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Your Neck of the Woods
47 minutes | Jun 16, 2021
015: Francis Aranha - Ward 2 Candidate
Who you are is always going to colour how you see the world and your vision for the future. Nowhere is this more relevant and truer than with Ward 2 candidate Francis Aranha. A first-generation Calgarian coming from India Francis is deeply passionate about helping his neighbours. So much so that he is making it a point to run as cost-conscious a campaign as possible to prove that you don’t need thousands of dollars to get your message out and make your city better.Francis is deeply rooted in his faith and we had a very unique conversation because the past year has made me re-evaluate and renew my own. Like myself, Francis is dedicated to practical solutions to make the lives of everyday people around him better. These include empowering young Calgarians, sporting small businesses, and more effective communication with constituents. You may note that these are all things I am very passionate about as well. Interestingly my guest and potential colleague today have a vested interest in our public transit system as he vows to take transit every day to the office if he is elected.Whether or not he’s successful in his election campaign Francis is someone I think we can all draw some inspiration from. In this is somebody who did not get into this race or any kind of personal gain or prestige but simply to make his community better. This is a person who goes to long-term care facilities and plays guitar for the elderly and other such things just to brighten people’s day. If we were all his community-minded, kind, and selfless as him while maintaining the work ethic demanded of a first-generation Calgarian by our society then Your Neck of the Woods would be a much brighter place and hopefully learning from him it can be in the future!
68 minutes | Jun 12, 2021
014: Gurbir Nijjar - Ward 3 Candidate
Full disclosure, this one took two tries because of some technical difficulties but it was definitely worth it. When you think of city services which ones do you think of as needs and which are just nice to have? This is one of the primary questions of today’s episode of Your Neck of the Woods. If you’ve worked on any decision-making body, you’ll be familiar with the concept of scope creep. This is the phenomenon that you start working on a few specific tasks or objectives and in the course of that work you stumble upon other tasks and objectives which lead to even more and on ad infinitum and told work you’re doing no longer resembles what you started out to do. Our guest Ward 3 candidate Gurbir Nijjar and I feel scope creep is rampant in city administration. We’d like to see an across-the-board review of programs, services and processes to see if they are running efficiently and accomplish and what they were intended to. Likely this will save money but it will also make the services that are doing what they should easier to run without the bloat from other parts of the organization. In the end, services that affect your everyday life like snow removal, waste management, and emergency services will be boosted while minimizing bureaucracy.At the same time, is recreation a core service? I certainly think so, these are places people gather to socialize and to come together and improve their health. One thing that we delve into today is the idea that city recreation is it parks, rec centres, outdoor rinks, or arts facilities can be a major factor in improving mental health outcomes in Calgary. As you know this is something I am quite passionate about after the year we’ve been through and this is an interesting perspective in addition to practical solutions to make seeking treatment easier.You all know I’m ambivalent regarding some aspects of the green line project and while I and Gurbir aren’t completely aligned in this particular issue it does have the potential to make parking in Calgary more convenient especially downtown. If we really do want to reduce costs which I know we do, the biggest part of the budget is roads and other related expenditures which we can control through having a more complete public transit system. Now, what that looks like we can certainly talk about because I don’t think the current solution is the best one but ultimately the question is what’s a core service in Your Neck of the Woods?
76 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
013: Jay Unsworth - Ward 13 Candidate
J’s are wild today on Your Neck of the Woods, we have a Jacob, a Jason, and our guest today Ward 13 candidate Jay Unsworth. Jay knows a lot about Your Neck of the Woods as he describes himself as a “proud Bownesian” before moving to Ward 13 with his family. Today’s episode is brought to you by the word trust, myself and Jay are absolutely passionate about restoring trust and communication between Council and Calgarians. One of the big takeaways I think is the difference between consultation, properly engaging citizens on an issue at hand, versus communication telling citizens what’s going to happen and how often current Council and Administration can confuse the two, eroding trust on any number of issues.The three of our inner Canadians shine brightly today as the analogy of an NHL General Manager with poor salary-cap management skills highlights the idea of city councils short-sighted financial decisions as well as an interesting dichotomy where people will be “armchair GM’s” so to speak when it comes to the game but sometimes less so when it comes to governance. The history of post-World War II construction is used to have a deeper conversation on densification and development; and we take a deep dive on capital projects talking about the difference between deep, enriching, informed dialogue and the unsettling trend to elevate the surface level information found on social media. Or “talking an inch wide and a mile deep versus an inch deep and a mile wide”.I’ve talked a lot on the show about fiscal responsibility but this episode touches on an interesting part of that for me. A balanced, responsible budget is always and should always be a primary goal. However, while staying in the black we have to be able to be aspirational, or as our guest put it “start saying yes again”. Anybody who knows me knows me as a pragmatist, there’s a difference between reckless spending and investment in city building. That’s an important piece of the discussion that I think is missing right now. If we want to bounce back and make Your Neck of the Woods a great place again, we have to find a place to say yes while making your dollars go further. From floods to food, historical zoning to The Simpsons, and smoked meat sandwiches to the Saddledome there is a lot to hear on this episode of Your Neck of the Woods!
