Incoming councillors to face new challenges, reshaping relationships: professor

When council resumes next week there will be several new faces who will be tasked with taking on the challenges the last members left behind.

Municipal election results aren’t official, but so far, just a few Calgary councillors will be returning to City Hall.

RELATED: A look at who was elected in each ward

One not so new face includes the first woman to sit in the mayor’s seat in Calgary, Jyoti Gondek.

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University explains experience plays a big role when you’re talking about working on council.


She says it’s difficult to get anything done if you don’t understand the system or process. Pointing to the enormous budget document that will be up for discussion in about a month.

“You know in some cases councillors will be reading those budget documents really not knowing what to make of what they’re seeing, they certainly won’t know the history,” she said.

“So it’s going to be a real challenge, I think for everyone, or certainly the newcomers on council.”

Furthermore, she says this council will be thrust into making a plan around fluoridation because, although non-binding, Calgarians sent a clear message that they want fluoride to be added back into the water.

RELATED: Calgary votes ‘Yes’ to reintroducing fluoride into water supply

“I think there’s enormous pressure on council to bring that in, but it’s going to cost money, and that’s going to be another challenge in terms of bringing it into effect,” she said.


“It’s not a matter of if they are going to bring fluoridation, it’s when, and how much it’s going to cost and of course those would be implementation challenges rather than decision-making challenges.”

However, Williams says there are some returning councillors and incumbents who can be leaned on for their expertise and guidance.

“There’s a real opportunity to sort of re-shape the relationships on council,” she explained.

“Doing a reset of sorts, and to move in a direction to represent Calgarians, not so much in an adversarial way, but in a collaborative way, to try to solve the problems, the very real problems that Calgary’s facing going forward.”

Also, in a move that hasn’t happened since 2004, there will likely be five women on council. Alongside Gondek, there will be four women councillors representing ward’s one, two, three and 11.


Williams says this isn’t the largest number of women who have been on Calgary city council, there has been six, several times in the past.

“Of course it’s our first female mayor, and our first female mayor of colour, those I think are signs that things are changing in a more enduring way,” she said.

“That the election of Naheed Nenshi here in Calgary wasn’t an anomaly, it’s actually an expression or reflection of greater diversity.”

She adds, we saw that affirmed provincially as well with the residents of Edmonton choosing mayor-elect, Amarjeet Sohi, by a decisive margin.

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