Here are links to articles about current events in Calgary, as well as my thoughts on some of the topics.

 

Deer Run Debate

https://youtu.be/zTxw6doxhOQ

Common Sense Calgary Interview

https://www.commonsensecalgary.com/andrea_hinton 

Common Sense Calgary Survey Response 

What work experience do you have that’s relevant to the role of a Councillor and how do you feel the skills and perspective you have gained will help you in your role as a Councillor?

Working as a laboratory analyst at the Alberta Oil Sands I had to work in a large team environment.  Everyday, I had to ensure that tests were completed on time, co-ordinate sample delivery between the two laboratories that were on site, and continuously learn new skills in the lab.  Being able to work with a team, stick to deadlines, co-ordinate multiple activities at once, and learn new skills I believe I will be able to fulfill the duties of a city council member. 

 

I also have a passion for helping within the community.  Throughout my life I have volunteered with multiple organizations including Canadian Blood Services, and at the South Health Campus.  I felt the best way for me to help everyday Calgarians would be to run for a seat on city council.  Calgary is a city I am proud to call home.  In recent times our leadership has not had Calgarians’ best interests at heart, which I believe has to change.
 

What do you think are the biggest issues affecting your ward are, and how would you approach being their local representative?

Ward 14 is unique, in that it is comprised of both established and brand-new communities.  This leads to each area of the ward having distinctive needs.  However, three issues which are present in all of Ward 14’s communities are the need for economic recovery, high residential property taxes, and a lack of access to resources. 

In the coming years, rejuvenation of the downtown core is going to be a large area of focus for the city.  However, there are also commercial areas throughout Ward 14, from Deer Run to Legacy, which are vacant.  Moving forward, Ward 14 needs a strong voice on council to ensure economic recovery is not just reserved for Calgary’s downtown core.  Through tax incentives for new companies, as well as Calgary advertising itself to companies who are located in other areas of Canada, I believe that Calgary will be able to attract new businesses to the city. 

Residential property taxes have seen a drastic increase over the past several years.  In order to tackle this issue, Calgary needs to ensure its government is running in a cost-effective manner.  By bringing in legislation that would cap council salary increases, and by reviewing all positions the city currently holds, in order to eliminate redundancies, or positions that are no longer required, I know that Calgary will be able to find savings, which should be passed onto taxpayers. 

Ward 14 is the only ward in the city which does not have a public library.  For new communities which have a young population this is a needed resource.  As Ward 14 continues to grow south, a new public library that is readily accessible would be a big asset for many people.  In order to make this happen I know the city will have to ensure it is budgeting correctly, and spending tax dollars in a responsible manner.  Even though it may be a difficult task, I know that it is possible.

 

What do you think is the role of a municipal government? Do you think the City does too many things, not enough, or just the right amount?
 

The role of the government is to serve and represent those who elect them to office.  In the current situation Calgary is in, I believe the government needs to go back to providing essential services, and cut a lot of the fat it currently has.  This needs to be done to ensure that Calgarians are not asked to continue to pay more and more tax year after year.  It is not reasonable, especially since everyone had gone through hardships due to COVID, to ask more from Calgarians.

Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?

Property taxes are too high.  It has come to the point where some may no longer be able to afford the house, they’ve called home for years due to the crushing property tax the city has imposed.  In order to fix this issue, I believe two actions must take place.  The first being the city government needs to ensure it is running in a cost-effective manner.  Each position the city currently holds needs to be scrutinized in order to identify redundant positions, or positions that are no longer required, and those positions need to be phased out.  I also believe reform needs to be brought to city council salaries.  There needs to be legislation put in place that would cap council salary increases at a modest percentage, while having no cap on salary decrease.  There needs to be more done to ensure that council salaries are not able to reach new heights.  By cutting the cost of running the government itself, I know savings could be passed onto taxpayers.

 

Calgary also needs to promote and allow for economic recovery, diversification, and growth.  Calgary needs to continue to cut red tape, and streamline business approvals so that companies are more likely to establish themselves here compared to other cities.  I also believe we need to actively advertise Calgary to companies in areas of the economy that need to see growth, such as the technology sector.  By making Calgary easy for businesses to open, and establish themselves I believe that we could see economic growth. 

Over the next four years, should the City spend less in absolute terms, increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, increase by the rate of inflation and population growth, or increase faster than the rate of inflation and population growth?