70 minutes | Jun 5, 2021
012: Derek Williams - Ward 7 Candidate
We’re back to a trio on the show this episode as Jason and I sit down with born and raised Calgarian and Ward 7 candidate Derek Williams. Hailing from Montgomery Derek is an avid advocate for community building which made it especially prevalent to once again discuss the Greenline as well as the future of a downtown that will look very different post-Covid. Derek calls the Greenline a “no-brainer” and feels like we should have had shovels in the ground today.The conversation today dealt in no small part with the idea of balance. Whether that be balancing the investments in capital projects with the need to be fiscally responsible and sustainable, balancing the changing face of work with the existing commuter culture, or balancing and attracting new talent to our business sector without alienating existing residents. Speaking of attracting talent we discussed the current business climate in Calgary and whether we’re doing enough to make this an attractive place to start a business. Much of the data says that Calgary has an excellent business case but we are hearing more and more that talent is leaving; so, we dive into how to make Calgary a great city to live, work, and play in in the future.Part of that means properly engaging Calgarians on how they would like to see their communities move forward, something Derek and I agree the current city administration is falling short on. A one-size-fits-all, top-down engagement and planning strategy especially with a lack of consultation is a recipe not only for poor community building but needless controversy and distrust. This distrust is not confined to issues and projects but may also be an effect of incumbency and long-term careers in politics. If we want to move forward in our neck of the woods, we agreed that it’s probably time to turn down the temperature of rhetoric and start working together again. Let’s move forward and make our city more collaborative and it all starts in Your Neck of the Woods!
72 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
011: Evan Spencer - Ward 12 Candidate
Today’s episode of Your Neck of the Woods features another candidate from Ward 12, Evan Spencer. A resident of Mahogany for six years Evan says the neighbourhood feels like a home more than any place he’s ever lived. Spending the first several years of his vocational life as a pastor and more recently as a dedicated volunteer in his community Evan wants to emphasize the importance of “neighbouring” and grassroots movements to make the city better.A big part of the conversation this episode centres around rebuilding the trust in the city council that has been lost over the past several years, as well as the need to keep municipal politics as independent as possible instead of another platform to emphasize partisan ideology. Of course, it’s hard to talk to a Ward 12 candidate without discussing the Greenline, the costs, the perils, and ultimately what we both feel the future of the project will look like. This was a great jumping-off point into a discussion of inclusion in the city. Evan describes himself as “early on in his journey” understanding the struggles of various groups including those with disabilities like myself as well as other marginalized groups like people of colour. Now with his views transformed by recent experiences, he’s looking to make Calgary one of the most inclusive cities in Canada if not the world.One of the things that can have the biggest impact going forward as we’ve talked about before is densification and mixed-use communities. Evan and I discuss the need to do this in a smart, thoughtful way. We need to look at ways to properly engage citizens instead of telling them that this is the way things are going to be in their neck of the woods since densification projects will ultimately lead to more livable, affordable, and sustainable communities. From Covid to community to climate this was a conversation about the importance of fresh perspectives, coming together, building trust again, and making Your Neck of the Woods part of a world-class city of the future!
