Councillor Jyoti Gondek wins mayoral race in Calgary; former Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi wins in Edmonton

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Self-proclaimed centrist city councilor Jyoti Gondek will be Calgary’s next mayor, while former federal Liberal cabinet minister Amarjit Sohi will return to civic politics as Edmonton’s new mayor.

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Ms Gondek will be Calgary’s first female mayor and Mr Sohi will be the first person of color to take office in Edmonton after winning their respective elections on Monday.

In addition to casting ballots in municipal elections, Albertans voted on a pair of referendums: a One on removing parity from the constitution, and another on switching to permanent daylight time. The official results of the referendum votes will not be released until next week.

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Ms Gondek and Mr Sohi will replace high-profile, progressive mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities as the province continues to struggle with the combined effects of a year-long slump in the oil sector and the COVID-19 pandemic. . Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson are both preparing to step down after deciding not to run for re-election.

In Calgary, Ms. Gondek will take charge Leadership in a city where heavy job losses in the oil sector have led to a vacancy rate of around 30 percent in the city’s office market, upping the city’s finances. Vacancies wiped billions of dollars’ worth of skyscrapers from the city’s skyscrapers in just a few years, prompting cuts and other measures to reduce the impact on businesses elsewhere in the city.

Ms Gondek told a small gathering of staff and the media in Calgary that the city council should focus on rebuilding the economy.

“I will make sure that we focus on the improvements inherent in economic, social and environmental resilience,” she said.

Jerome Farkas, a one-time city councillor who walked a platform focused on low taxes, public safety, was second in attacking Mr Nenshi’s 11 years in office. Calgary mayoral election. Councilor Jeff Davison in third place.

Ms. Gondek was born in the UK and moved to Canada with her parents, who were originally from India. She was first elected to the City Council of Calgary in 2017.

She was previously director of the Westman Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary’s Business School. Prior to this, she worked in marketing at Greyhound Canada and two Alberta credit unions.

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Ms Gondek campaigned on rebuilding the economy by turning Calgary into an “energy transition” hub and fostering innovation. She also said she would improve amenities and services, such as public transportation, to ensure the city is an attractive place to live and help local companies recruit talent.

Rapid reductions in property assessments for downtown office towers several years ago shifted the tax burden for commercial landlords elsewhere in the city, who faced steep increases in property taxes. The municipal government responded by spending more than $200 million over several years to provide relief to businesses, including $13-million this year alone.

Ms Gondek pledged to continue working on Calgary’s Greater Downtown plan, which she supported as councillor. The plan aims to transform the city center into a mixed-use neighbourhood, by converting some office towers into rental apartments to reduce the amount of vacant office space.

She is also asking the provincial government to use a portion of its share of property taxes to help the city deal with lower city property assessments.

In her victory speech, Ms. Gondek described the problem of vacancy as a major priority as she prepares to take office.

“Together with the business community and our creative sector, your city council will fulfill the vision of a revitalized city that brings places and spaces that are welcoming and vibrant,” she said.

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“We will work with our economic development partners and real estate experts to ensure that our vacancies become a thing of the past, as we will develop our buildings into active centers at all hours of the day.”

Ms Gondek supported COVID-19 policies such as mandatory masks and vaccine passports. He criticized Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s handling of the pandemic, calling his decision to lift almost all public-health measures over the summer a “relinquishment of responsibility”.

Ms. Gondek will succeed Mr. Nenshi, who himself made history in 2010 when he became the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.

Mr Nenshi led Calgary through a devastating flood in 2013 and Later through the downturn in the oil sector. He also oversaw a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, which was rejected in a referendum. More recently, he has been a frequent critic of Mr. Kenny’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Edmonton, Mr. Sohi is returning to City Hall. He was a councilor in the city for eight years until he was elected as a union in 2015. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he served first as Minister of Infrastructure, and then as Minister of Natural Resources. He had lost his seat in 2019.

Addressing his supporters on Monday evening, he acknowledged the economic challenges ahead.

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“If you are a young person concerned about your future, if you are concerned about the health and well-being of your loved ones, I see you and I hear you,” he said.

“I am honored to have the privilege of leading us to a new chapter with better days.”

He said he would strengthen public services, work towards Indigenous reconciliation, tackle racism, build climate resilience and respond to the extreme crisis.

Mr. Sohi was born in India and moved with his family to Edmonton when he was 18. He later worked as a bus driver for Edmonton’s public transportation service.

He defeated Mike Nickell, a Conservative city councilor who came second after campaigning for cutting property taxes, ending photo radar, and hiring. more police officers.

Mr. Sohi’s platform includes an innovation fund and a new office to help small and medium-sized businesses navigate permitting, licensing and other regulatory requirements. He wants to increase affordable housing and mental-health resources. And he said he would seek an urban national park designation for Edmonton’s river valley.

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He replaces Mr Iveson, who was first elected mayor in 2013 after serving as councilor for two terms. Mr. Iveson supported policies aimed at ending homelessness and eliminating drug addiction. He also supported reducing police budgets to redirect money to frontline services, to prevent vulnerable people from ending up in the criminal justice system.

Mr. Iveson spent years as president of the Association of Large City Mayors Caucus of Canadian Municipalities.

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