The city should spend within its means.  Governments are the only entity on Earth that can live outside of their means, and then go get more money from the people they work for.  The city needs to ensure the government is running in a cost-effective manner, so that as much money as possible is going towards services for the community.  I also believe spending needs to be brought back to the basics.  Essential services need to be prioritized over non-essential.  For instance, the Fire Department needs to be funded so that the proper number of personal are able to respond to calls in a timely manner, with the required equipment.  Some may argue that all services the city provides are essential, however there are services which society needs in order to function, and some that society can function without.  I do not believe Calgary can keep asking Calgarians for more and more money.  There needs to be accountability within the government, and responsible spending by the city.

During the introduction of City Charters a few years ago there was a lot of debate about new taxation powers for the big cities. Would you support the City being given any additional taxation powers by the Province? If so, what taxation powers should the City have?

I would not support giving the city any new taxation powers.  Calgary has a spending issue, not a revenue issue.  It is time for Calgary’s government to focus its spending on essential services to the community, and stop expecting Calgarians to pay more and more tax to the city.

The City often claims that they’ve found savings in various budgets, but instead of actually cutting spending, they just put the savings into a reserve account and then spend that money on other things. If there’s money left over at the end of a financial year, do you think that money should be saved up by the City to spend in future years? Or should it be returned automatically to taxpayers the following year through some kind of rebate?

The Education Property Tax is collected by Calgary’s municipal government on behalf of the province.  Some years, the province does not collect as much from the city as they’ve collected from residents.  In this case, the city should immediately put a credit onto Calgarians property tax for the following year.

 

In instances where the city finds it has not used all of its budget, I believe there is a need to put some of the money into the Financial Stability Reserve (Rainy Day Fund) for the city.  The Financial Stability Reserve is an asset to have in order to help Calgary complete large infrastructure projects, or help to keep taxes low through difficult economic times.

 

The rest of the money should be put into back into the community.  This would be an opportunity for the city to work with community associations throughout Calgary in order to find smaller scale projects that need to be completed.  Smaller projects could include playground equipment that needs replacement, community entrance signs in need of renovations, or increasing Calgary’s tree canopy.  I believe the split between the Financial Stability Reserve and returning funds to the community should be a 60:40 split. 

Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two?  If so, how?

Affordable housing can be described as houses which are priced at the lower end in order for people to purchase a home for a first time, or to expand into from a condo or apartment.  Affordable housing can also be defined as housing that is subsidized by the government, so that low-income earners are still able to live in a particular area, without having to pay the full cost of rent. 

 

It is the responsibility of the provincial and federal government to subsidize housing for lower-income residents.  Funds from these two levels of government should be applied to municipalities which show a need for government subsidized affordable housing.  In the coming years I am hopeful with new members of council, Calgary and the provincial government will be able to work together in a cohesive manner, and leave old politics in the past. 

 

I do not believe Calgary should continue to expanding only for the sake of being able to provide affordable homes on the open market.  When creating new communities, Calgary needs to be able to provide essential services, such as the fire and police service, to these new areas.  I would not want Calgary to be in a position where it has to increase taxes for all Calgarians in order to support new areas.  It does not make much sense to create affordable houses, but then charge a large amount of residential property tax annually.  By doing so it could be the residential property tax in itself is what causes homes to be unaffordable for many. 
 

In order to address the affordable home issue in Calgary, I believe Calgary needs to focus on diversifying Calgary’s economy.  If people are able to find careers in the city, in a large variety of areas then housing would become more affordable to many just by being able to better provide for themselves. 

 

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is currently debating their Growth Plan for the Calgary region. What do you think about the plan? Do you think we should be limiting development in certain parts of the region? If so, are you worried about how that will affect housing affordability?

 

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) has been criticized lately for being another level of government that is intervening with developments in areas that it shouldn’t be.  For areas surrounding Calgary the CMRB is just more red tape for businesses, and developers to go through, and some feel that it is ruining free market in the areas it applies to. 

 

I understand the CMRB is meant to ensure that developments are completed with the bigger picture in mind, and to ensure that development impacts on the environment are kept in check.  However, plans do change over time, and trying to predict the growth, or the need for growth decades into the future is tricky at best.  Looking at planning long term can be beneficial, but only if the plans also work out for the city in the here and now as well.  This way if the long-term plans fail to go through, Calgary won’t be left looking like it’s missing puzzle pieces linking certain areas to others.  