62 minutes | May 29, 2021
010: George Chahal - Ward 5 Councillor/Candidate
It’s a special episode of Your Neck of the Woods we have our first sitting city councillor and incumbent candidate, councillor for Ward 5 George Chahal! No Jason this week so I go one-on-one with George and we have a great discussion about the political discourse in the city, independence in municipal politics, third party political action groups, and the nature of campaigning at the municipal level versus other orders of government. Let me tell you after volunteering with my local MP it really is a different beast.In the issues, we tackle capital projects, Council transparency and the difficulties that entails when balancing protecting personal information as well as important proprietary project details while balancing communication with citizens. Together we delve into the economic challenges posed not only by Covid but the current economic downturn, and how we can move forward and build back Calgary into an economic powerhouse.It’s not all hardball on Your Neck of the Woods if you like food you’re probably going to like this episode! George and I take a deep dive into the dynamic, diverse, and extremely delicious food culture that is thriving not only in Ward 5 but across the city. No matter your cultural background or your tastes you’ll be able to find something you love to eat living in Calgary! With a number of incumbents either not seeking re-election or running for mayor, this is going to be an election of change. I was fascinated to hear George’s advice on both what to expect, the frame of mind to bring, and how to stay physically and mentally healthy for his future colleagues [hopefully including myself]. With times changing it’s always valuable to get the perspective of somebody who made choices that have shaped life in Your Neck of the Woods!
78 minutes | May 26, 2021
009: Lauren Herschel - Ward 11 Candidate
We’re taking another trip to Ward 11 in our series covering candidates from the races outside Ward 1. Today, myself and Jason sit down with Ward 11 candidate Lauren Herschel. After growing up just outside of Toronto Lauren has lived in Calgary for 15 years and has a wide variety of professional experiences that it was fascinating to learn about. Her life experience in the greater Toronto area led to a great discussion on the Green Line and public transit in general.In a subject not uncommon in our conversations with candidates across the city the importance of communication, clarity of information, and transparency was a big talking point. When you’re having a conversation with a Ward 11 candidate it’s hard not to talk about former Ward 11 counsellor turned mayoral candidate Jeromy Farkas, Jason and I get to Lauren’s thoughts on where she believes councillor Farkas has strengths and weaknesses as well as an interesting conversation on the difficulty of balancing drying distinctions with another figure and presenting your own vision.We talk about the ever-present issue that is the future of downtown Calgary, the importance of investing in the future and how this can potentially make large projects more affordable when you start them earlier. The successes and failures that the city has with regards to engagement; as well as the difficulty involved in doing proper engagement, what it means to manage the expectations of citizens and the importance of continuing to strive for accessibility something I am very passionate about for obvious reasons!Drawing on some recent news regarding the potential distribution of voter lists to candidates, including potentially problematic ones. An interesting topic is brought up regarding the security of personal information not only within the electoral process but with regards to city Council transparency. Today’s conversation gets some new perspectives on familiar topics and introduces some new angles to how you look at Your Neck of the Woods!
71 minutes | May 22, 2021
008: Mike LaValley - Ward 12 Candidate
Our election 2021 series highlighting candidates from raises outside Ward 1 continues this week as Jason and I sit down with Ward 12 candidate Mike Lavalley. Originally from a town on the border of Saskatchewan and Manitoba Mike moved to Calgary for work and now calls it his home. With Mike’s experience working for RBC the conversation easily moves to the importance of a renewed sense of fiscal responsibility beyond empty gestures talked about in election years, that is, after we briefly talk some Canadian football and his unfortunate fandom of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.As Mike points out it’s impossible to talk to a Ward 12 candidate without discussing the Green Line so we build off Jason and I’s discussion from last week, including some sensible ways to make the project more fiscally viable and ultimately get a closer to completion. Myself and Mike are both passionate about increasing transparency on city Council namely by reducing the amount of in camera closed sessions. These sessions can often lead to of vacuum of information to be filled with the worst-case scenario. This also highlights the important role of communication from our city councillor’s so that what is being talked about is clearer and that ultimately the goal should be to create less confusion. Not to mention, bringing a sense of decorum and respect back to Council where it’s becoming more and more absent in the face of a polarized political climate.In our discussion we also cover parking in the city, the future of downtown and what could draw more people to come outside working hours. From how we get around town to how we spend your tax dollars, to the importance of transparency and democracy and good government, there’s so much going on in your neck of the woods!
