A dozen people, some holding signs reading “Recall Mayor Gondek,” lined the sidewalk in front of Calgary City Hall on Saturday, encouraging others passing by to sign a petition to oust her from office.
Holding a notebook with signed names was CJ Fietz, an 81-year-old woman who expressed frustration with the city’s recent tax decisions, including a 7.8 percent property tax increase.
“Mine went up to $60 a month,” Fietz said, adding that the increase has been even greater after the city also increased its property values, a common characteristic among other municipalities.
“I have a fixed income. This is really insulting to me. Because then I’ll have to cut back somewhere else.”
He also criticized the city’s climate initiatives, one of which was the approval of an $87 billion strategy that, a recent report shows, has made little progress in reducing emissions.
“(Remembering Mayor Jyoti Gondek) will keep me from wasting money,” Fietz said. “My God, she’s spending, spending, spending.”
The petition was filed by Landon Johnston, a 13-year Calgary resident and owner of an HVAC company.
Johnston said he came up with the idea one Friday night after becoming frustrated with the single-use ordinance, which charged a customer 15 cents for paper bags.
The bylaw, which the city council has since voted to repeal, was the “last straw” for Johnston.
“She’s the face of the town,” Johnston said. “She’s supposed to bring people together. She’s supposed to keep the council together. She is supposed to be that key person. And this is a job performance review. And right now she is failing at her job: people are not happy with her.”
Since then, the petition has captured the imagination of many Calgarians dissatisfied with the mayor’s performance. Critics say the reaction It is part of a broader objection to the progressive initiatives of center-left leaders, which people perceive through their cost implications.
The disappointment has been reflected in Mayor Gondek’s approval rating, which has fallen to 30 percent, one of the lowest in recent history. Those who disapprove the most appear to be older men who predominantly live in established communities and households with incomes above $125,000, according to a recent survey by ThinkHQ.
Recent densification bylaws, including the elimination of exclusive single-family zoning, have also drawn criticism from Calgarians in older neighbourhoods.
On some occasions, the reaction has taken on a sexist tone. Gondek said in a recent interview that someone told him that “climate activists have been able to get into his underwear.” People have also shown up at his house, and in one case, a man left a latex horse head and an anti-vaccine sticker outside his house.
A protester outside City Hall told Postmedia on Saturday: “(Gondek) acts like she’s the queen of a castle, but she’s not.”
“They feel like you’re an object, not a human being, and that you’re somehow their property because you’re an elected official,” Gondek said in a recent Globe and mail interview.
The petition is unlikely to be successful, Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, told Postmedia in a recent interview.
“It won’t pass, and it won’t even come close to passing, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have some value,” Bratt said.
Johnston said raising awareness about the issue is the purpose of the petition.
“Even if it was just one here and I got 10 signatures, I would still do it,” Johnston said. “Because I am passionate about what I believe. And my mom told me, if you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall in love with anything.”
The mayor suggested at a news conference Tuesday that Calgarians who have concerns with local government contact council first.
“If you haven’t necessarily engaged with a council member and you’re moving toward a recall without understanding where their position was on something, I find that a little strange,” he said.