My name is Carter Thomson, and I have lived, worked and been a business owner in Calgary for over 30 years. Like you, I want to play an active role in building my community. I want a better place for my family and be able to operate a proper business.
Since the last election, running a business, raising a family and living in Calgary has been increasingly more difficult. Together, we can make a meaningful difference - for our families, our businesses, and our city.
My main focus points in this election are being more business friendly, transportation issues, environmental issues, public safety, overspending on elaborate projects and on city administration, secondary suites and affordable housing.
I can bring real life business experience and will use resources available to encourage more business in Calgary as opposed to the current administration who is threatening groups that encourage business. They are supporting the Pembina Institute whose main goal is to shut down the Oil and Gas production and associated transportation industries, but puts down The Manning Center whose mandate is to encourage all forms of business to come to Calgary and Alberta. This is an example of the current administration not understanding the functionality of these types of organizations and not encouraging business operations in Calgary. If business owners, small and large, are victims of increased taxation and unfair media relations, it is possible they will not want to continue doing business in Calgary and will retreat to other locations with their jobs, charities and tax revenue. This is a major implication that the current administration has not considered and I am going to stand up for.
There are numerous transportation issues within the City of Calgary that have not been addressed and some of what they have implemented has made things worse.
1. They have implemented bicycle lanes on major routes into downtown with the hope that more people would start cycling to work. While admirable, this thinking is not realistic. Most Calgarians have busy family lives and do not have the extra time to cycle around the city to get to where they need to go. It is not in City Halls purview to dictate what Calgarians should be doing, rather it is up to council to accommodate the needs of Calgarians.
2. The addition of the west LRT has been a success (although over budget), there are still significant issues. They have postponed any discussions on the Southeast LRT, and are not at all focused on other major arteries. Instead they spend time and money on things they can do nothing about. I.E. shark fin soup ban. I would propose widening of roads where we are able to. This is a small expenditure for a large gain.
3. Transit - Fares and costs have been increasing, however service has not improved. The City wants to increase ridership, but does nothing to improve service. Unless getting to downtown, moving about Calgary is very difficult and time consuming. This is especially true for those who rely on transit to get to work in order to be productive members of our city. I promise to make more cross town routes and more transit hubs for better city connectivity. We also need to make transity feel more safe for all riders at all times of the day. Have police officers at every station would be too expensive but having either security or bylaw officers would be more effective. A recent poll showed nearly 70% of people do not feel safe riding transit in off peak hours. This has to change.
4. Taxi Service - The current system is broken. There are already provincial licensing regulations for transporting passengers. Lets ensure that safety regulations are current (I.E. seat belts ,must be available for all passengers), and open this service to private business. The City administration should have an arms length approach to the taxi service within the city. This should be a free market business, allowing people to make their own choice as to the service they require.
My focus is on what Calgary needs to get people around the city safely and quickly.
A recent poll suggests that 70% of Calgarians do not feel safe taking transit after 7pm. This needs to change. If we want to increase tourism and encourage transit usage, we need to ensure measures are taken to increase police and peace officer presence. One way to accomplish this is to return all fine revenues to the group who issued the fine. In recent years, the mayor has taken that money into the general account and not reinvested in the police force. I believe this is not right. The service that earns the money should receive the money. More police, firefighters and bylaw officers are needed in this city. Another bylaw enforcement that needs more attention is vacant lots and the lack of care from the owners. 2 years ago this resulted in a local group in Scarboro trying to make a potato farm out of one of the lots. Bylaw removed the potato farmers but the lot still remains vacant today. I can make sure we are doing better than this.
There are several multimillion dollar projects currently on the books or recently completed that have added little or no value to Calgarians. A $25 million pedestrian bridge that was not required. The design of this bridge was contracted out to a foreign architect (albeit a famous one), but rather than ensuring that materials and construction jobs stayed here at home, City council thought it more important to have the Calatrava name on the bridge rather than support our own economy. In the end it did not matter all that much as the construction provided was substandard and the city had to hire local experts to repair the workmanship. We have still not heard what these additional costs amounted to.
• Plans for Downtown library. The current library has fallen into disrepair and needs to be replaced, so council states. They are planning to spend $245 million dollars on a structure that is used by a relatively small number of Calgarians. I am not saying that a library is not required, but can we not construct a practical, functional, attractive building for a little less..
• On the books are 4 new recreational facilities with costs exceeding $450 million dollars. Once again, I want to explore options that may significantly reduce the cost of these facilities. We should have nearly twice as many facilities for this amount of money.
I understand the need to construct facilities that have character, but I also believe we can find a balance between cost, functionality and beauty.
While the head of planning (Rollin Stanley) is trying to create congestion on Calgary roads I will try to reduce it. Reducing congestion by focusing on widening roads, creating more one way streets and building overpasses will be good for the environment as well as keeping people moving around the city.
I will designate area's of existing park land within communities as community gardens.
I will plant and maintain 500 new tree's around the city every year. Our urban forest is falling behind and we will need to replenish aging tree's.
I will start a rebate program for front loading washing machines. This will be similar to the replacement of low flow toilets a few years back, front loading washing machines use approximately 30% less water.
I believe that if area's are zoned properly and houses are constructed to allow for secondary suites then they should be allowed. The problem with secondary suites is that there is only a limited amount of houses that are first within proper zoning and second constructed in a way to allow for secondary suites safely. There was a fire a few years back in a secondary suite that claimed 4 young peoples lives. We cannot let that happen again for the sake of a couple more cheap places to rent. The bigger issue is affordable housing.
Housing costs and rental costs are set primarily on supply and demand. We currently have a net gain of 30,000 people per year coming to Calgary. Secondary suites will only cover a very small portion of this new population and we need more housing options. Currently the city has put a full development freeze for most of the northwest. The northwest has 2 of the 3 largest post secondary schools which is where most of the rental population comes from. Upgrades to the sanitary in the northwest are not scheduled for another 3 years. This is unacceptable as the housing costs in this quandrant of the city will rise dramatically and the rental population will be severely impacted. I will ensure that these upgrades are done sooner and that the supply of housing can keep pace with the demand.
Affordable housing buildings that are downtown are in need of serious repairs. Instead of putting the huge expense into the repairs, we can build new buildings near transit hubs that are being created. The land is cheaper, we can create more units, we can sell the buildings downtown as developers for large towers will buy these properties. Recently the Calgary Board of Education did this and moved their main office from downtown to the beltline. They sold their building, gained more office space and made a profit. We can do this with afforable housing as well.
In closing, I am committed to donating half of my earnings, if elected, which is about $100K every year. This amount will make a real impact for local non-profit organizations. This also shows that salaries are too high for elected local politicians and for me to run for mayor is not about the money, it is about doing the right thing for the citizens of this city. Elected officials should be working for the people, not dictating to the people how they should be living.
Please review my website (http://carterformayor.ca) or my twitter page (@carterformayor) if you would like more information or to contact me directly. I answer all emails.