54 minutes | May 19, 2021
007: Green Line and GLAP
When you do a podcast covering politics and current events in a major city you have to be prepared to be flexible. Often the story will take twists and turns that you don’t expect. That’s why after the planning and urban development committee decided to make major changes with regards to the Guidebook for Great Communities, renaming it the Guide for Local Area Planning and then stripping it of its statutory status we had to cover what these unexpected developments and meant for the future of your neck of the woods both when it came to the future of development and the 2021 election.With the GL AP now off of Council’s plate for the foreseeable future, one of the next most important and also controversial projects in your neck of the woods is the Green Line LRT Jason and I discuss the significance of this multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project, its challenges, its successes, failures, and why hit still largely mysterious after several years of planning and partnerships with both the provincial and federal government.Our discussion touches on accessibility, flood mitigation, the best way to move the project forward in conjunction with the province and federal government, as well as what the completion of the project would mean for the future of travel and work in the city. It’s also interesting to compare the Green Line project with the Event Centre project with regards to why one has more public visibility than the other. Whether you love or hate these projects one thing is clear, both the GL AP and the Green Line will have a profound impact on what the future looks like in Your Neck of the Woods!
51 minutes | May 12, 2021
006: Event Centre
Chances are if you’ve spent a significant amount of time in Calgary whether you live here or maybe just come for Stampede you probably have memories in the Saddledome. Concerts, comedy shows, and of course major sporting events have been hosted at our arena since 1983. I can tell you some of the best memories I have growing up in Calgary are from events I went to at the Saddledome. Like a lot of us, I was swept up in the magic when the flames made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 [and technically won it, just saying] I have seen all three major sports tenants play for championships in the building, while I haven’t been to a concert, members of my family have and I have seen Amy Schumer perform at the Saddledome.Like many Calgary residents, however, I also know that major events are becoming fewer and far between at the dome. I can’t really blame major performers for skipping our city even if it is in favour of Edmonton when the roof can’t hold the proper number of speakers and sound and light equipment in a snowstorm in Canada. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d have to talk about the movement to replace the Saddledome as part of the show after all the papers were signed before we recorded the first episode. One of the interesting things about doing a current events podcast is that you have to be flexible.With the recent developments and delays in the Event Centre project as well as some revelations coming out recently about hidden costs potentially to taxpayers within the agreement, I felt like it was necessary to have a conversation about the Event Centre. Today, Jason and I will cover a brief history of the effort to replace the Saddledome, cover what exactly is in the agreements that were signed in 2019, a public benefit for taxpayer dollars, and whether with Covid, the economic climate, and these current delays we can still afford that this project. Let’s dive into the effort to bring big events back to Your Neck of the Woods!
37 minutes | May 5, 2021
005: Kourtney Branagan - Ward 11 Candidate
As we all know the 2021 election is one of the biggest things happening in Your Neck of the Woods this year. While we can agree that this podcast is focused on Ward 1 whoever represents this Ward will have to work with 14 other people. That’s why Jason and I have committed to highlighting candidates from the other races in the election. This will also bring a wide range of perspectives to the show. After all, Your Neck of the Woods is meant to be a conversation.This week Jason and I sit down with Ward 11 candidate Kourtney Branagan to get her perspectives on running to replace mayoral candidate, and polarizing figure in the Calgary political scene Jeromy Farkas. I ask Kourtney some of her views on making the Council more collaborative and we both share our thoughts on urban sprawl and development in the city, even getting into a quick debate on the Guidebook for Great Communities. Listen and see what myself, and Ward 11 candidate Kourtney Branagan think of what’s going on in Your Neck of the Woods!
46 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
004: Budgets and Finances
There’s an old saying that says you can only count on two things in life; death and taxes. Well, when it comes to politics, I’m pretty sure we can all agree you can only count on the second one. Taxes pay for a lot of things; this is especially prevalent at the city level. City services like garbage collection, snow removal, road maintenance, among many, many other things. For a long time, we were pretty spoiled in Calgary, commodity prices made it so that the tax base from the downtown office towers made up a good portion of revenue. For the last five years, we haven’t been so lucky, this has given rise to a movement seeking to shift the tax burden to homeowners. Ultimately as long as city services are kept has what we deemed to be an acceptable level all of us want to pay as little tax as possible. That’s why this week we had the pleasure of welcoming in another guest.Joining Jason and I’s talk this week is Franco Terrazzano Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Franco, Jason, and I discuss whether the tax shift movement is even asking the right question to Calgarians or whether regardless of who’s footing the bill spending power is affected. Is it time to start asking what things we pay for our essentials and which are simply nice to have? Do we need to build every single capital project or art installation on the docket? City reserves are for a rainy day does it really get any rainier than the hurricane we are in right now?These are questions that need answers now, well they needed answers before but it’s time to find the answers. Not to mention the complete lack of leadership and compassion showed in City Hall to make sacrifices themselves when so many of us are struggling. Multiple pensions and some of the highest salaries in the country are not the examples to set when others are struggling to put food on the table, or at least that’s my take. These dollars and cents at the end of the day affect what it’s like to live in Your Neck of the Woods!
