a lot of controversy and criticism around how council functions," said Williams. 

"So I think that's something else that people are going to be looking at."

A beginning, of sorts

For those hoping to win a seat at the civic table, nomination day is a beginning of sorts, although many have been campaigning for months, or longer. 

"It's wild and, you know, it's a real marathon," said Janet Eremenko, who's running in Ward 11 where Brian Pincott has decided not to seek re-election. 

"Today is just another step in making it real, getting closer to Oct. 16."

Raman Gill, who's running for public school board trustee in wards 5 and 6, is already enjoying the race.

"I'll do my best and it has been a great experience so far," she said.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Dan McGarvey