Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas has announced his intention to run for mayor in Calgary’s 2021 municipal election.
In a video posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday, Farkas reflects on his time on Calgary city council, saying his mandate when he was elected in 2017 was to “drive real change” at city hall.
“Three years ago, I received your incredible trust to serve as one of the youngest city councillors ever elected,” Farkas said. “I have a record of asking city council to say yes. Yes to responsible spending, yes to transparency and yes to opportunity.”
“I’ve seen our city struggle with a lack of opportunity, but these tough times have been met head-on by Calgarians who refuse to give in or give up in the face of adversity.”
In a Tuesday news release, Farkas said he’s asking citizens to think about what Calgary could be if there was new leadership, new ideas and new opportunity.
“I’m asking you to think about how much more we could achieve if we leave behind the old ways of doing things.
“I am running to help unleash Calgary’s potential. I am running for every hard working Calgarian who supports their families. Everyone who’s been knocked down but gets back up.
“In genuinely listening to Calgarians, you have made me realize just how much more opportunity there is for us — if only we had a council that would help, rather than hold us back,” Farkas said.
In an interview with Danielle Smith on Global News Radio 770 CHQR, Farkas said he is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
“I’m probably the first openly LGBTQ city councilor ever elected,” Farkas told Smith. “And I’ve really pushed hard and advocated on these social issues and pushed back against the province when I’ve seen them not doing it right. And I don’t think that there’s anybody out there who can accuse me of toeing the party line when it comes to these issues.”
Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland congratulated Farkas on announcing his candidacy Wednesday and was asked about the seeming inability of his colleague to “build bridges” among other fiscally-conservative members of council.
“I think that’s a question for him,” Sutherland responded.
“I think what will happen as always does happen during election times is really the details start coming out. Some people have a lot of substance and others don’t. And we’ll find out as this election campaign occurs.”
Farkas is the first candidate to announce his intention to run in Calgary’s next municipal election, which will be held on Oct. 18, 2021.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi hasn’t yet said if he’ll be seeking re-election.
According to a spokesperson for Nenshi’s office, the mayor has a tradition of not speaking about the upcoming vote until at least one year before election day.
Speaking to Global News on Wednesday, political analyst Duane Bratt said it’s unexpected to have a candidate announce their intention to run in the election when it’s still a year away, but he’s not surprised that Farkas is running for mayor.
“I think he’s been doing that since pretty much since he became a councillor in 2017,” Bratt said. “He’s been clearly a thorn in the side against Nenshi and wants to run against Nenshi. We’ll have to see if Nenshi runs again.”
When asked why he thought Farkas announced his intention to run so early, Bratt said it could potentially have been to “crowd out” any other conservative challengers.
“There is an advantage …. He gets his name out, he can start to raise money and it may prevent other conservatives from coming in.”
Bratt said he’s been saying since 2017 that he believes Nenshi could be vulnerable if facing a strong conservative challenger.
As for how the election is set to shape up, MRU associate policy professor Lori Williams said she is expecting the race to be competitive.
Williams said Calgary’s electoral history shows a trend of more candidates entering the race if the incumbent councillor or mayor decides against running for re-election; something she expects of Nenshi.
“I think it’s unlikely the mayor is going to run again because he’s come to the end of the political capital,” Williams said.
“Even if they’re well liked at the beginning of their mandate, over time they accumulate a record where people have more reasons to say they don’t like or have confidence in that person.”
Williams said most mayors in Calgary’s history have served terms of 10 years – with the exception of Andrew Davison, who served as mayor for 15 years between 1930 and 1945 – and Nenshi will have served 10 years by the time Calgarians head to the polls.
“It’s possible that he will run in another election,” Williams said. “But his chances of being successful, based on what we typically see in Canadian politics, those chances are considered to be diminished.”
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is preparing a list of issues to present to candidates in the upcoming election.
According to interim CEO Murray Sigler, the impacts of the downturn combined with ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will remain top of mind for Calgarians.
Sigler said while all elections are important, the upcoming vote will be especially important, with many Calgarians of all walks of life struggling to find secure employment.
“There are businesses struggling to survive, there are Calgarians that are struggling to survive, there’s women who can’t find jobs in a post-COVID environment, there’s a lot of people scared of the future right now,” Sigler said.
Sigler said the chamber is urging all levels of government, including would-be candidates in the upcoming municipal election, to work collaboratively to develop a short- and long-term plan to address Calgary’s economic needs.
“We think that’s part of the solution,” Sigler said. “One level of government can’t always be taking swings at the other to find fault, we hope that can break down.”
– With files from Bindu Suri
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