Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra hits the campaign trail
In an age when we work, interact with our friends, and even meet new people largely from behind a luminescent computer screen, the proposition of marching up to a strangers door just to see if there is anything they feel like talking about most likely sounds terrifying to the average person.
It definitely requires a thick skin, and that becomes clear on a Sunday evening door-knocking session through the southeast neighborhood of Acadia with Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra.
It's a gorgeous September night and Carra is hitting the streets with a team of five door-knockers. A brief organizational meeting is held first at Carra's home in Inglewood, where the newest team members learn how to use the campaign iPads.
One member of his team is Tony Ferenato.
"I supported Gian-Carlo in 2010, and I still support him now," Ferenato says. "He said he was going to do something and he did it."
Then it's off to the races. Carra wants to get in a solid four-hour shift this evening, and plans to hoof it through Acadia from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.
"The plan is to go door-knocking seven days a week [until the election]," Carra says.
He plans to do roughly four hours each weekday, and two different four-hour long shifts on the weekends–– one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
When asked why he plans to commit so much time to knocking on the doors of his constituents, Carra is adamant that it is one of the most important things an elected representative can do.
"It connects you directly with the people you are serving," he says.
Door knocking represents a huge time commitment, and Carra has little time to spare.
"I've sort of realized that there are some pros and some cons that go along with being an incumbent," Carra says. "Namely that I've still been working as alderman during this campaign."
"I'm also a dad now," Carra says. "It's hard to make the time to pencil out."
Nonetheless, Carra is taking no shortcuts.
This particular Sunday he dutifully walks the streets of Acadia with his team for the planned four hours. The team leapfrogs efficiently from one house to the next, careful to hit every house on the block. If no one answers, the team leaves a pamphlet on the door handle.
Carra brings up the rear, jogging up to any resident who wants to talk to him. He seems to particularly enjoy talking to non-supporters or anyone who is on the fence about re-electing him.
"Some people are willing to talk to you and listen, and some just don't even want to hear what you have to say," Carra says.
After having a door slammed unceremoniously in his face on the first street of the night, Carra is anything but deterred, marching on to one house after another.
The most prevalent issue of the night, among supporters as well as those wishing to give Carra a piece of their mind, is a certain $52 million that some Calgarians feel should have been returned to taxpayers.
Walking up the path to one Acadian home, a black lab barks in the window.
The homeowner calms his dog and comes out to speak to Carra. The $52 million comes up.
Carra explains the issue — the councilors faced a very difficult decision over what to do with the $52 million that was left over once the provincial government had completed its very austere budget for the year.
Carra says he understands that there are certain Calgarians for whom a tax break of about $100, which is approximately what the money would have amounted to per person if returned, would be a significant amount of money.
However, more importantly he says, "We've inherited a city that we absolutely cannot afford."
Carra is referring to the $14 billion in infrastructure debt that the city has incurred.
"We subsidized growth that doesn't cover itself," Carra says. "That's why our taxes are always going up, and we seem to be seeing less and less service for it."
Carra clarifies the issue for this homeowner who says, "What you guys need to do is explain it to the public better, you guys haven't done a good job explaining it."
Some people were not as willing to listen to Carra's explanation.
Earlier on the same block, one resident lost his temper, calling Carra a "thief" and threatening to call the police if Carra and his team didn't leave his property.
For Carra, it's just par for the course.
"Non-supporter," he says dryly as he walks calmly on to the next house."
When 8 p.m. hits, the team packs it in, not wishing to disturb families as they get young kids ready for bed.
While driving back to his Inglewood home, Carra discusses being one of the rare councilors who actually lives in the ward he represents.
Though his campaign team tells him to emphasize this, he doesn't see it as key to his success.
"My belief is that this city really needs people who are highly qualified for the job first and foremost," Carra says. "Secondarily, if they have deep-seated roots in the community, that's an added bonus."
"I actually am a candidate that represents the best of both worlds."
- By OLIVIA GRECU