Calgary votes: Let’s get to know the new leaders of our city

Our city has 9 new faces, including two who were reelected after some time off from council. We dove in and learned a bit more about the new leaders of our city!

By Noel Harper | October 19, 2021 |12:54 am

The 14 faces of Calgary's new city council.

A suite of new members will be sent to council chambers following one of the most significant municipal elections in Calgary to date.

Heading into yesterday’s election, the majority of council positions were open races, and few incumbents were safe in their wards. A total of nine freshman members were elected to council, with six experienced councillors returning to join them, including two who were re-elected after time away.

With city council looking remarkably different today, let’s meet the new faces of Calgary!

The first-timers club

Sonya Sharp won a decisive victory in Ward 1, capturing 45% of the vote. Sharp has worked with the City of Calgary for the past 20 years, including as chair of the Business Sector Task Force and more than a decade at the Planning and Development department. 

“Thank you to all Ward 1 residents. I’ve got your back. We all came together with hope for our city’s future. Now let’s get to work,” Sharp tweeted Monday night.

Ward 1, spread throughout northwest Calgary and encompassing communities such as Bowness, Tuscany, and Silver Springs, has been represented by Ward Sutherland since 2013. Sutherland originally planned to run again but dropped out to support the mayoral candidacy of Jeff Davison.

Ward 2’s new councillor, Jennifer Wyness has worked in public health, public relations, managed aquatics and recreation centres for more than 15-years, and was also an offshore sailing captain. Wyness ran in the 2017 municipal election as well, coming in just behind incumbent councillor Joe Magliocca.

The circumstances of Ward 2, particularly around Magliocca, have piqued the interest of many Calgarians over the last several months. Magliocca, enveloped in an expense scandal, declared his intention to run again just days before the deadline, only to be charged by the RCMP just days before the election. He ultimately placed third.

Jasmine Mian received 31% of Ward 3’s vote to bring her to council. Mian holds Master’s degrees in psychology and public policy, and is also a professional wrestler, having represented Canada at the Olympic and Commonwealth games. 

Ward 3’s incumbent councillor, Jyoti Gondek, served one term before successfully running for the mayor’s chair. The ward includes some of the city’s most northern communities like Country Hills and Harvest Hills, and is where residents hope the upcoming LRT green line will end up.

Ward 5 will send Raj Dhaliwal to council, following a close race between him and main competitor Stan Sandhu — less than 400 votes separate them as of this writing. Dhaliwal previously worked in oil and gas, and has helped many community initiatives in northeast Calgary, including as a board member of Northeast Family Connections.

Communities such as Castleridge and Taradale are within the ward, which is one of the most diverse areas of Calgary. George Chahal, the one-term incumbent for Ward 5, vacated the position early to become the member of parliament for Calgary-Skyview, the city’s only Liberal MP — though his political future remains uncertain.

Terry Wong is Ward 7’s new councillor. In a highly contested race, Wong’s victory margin was just under 1,000 votes, with a number of competitors following closely behind. He is president of the Hounsfield Heights – Briar Hill community association and has spent years as a community leader in Chinatown.

Wong recently made headlines for his involvement in an appeal to rebuild a burned-down Dairy Queen restaurant on Centre Street, which the owners won. He cited this, as well as his opposition to the Guidebook for Greater Communities, as one of two main reasons for running.

Ward 7 is one of Calgary’s most inner-city areas, sharing the Downtown core with Ward 8 while encompassing the East Village, Crescent Heights, Eau Claire, and the University communities, among others. Wong is the first new councillor to represent the ward in two decades, following the departure of long-time incumbent Druh Farrell. 

In another inner-city battle, Courtney Walcott emerged as the councillor for Ward 8. Walcott is a teacher at Western Canada High School and previously worked in telecommunications. He petitioned the Calgary Board of Education to form an anti-racism task force and brought together community associations to advocate for additional city funding.

“I’ll never forget why I’m doing this – for a generation who don’t see themselves in Calgary, to combat the anger that has broken so many, to build something we’re all proud of – together,” Walcott tweeted before election day. 

The development-heavy Ward 8 extends into the southwest from Downtown and includes the Beltline, Marda Loop, Richmond, and Mount Royal. It has been represented by Evan Woolley since 2013. 

Kourtney Branagan won yet another close race in Ward 11, winning with 28% of the vote to competitor Rob Ward’s 26%. Branagan served as president of the Haysboro Community Association and was a member of the working group for the Guidebook for Great Communities.

“Bold and honest conversations will move us forward. I’m humbled to be given this opportunity,” Branagan tweeted following her win.

The south-central communities of Ward 11, which include Mission, Britannia, and Oakridge, were represented for the previous term by Jeromy Farkas, who became one of two main front-runners in the mayoral campaign.

The successor for outgoing Ward 12 councillor Shane Keating was ultimately found within his staff. Evan Spencer, self-described as a “closer” for Keating, sat on the board of advocacy group LRT on the Green, worked as a consultant for Nextdoor Canada and served as a pastor.

Spencer closely competed against Craig Chandler for most of the Ward 12 race, but it was ultimately a decisive win for the former who garnered 39%. Chandler, a long-time figure in right-wing political movements both federal and provincial across Canada, has a history of racist and controversial comments to his name. 

Perhaps the most surprising victory of the night was that of Dan McLean in Ward 13. McLean ousted long-time city councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart, who came in third out of three candidates running in the ward. Following the departure of councillor Ray Jones last year, Colley-Urquhart became the longest-serving member of the current council, having sat since 2000. 

McLean was the Ward 13 candidate for the conservative-leaning PAC Take Back City Hall, and is the owner of a golf cart company. 

Returning faces

Former two-term Ward 6 councillor Richard Pootmans will return to city hall after not running in 2017. His time on council was marked by his role in getting the west LRT expansion off the ground, chairing the city’s audit committee, and engagement on the Ring Road project.

Pootman’s absence was filled by Jeff Davison, one of three councillors to run for mayor after their first term. Pootmans was officially kicked off his campaign shortly after Davison withdrew from the Ward 6 race.

Another experienced councillor coming back after sitting the last term out is Ward 10’s Andre Chabot. Chabot served 12 years on council, having been first voted in after a 2005 by-election, and ran for mayor in 2017, placing third. The Ward 10 position was then filled by long-time councillor Ray Jones, who served in Ward 5 before boundaries were redrawn that year.

Chabot, who worked in the construction industry before becoming a councillor, advocated for fiscal restraint, helped bring natural gas buses to the city’s transit fleet, and was a signatory on the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination. He is now the sitting councillor with the most council experience.

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Noel Harper

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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