Chris Harper and Ward Sutherland battle for seat left empty by Hodges
Chris Harper and Ward Sutherland are two headlining candidates in a battle for the Ward 1 city council seat left vacant by the retiring Dale Hodges.
Harper, a 32-year-old senior human resources and managerial consultant, came in second to Hodges in the last civic election in 2010 and insists that experience taught him what it would take to win the seat this time.
"Door knocking cannot be underestimated," says Harper as he sits in a local coffee shop before heading to a campaign meeting.
"That is something that we learned in our first election and that we really have sort of compounded in this election."
Harper says he feels passionately that it's time for the younger generation to step up and take an active role in shaping the communities of Ward 1, even resigning from his job so that he could campaign full time leading up to election night.
From meeting with citizens, Harper feels the top priorities for his riding consist of an already approved rec centre in Rocky Ridge as well as attracting investment into current facilities in some of the more established communities.
In addition to door knocking, the young upstart candidate has also been very active with Twitter, Facebook and blogging to reach out to the constituency.
Ward 1 comprises a large section of Calgary's northwest quadrant and includes communities such as Bowness, Cougar Ridge, University Heights and Tuscany and was represented by Dale Hodges for the last 30 years.
After announcing his retirement this fall, Hodges gave his endorsement to Ward Sutherland, a 52-year-old independent financial advisor and, most recently, president of Rocky Ridge Royal Oak Community Association.
Sutherland touts his 25 years plus of experience with large companies, such as Sony Canada, in senior management roles, and the thumbs up from the outgoing alderman as the reason he is best suited to represent Ward 1."Being the new name and the new face doesn't hurt because there is no incumbent."
— David Taras, political science expert
"If you are leaving like Dale Hodges," says Sutherland from his campaign offices in Bowness, "he's doing it simply because he thinks I'm the most qualified individual and his vested interest is he is still going to live in Ward 1."
Recently, one of the other candidates for the Ward 1 seat – Dan Larabie – dropped out of the race, putting his support behind Sutherland.
Sutherland champions his platform that highlights fiscal accountability with taxpayer money at City Hall and improvement of transportation in the hopes of attracting votes.
Low turnout expected
According to David Taras, communications professor at Mount Royal University and political science expert, voter turnout for this election where there is no real big mayoral race could see dramatically low numbers – 20 to 25 percent – as opposed to last election where 53 per cent of voters cast their ballots.
With expected voter apathy, Taras says door knocking, boots on the ground, getting to know supporters and get them out to the polls will be crucial to secure the majority of a small group of voters.
"Being the new name and the new face doesn't hurt because there is no incumbent," he says.
"Some might say 'here's somebody who's with it, and who's new and can do the new media, he's not one of the old guys,'" says Taras in regards to Harper.
Age and experience
Sutherland says he hopes voters will identify with his experience in business and in the community as the reason he should be elected as their voice on council.
Ward 1 Statistics:
"My pitch is simple: Look at my background. Do you want to take a chance with someone who is going to talk about what they are going to do, or do you want to take a chance with someone who actually has results," Sutherland says.
Harper says he feels age won't hurt his chances.
"I feel that it's more about the impacts you have as opposed to the duration of how long you've attempted to do things," he says.
The election takes place Oct. 21 with advanced polls on Oct. 9-13, 15-16.
- By GEOFF CRANE