On Monday, Calgary residents went to the polls and elected their first female mayor, Jyoti Gondek — a former Manitoban.
“I moved to Manitoba from London, England, in 1973 with my mom and dad and my grandparents,” Gondek told 680 CJOB.
“We moved into St. Vital — I lived at 76 Ashworth St. We moved around in St. Vital and St. Boniface, then we lived in Neepawa, and we lived in Portage and we lived in Brandon … and I moved back to Winnipeg before heading out to Alberta in ’96.”
As Calgary’s first woman in the mayoral seat, Gondek follows outgoing mayor Naheed Nenshi as a racialized Albertan in the job. Nenshi served in the role for more than a decade.
To Calgary’s north, in Edmonton, another first: Amarjeet Sohi, an immigrant from India, is that city’s first mayor of South Asian descent.
Gondek said the election results are a step in a positive direction for the province.
“It’s really significant that we normalize the idea that women and people of colour can hold leadership positions, especially in places like Alberta where we have this stereotype of not being diverse,” she said.
“That stereotype is actually false, so I’m really happy to see the diversity reflected in our local governments.”
Gondek said one of the challenges Calgary faces is downtown vacancies and finding ways to encourage talent and businesses to make use of those empty spaces — and attract young workers to the city and province.
“I think it’s significant to understand what young professionals, in particular, are looking for when it comes to being employed in the labour force,” she said.
“What I’ve heard from a lot of people in our city is that they’re looking for meaningful employment — something that feels like they’re actually making a difference.
“The struggle that we’ve had as a city is that we had artificially high income levels for such a long period of time that we are just starting to get used to the fact that an entry-level position will get you an entry-level salary.
“That’s something I was really used to when I left Winnipeg, and Calgary had that really buoyant economy. We’re just coming down to reality right now, but the big thing is to make sure that we’ve got work that’s relevant to people.”
Gondek will be sworn in as mayor on Monday.
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