49 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
003: Crime and Policing
Tonight, on COPS: oops I mean Your Neck of the Woods we’re proud to welcome our first guest to the conversation! Mike Baker is the vice president of the Calgary Police Association and a veteran of the Calgary Police Service. What a time to talk to him, our brave men and women in the police service or under so much scrutiny [some deserved some not] and very few media outlets seem to want to have an honest dialogue with the person behind the badge. That’s exactly what you get here.Myself, Mike, and Jason cover a wide range of issues including community policing initiatives like School resource officers and mental health and wellness checks, police funding, militarization, department training, even the role of pop culture in glamourizing crime and the effect of perception from the United States. Lately, we’ve heard a lot about defunding the police, in Calgary specifically from groups like Defund 2 Fund, but too few people are asking what that actually means. Why are we not talking about reducing the number of interactions police have as the default service especially when it comes to mental health, addiction, things police officers isn’t necessarily the best equipped to handle? Why aren’t we doing more to understand why tactical gear is important to the police service, because there’s history there?Instead of absorbing narrative from the United States, let’s have our own honest, balanced conversation. All the questions above are important because without context we end up demonizing people who dedicate their lives to keep us safe. Let’s tackle these issues together and hear the voice of someone helping to keep Your Neck of the Woods a secure, vibrant place to live and have some fun doing it!
31 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
002: Mental Health
I don’t know about you but I’ve found this last year to be quite a challenge from a mental health standpoint. What’s strange is this isn’t a new issue between the opioid epidemic, and the economic downturn in Alberta this is something that’s been going on in your neck of the woods for quite a long time. Covid and the isolation that has come along with it has merely emphasized how underprepared we are to deal with a friend or loved one in mental health crisis.Today Jason and I talk about the impact of Covid on our mental health and those around us. How often times it’s difficult to know where to begin when you or somebody you love me and help, common flaws in approaches we see like creating meaningless frameworks and action strategies, and how mental health needs to be seen as a way of improving overall health taking pressure off our crisis-based system.We discuss how practical steps could be taken at the city level to reduce the number of people in crisis and how we can remove financial insecurity as a barrier. It’s one thing to know where to start when you realize you need help but you need to be able to afford to get that help and the space needs to be available. This is an issue that affects all of us, many times on a personal level and so often practical solutions are papered over in favour of words and pronouncements from the government whether that be federally, provincially, or from city Council.At the same time, we also discuss of food drive that will be covering Northwest Calgary this spring so that we can do some good for the many thousands of us that need it! Remember, there’s always something good happening in your neck of the woods!
27 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
001: Meet the Hosts
Welcome to Your Neck of the Woods with Jacob McGregor. In this podcast, we are going to discuss issues and events in Northwest Calgary and the city as a whole. I started this podcast with my friend Jason Diodati because I noticed a lack of communication from our city Councillor and awareness of things going on in our community, I’m looking to bridge that gap as I run for City Council myself. Your Neck of the Woods is meant to be a conversation between myself, Jason, our guests and hopefully you!This is something I find sorely lacking at all levels of political discussion and I want and do my part of the change. This episode will introduce you to me and Jason and to the conversational style we hope to bring to many issues. I have my bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Calgary and have spent a good chunk of my life volunteering in the disability community, with the city of Calgary, and with the Calgary Rocky Ridge Conservative Association. I hope to bring a solution-focused lens to the things we talk about. No virtue signalling, and no shouting down the other person in the room. As a Calgarian with a disability, I also hope to lend a unique perspective and know that honest communication is the first step to getting things done.Jason was a high school classmate of mine and has his criminal justice degree from Mount Royal University. This combined with his business experience as Gen. manager in the cannabis industry gives him a wide knowledge base on a number of topics. As somebody who has known him for a long time, his infectious personality makes recording the show a joy! Today, you’ll start to get to know us and hopefully want to walk the path with this as we learn more about Calgary and the people who live in it. Politics will be a major part of what you hear but I hope you’re also entertained as you learn what’s happening in Your Neck of the Woods!
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