 

As Calgary continues to grow, the city must ensure it is able to provide essential services (Fire, Police, Water, Sewage, ect.) to new communities.  In order to do this, the city must budget accordingly so that the rest of Calgary doesn’t have to see a tax increase to support these new areas.  It could be found that Calgary needs to press pause for a few years on new developments so that it can focus on getting its finances under control, diversify its economy, and rein in taxes for Calgarians.  If it is decided Calgary needs to take time to support Calgarians that are here now, then an undesired side effect could be housing prices may be artificially inflated for a short time period.    

 

Affordable housing has been an issue in Calgary for a while now, and one way to fix the issue would to be to allow for more greenfield development, in which affordable housing is the main focus.  However, these new communities are being built on the outskirts of Calgary so they maybe distant from needed resources.  Affordable homes should be positioned in areas which resources, such as schools, libraries, transit, shopping, and job opportunities, are close by, which new greenfield developments may not be able to provide.  The other method of creating more affordable houses in Calgary would be to redevelop established areas.  Redevelopment is a very tricky area though.  The community must be involved with the process, and be allowed to express their concerns in a meaningful way.  Calgary needs to ensure it has a balanced approach in the coming years to how the city should be developed, and tackle the issue of affordable homes in the city.

 

There’s been a lot of debate about the City’s new “Guidebook for Great Communities”. What do you think about the Guidebook? What do you think should be the split between greenfield and established community growth for new housing? Should the City have a specific target? Should this be determined by market demand?

I think the city needs to take a step back with the Guidebook for Great Communities, and have more community involvement, and education around it.  Trying to include the community, and have dialogue with the public during COVID-19 is not really engagement in my mind.  People were too busy learning how to work from home, make sure their children were doing school online, or finding new jobs to pay attention to what was happening with the Guidebook.  Calgary needs to have meaningful public engagement where people can come together in order to learn about it, and ask questions they may have. 

 

The split between greenfield development, and redevelopment of established neighbourhoods should be based upon the need Calgary has for it, and what it can afford.  With new greenfield developments the city takes on a large cost in order to ensure the new community can be supplied with essential services such as transit, and the fire and police department.  Development needs to be done so that Calgary does not find itself having to increase taxes in order to serve new communities, despite having a larger tax base by expanding.

 

When redeveloping old neighborhoods, the city needs to include the community, and those who call those areas home.  People have purchased homes in specific communities for certain reasons, and the city should not come in an redevelop it into something that no longer resembles the original neighborhood.  This will be a large and complex task, but one that is very important.  Calgarians need to be able to have the choice of various living arrangements throughout the city.

When the City voted to approve four projects - the Event Centre, the BMO Centre expansion, the Arts Commons transformation, and the Foothills Fieldhouse - they did so against the advice of the City’s own CFO, who said the City could only afford one of them. Do you think that was the right move? Why? If, as the City continues through the process with each of these projects, it becomes obvious that the City’s CFO was correct, and Calgarians can only afford one of these projects, which would you choose?

 

I believe that Calgary’s current leaders may have put Calgary in a very financially strained position due to their choice of moving forward with all four projects at once.  This decision will further push Calgary to ensure it is spending money in a financially responsible manner.  I hope that this decision will not cause the city to have the ultimatum of sacrificing the level of service the city provides to Calgarians, or increase taxes.  Calgarians have been financially impacted by COVID-19 themselves, and cannot be asked to pay even more in taxes.  Also, Calgary needs to diversify, and recover its economy.  Increasing non-residential property taxes, would not be a selling point to attract new business to Calgary. 

 

The BMO Expansion, and the Event Centre are the only two projects which the city has partners with in order to cover costs.  The BMO Expansion will cost $500M, and is equally funded by the City of Calgary, the provincial government, and the federal government.  The Event Centre is being funded with $287.5M from the city, and $321M from CESC.  I believe at this point in time the city should only move forward with these two projects because it has partners to work with and help cover the costs.  Arts Common, and the Foothills Fieldhouse should be put on hold until the city is able to cover the costs associated with them, or find partners, such as the provincial and federal government.

Do you support the construction of the Green Line LRT as currently envisioned by the City, would you prefer changes be made to the plan (and if so, what changes), or would you prefer to cancel the project entirely? If, as a Councillor, you find out that - despite all the previous assurances - there has in fact been another cost overrun on the Green Line, what would you do?

The Green Line LRT is needed within our city, and I believe it is a worthwhile investment into Calgary.  Due to funds, the project will have to be completed in sections, which is understandable considering the price tag the project has.  I am hopeful moving forward Calgary will be able to receive more funds from the provincial, and federal government in order to complete the full project as soon as possible. 

