The Airdrie Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all-candidates forum on Oct. 5, providing an online stage for the candidates in the upcoming municipal election to inform voters of their platforms and answer a few questions.
Airdrie’s Oct. 18 election includes 18 City council candidates, including six incumbents, as well as three mayoral candidates, including current mayor Peter Brown, Lindsey Coyle, and former City councillor Allan Hunter.
Kicking off the two-hour event on Oct. 6, the three mayoral candidates began by providing two-minute opening statements.
During his opening remarks, Brown touched on the challenges the City of Airdrie will face in the upcoming budget cycle, and said his experience as the chair of the Council Budget Committee would serve him well in navigating council through upcoming economic difficulties.
“Chairing the Council Budget Committee for 11 years with proven results affords me the opportunity to get us where we need to go,” he said. “Truly, we’ve experienced many challenges over the years and I’m very proud to say there are very few we have not overcome. My commitment to you is continuing to be accountable, accessible, hard-working and respectful, always representing and promoting our community in the best of light.”
In her opening statement, Coyle said she is running for mayor because she feels Airdrie deserves a new energy and perspective to lead council. She added her platform is focused on three points, one of which is economic recovery as the City prepares for a post-pandemic future.
“We need people at the table who are committed to reflecting on the outcomes of how we have faced past challenges and be able to explore new ideas and solutions for our future,” she said. “We need to stabilize and focus on using existing resources and amenities more affectively.
“Your newly elected council is responsible to hear from you – our citizens and business owners – and bring solutions to the table that address the disconnect and better support our community.”
The final mayoral candidate to provide his opening remarks was Hunter, who said Airdrie “is at a crossroads,” unlike anything the city has experienced in the past.
The former councillor added his candidacy is focused on reducing Airdrie’s status as a Calgary bedroom community, and reducing the burden on the residential tax base.
“We can continue to build infrastructure and transit to take our citizens and their wallets out of Airdrie to work, shop, and use facilities outside of Airdrie,” he said. “We can continue to overburden our predominantly residential tax base, or we can choose a bold, innovative, exciting path forward to change Airdrie from a bedroom community into an economic hub where you can create, care, and serve right here in your city.”
After providing their opening statements, the mayoral candidates answered questions relating to business competitiveness, downtown revitalization, the City’s current infrastructure projects, and the beautification of local spaces. According to the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce, the questions were submitted ahead of time.
When answering a question about how he would incentivize businesses to set up shop in Airdrie instead of Rocky View County or Calgary, Brown said the City is already working on developing regional economic opportunities with nearby municipalities through the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB).
“We also obviously will continue with the no-tax credit and we’re also looking at incentivizing some opportunities within the new industrial lands we created last year,” he said. “I would suggest there is much more work to be done, but at the present time, we’re building those relationships with the people we need to talk to, and creating our regional economic development team, which would be Airdrie and area.”
Coyle, when answering whether or not she supports downtown revitalization, said she would go about the issue first by finding anchor tenants to fill lots that are currently vacant.
“The downtown revitalization has been a hot-button topic for a lot of the business owners I’ve spoken to, and a lot are supportive of having revitalization done,” she said.
“Do I believe we need to revitalize? Absolutely. But do I think we need those lots to be filled first? I do. What revitalization looks like after that, we can look at that [later]. We need to [give] our businesses that have experienced the Main Street construction [time to] recover. The cost is concerning, so we have to be in a position to do that.”
The next question for the candidates centred whether or not they support the City’s ongoing infrastructure projects. Hunter said he supports any projects that bring more amenities to Airdrie residents, but added the City has to learn how to complete these projects faster, and find more creative ways to fund them.
“We’ve been talking about a west-side rec centre for a very long time and we’ve just recently heard we’ve acquired some land for it,” he said.
“There are different ways to build this much quicker – P3 options available. But at the end of the day, if all the money is going to come from a tax base that is predominantly residential and businesses here that are already struggling, we need to have those conversations. I support it in principle, [but] the Devil is in the details.”
After the mayoral candidates had answered four questions, Airdrie’s council candidates had their turn in the spotlight, with each providing opening statements before answering a small selection of questions.
Editor’s note: Due to the number of candidates and space constraints, the Airdrie City View has not written a recap of the candidates’ portion of the forum. Instead, the City View is directing those interested in viewing the forum to the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube page, where the forum is available in full.
As of press time, the City View editorial team has conducted interviews and written profiles on 17 of 18 council candidates, and these are available at bit.ly/3FEFy0T. The City View has also published a weekly “Questions with the Candidates” feature in the last three print issues, and those are available via the same link.