Jay Unsworth said he felt an obligation.
“What I’m seeing right now is I’m just seeing this divisiveness,” Unsworth told LiveWire Calgary.
“We’re kind of falling apart at the seams. What got us here isn’t going to get us there. We need to change, we need to think differently.”
That’s why Unsworth announced his candidacy in Ward 13, taking on incumbent Diane Colley-Urquhart, who announced earlier this year she would run again.
Unsworth is a born and raised Calgarian who’s seen the city’s ups and downs, from the thrill of the 1988 Olympics to the devastation of the 2013 floods. Those moments brought the city together and right now he sees that division in Calgary is the biggest roadblock to moving ahead.
He considers himself just a “regular guy – I’m just like your neighbour,” Unsworth said.
Unsworth has worked in for-profit, non-profit and the public sector, with a background in environmental science, a master’s in business administration and a post-grad certificate in non-profit studies.
He said he’s worked in large, complex organizations – including those with unions and union-exempt staff.
“I have the skills to hit the ground running from day one,” he said.
Downtown vacancy rate a major issue
Unsworth said there’s a real problem in downtown Calgary. The spike in vacancy rates are siphoning off millions in property tax dollars annually. It’s forced others in Calgary’s business community to shoulder that burden.
“People really want to know what it means,” he said.
He said Calgarians are wanting to keep robust city services, but they don’t want steep tax increases.
“When there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in tax loss because of vacancy rates downtown that taxation is going to come from somewhere,” he said.
When he hears others saying we need to approach the city as a business, he agrees, to a point. He said what’s needed are more people with an understand of complex, multi-layered organizations.
“We need to be need to be an inch wide and a mile deep; we really need to think differently,” he said.
Unsworth called himself an energy pluralist. He said that Calgary doesn’t need to abandon the oil and gas sector.
“We also need to think differently about renewable energies – that’s the future,” he said.
Green Line, suburban growth
In his own ward, Unsworth said connectivity to the rest of the city is a big issue. He said if someone in the south-southwest of Calgary wants to get to Crowfoot, for most a 90-minute trip, plus connections on transit won’t work for most people.
To that end, he supports the Green Line because it’s another piece in ensuring Calgary is a connected city. The number of jobs it creates at a time when the city needs employment is important, too, said Unsworth.
“Think of any great city that you’ve been to – transportation is a key. People need to get around,” he said.
The fact it’s being held up, even as millions have already been put into it is a real problem, Unsworth said.
Being on the outer edges of Calgary, Unsworth sees the impact of suburban growth.
“I think flat out, Darren, we’re over built,” he said.
“I don’t think that there’s anyone that can argue against that. What we need to be doing is building up not out we need to be using current infrastructure.”
He’s happy Calgary city council denied the recent expansion of eight new border communities. Each time you add more peripheral growth, you tack on the added operation expense for everything from policing to snow clearing, he said.
Fluoride, police funding and speed limits
Unsworth recently went through a personal situation with a violent home invasion.
“Do you think I was questioning my tax dollars when the police were there protecting us, looking after us, showing up in court, showing compassion. No,” he said.
He does think that the city needs to work with police to see where funding could be reallocated, but certainly not defunding them.
“It’s not just about percentages and dollars, it’s about where that money goes. We need to fund them properly.”
Unsworth is in 100 per cent agreement with adding fluoride back into Calgary’s water.
He said if you look at the actual science and then talk with Calgary dentists, you quickly see what’s needed.
“Who’s this impacting? It’s going to impact the people that maybe can’t afford to go to the dentist,” he said.
The fact the 40 km/h speed limit issue was being considered for plebiscite blew Unsworth’s mind, he said. When you put in your address into the city’s drive time calculator and you see it has very little impact, he said the issue is a no-brainer. It’s something he supports.
What kind of city his daughter is going to grow up in
Unsworth said this run isn’t about him. It’s about his family, particularly his daughter.
He said he’ll show up at meetings, he’ll do his homework and he’ll represent the residents of Ward 13.
“This is something I feel that… this is doing the right thing and I’ve got a six year old daughter and I need to think about what kind of city she’s going to live in,” he said.
“And that’s important.”