 

The Green Line LRT has the potential to increase mobility around the city, decrease traffic on Deerfoot Trial, and give people a more environmentally friendly way of getting around the city.  During its construction phase, the Green Line LRT will create thousands of jobs, and once it is completed will also create permeant jobs for Calgarians as well.

 

If another cost overrun is brought to the attention of council, I would reach out to the provincial and federal government to see if they would be willing to provide more funding first.  If neither level of government were willing to cover the cost overrun, then I would look to see if phase one could be made smaller in order to operate within the current budget.  I do not believe that Calgary can continue to ask more from Calgarians through residential and non-residential property taxes.  Another area funding could come from is Calgary’s Financial Stability Reserve (aka Rainy-Day Fund).  I do not believe funds from the Financial Stability Reserve should be considered for use lightly, however, Calgary is in a time of need right now so it could be feasible to use some funds. 


What do you think is the best approach to attract businesses to Calgary? Direct incentives to specific businesses, paid for by slightly higher taxes, or lower tax rates for all businesses?

Calgary’s economy needs to be able to recover, diversify, and grow.  In order for this to happen, Calgary needs to welcome new companies to the city.  I would be for giving new businesses in Calgary a minimum of a 2-year tax freeze.  This way businesses would be able to open in Calgary, and not have to worry about their taxes climbing while they were establishing themselves.  My hope would be, enough businesses would move to Calgary, so when the tax freeze was lifted, they would find that their taxes wouldn’t increase, or perhaps see a decrease.  I am also in favour of Calgary cutting red tape, and increasing how quickly businesses can be approved.  Making it easier for new businesses to open in Calgary will promote diversification and growth.  If all of these actions are taken, then Calgary should also actively advertise itself to companies that are currently operating in other major centers.  Economic diversification, and growth is not going to be a passive process.  Calgary must ensure companies know about the benefits of doing businesses here, and should be contacting companies that would be able to thrive here. 

Should the City be in the business of operating golf courses, or should they privatize or sell them off? How about garbage collection or other services?

I believe the city should ensure it keeps as much green space as possible.  If the city is able to run golf courses in a cost-effective manner, one which does not cost taxpayers money, then they should continue to run them.  However, if running golf courses is costing taxpayers money then the city should consider leasing out the courses to private companies in order to ensure they are not losing money.  I am not in favour of the city selling green spaces.  Green spaces are essential to the mental and physical well being of Calgarians, and the city should protect those assets.  When it comes to other services the city provides, such as garbage collection, I would be in favour of pricing out how much it would cost the city to contract those services out to private providers.  Of course, the level of service Calgarians would receive would have to remain the same, or increase.  I would not be in favour of having Calgarians experience a decrease in service.  The city would also have to ensure it protects itself with private contractors by ensuring the contractor was not able to increase its fee year after year at an uncontrolled rate.  Everything would have to be weighed out, but I believe it is the responsibility of the city to ensure tax dollars are being spent in responsible manners, in order to provide an acceptable level of service to the community.

 

Should we defund the police? If yes, what exactly does defunding the police mean to you? If not, what should the City do to address both historical and ongoing injustices?

Calgary should not be defunding its police department.  The Calgary Police Service is an essential service to Calgarians, and must be able to respond to calls in a timely manner, with the proper personal, and equipment.  Reallocating funds from the CPS in order to set up a system in which people can get in touch with social workers, instead of the police during mental health or addiction crises is defunding the police.  People deserve to get in touch with the proper professionals to help them through difficult situations, but it should not come at the cost of decreasing another essential services ability to serve the public.  In order to address the city’s historical and ongoing injustices, I believe educating members of the CPS to issues that apply to their jobs, as well as ensuring all Calgarians are treated equally by the police is key.  

Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?

Across Canada in both the private and public sector vaccination policies are being put in place as a condition of employment.  Companies, and governments need to ensure they provide a safe work space for their employees.  Therefore, you have the issue of employers keeping the workplace safe, vs. individual choice.  I do not believe mandatory vaccine policy should be made lightly.  However, the city does have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for employees, and needs to be able to provide services to the community.  I was hopeful that vaccination mandates were something that was not going to be needed, and that COVID-19 infections were going to be kept under control with around 70% of the province age 12+ being vaccinated, but that was not the case.  I myself am vaccinated, and encourage others to get vaccinated as well.

 
Council recently dropped residential speed limits to 40km/h, do you agree with that decision, and what do you think about the proposal by some to go further and drop it to 30km/h in the future?

I understand that by decreasing the speed limits in residential areas was to increase the safety of roadways in Calgary.  However, I believe Calgary’s government made this decision without properly consulting Calgarians.  Community involvement, and consultation should be a key factor in any decision the city makes that will affect the city as a whole.  Now that the bylaw has been passed, I believe that Calgary’s government should try to right this wrong by allowing members of the community to step forward with suggestions for which roads should be posted at 50 km/h, and which roadways should have their signs removed to make them 40 km/h.  I would not support a motion to further reduce residential speed limits to 30km/h. 

For years there has been an ongoing debate about the City’s public art spending. Some say that the problem is the selection process for what art is commissioned, while others are opposed to any use of public funds for art. What do you think?

If public funds are going to be used on art, then at the very least the artwork should come from a local artist.  During these difficult economic times Calgary is going through, I believe publicly funded art should be put on pause, so that funds can be given to essential services such as Calgary’s Fire or Police Department.  The city must ensure it is able to provide essential services to the community at an acceptable level, while also ensuring taxpayers are not continuously asked for more money from the city.

Serving as a Councillor you are responsible to both your local constituents and every Calgarian. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of your local constituents in your ward conflict with what you feel is the best interests of the City as a whole?

It would be my duty as the elected councillor for Ward 14 to represent, and serve the constituents of my ward.  If a conflict arose between Ward 14, and the rest of the city, I would side with my ward.  I would do my best to work with other members of council to persuade them to see the issue from Ward 14’s perspective, and vote with me.  I would also do my best to involve the constituents of Ward 14 so that they were educated on the issues at hand, and could make informed decisions when voicing their opinion.

While the concept of a secret ballot is essential, many of our supporters have told us that they’d like to know the political alignment of their candidates. So, if - and only if - you feel comfortable saying so, who are you voting for Mayor and why, and if you are affiliated with any provincial or federal political?

 

I eager to work with any Mayoral candidate Calgarians vote into office.  I do not think that council member candidates should align themselves with a specific mayoral candidate.  Council members need to work in a professional manner with all members of council, and the mayor. 

 

I am not affiliated with any provincial or federal political party.  It is important that elected municipal officials are not affiliated with political parties because it gives them the freedom to look at each issue the city has, and vote accordingly with what would serve Calgarians best.  Due to party solidarity, I believe having party affiliations would decrease the ability of elected officials to serve the people of their wards, and the city itself.

Green Line LRT

New plan for Calgary's Green Line LRT would build from southeast to downtown all at once

It is disheartening to see the City of Calgary and Provincial Government of Alberta have not been able to work together effectively to start construction of this project on time.  Due to the setbacks this project has endured we know that the Green Line LRT is going to cost more.  However, I believe this project is worthwhile, and will provide an important service to many of Calgary’s citizens. 

New Arena

Before looking at articles about the new arena I would like to point out that when it comes to concerts, artists would have the choice to go to Calgary or Edmonton.  I do not believe we can assume all artists would go to each city considering how close together they are. 

Event Centre

Here is a page from the city of Calgary’s website.  It contains some good details on how the city hopes the new arena will help our city and its people.  There is also a time line at the bottom which helps to show how the project has moved forward, and how it intends to go forward in the future.

Calgary Flames arena deal on thin ice after team asks for $70M more from city: sources

The new arena is already costing tax payers $275 million, and it looks like there maybe another $70 million that is being asked for.  When it comes to the cost of the new arena I am supportive of it as long as it is within the city’s budget, and it will not cause the city to sacrifice the essential services it provides.

Why Calgary 'will not be making money' from the arena deal — but that's not the only consideration

With knowing the city will most likely lose approximately $47 million with the current arena deal it is unclear if city council made the right decision.  As stated in the article there are intangible benefits to building the new arena, however I do not believe that Calgarians should have to pick-up the tab for intangible benefits that many may never experience.  I would fight for the city to increase its cut of 2% from ticket revenues for the first 10 years to a higher percentage in order to cover this cost.  It is important the city does not put more financial strain on Calgarians, or sacrifice city services.

City paying to build parking lot on private land for Calgary Stampede

This new 1000 stall parking lot should be very low risk to the city, and should be profitable.  However, it is being built with taxpayers' dollars, and therefore the cost should be disclosed to Calgarians.  There needs to be increased transparency between the city and how Calgarians money is being spent.

Calgary Stampede

Calgary city council approves motion to extend $10M to Stampede

 

The Calgary Stampede is a proven economic stimulus, which brings millions of dollars to Calgary each year.  With the recent hardships the Calgary Stampede has gone through, due to cancellation in 2020, I would have also voted to support the Calgary Stampede.