Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview With Calgary Ward 11 Alderman Candidate Ernest McCutcheon

  I hope that this first of what I hope to be a wide ranging series of quick interviews with local candidates that are running in the upcoming Calgary 2010 Municipal Election.  In the past, our local MSM has shown that they typically do not have the capacity ( or interest)  in focusing on all of the local candidates!  During these interviews I will ask each candidates a series of questions and have them answer them....unfiltered.  Unless specified, I do not endorse any of the candidates interviewed and only use the interview as a method to share the candidates views.  

 This interview is with Ernest McCutcheon, a candidate in Ward 11. 

  1) I grew up in Ward 11 also. Apart from the SW Ringroad...What do you think is the biggest issue facing the voters of Ward 11?

  EM:  The SW ring road is going to be a large issue over the next couple of years especially since other sections of the road throughout Calgary have now been approved, are in progress or have been finished. With the city growing, the congestion in the SW is only going to get worse. I wish I had a great answer as to what option is needed or is the best solution. Unfortunately, I don’t and will be the first to admit that (I don’t believe in giving an answer unless I know the answer). What I do know is that something needs to be done and fast. The solution should have the least negative impact on the residents, the environment and be cost effective (these three items have to go hand in hand with all being weighed equally). It comes down to planning. If we keep trying to put a patch on the problem, it will only cost more and be more difficult in the long run. I have tried to find solid cost estimates on the options and the information is pretty thin. The other options such as widening 14th street don’t make much sense to me either. While it may be an option in the future, I think it would need to be looked at after the ring road is finished. From a purely common sense point of view, if you widen 14th to get more people on the road you still have to get them off and the Glenmore access is pretty much full. So after you widen 14th do you then make more changes to Glenmore?

  As for other issues.... When talking to people, I always ask what they think. I know what I think, and I know what the media says but for me, what is truly important is what the residents think. The top items people mention are spending and accountability.

  I think we need to get back to basics. Though the city can’t ever be a business (and shouldn’t be), there is no reason the city council can’t take lessons from businesses. Businesses have to be fiscally responsible and look for efficiencies every day or they won’t be around very long. They can’t just go back to their customers and demand more but rather must find a way to be better and more effective. I am not advocating job cuts, but I am advocating that city hall needs to be as efficient as possible. City hall grows every year but services do not seem to improve as much. We need evaluate the budget rather than increase it every year as done in the past. Imagine the amount of money we could save if the spend it or lose it mentality was removed. Einstein said the definition of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This is what our city council has been doing! City Council needs to remember that the budget is not their playtoy, it is our money, yours and mine! We paid taxes and deserve to have it be spent responsibly.

Accountability is becoming a hot topic. In my opinion, this is as it should be because for far too long we have had a council that is accountable only every three years. When elected to public office, people seem to forget that they are there to represent all the people of the ward, not just the special interests or their own personal items. I think that the “in-camera” meetings need to be reduced. When there is a definite privacy issue or a security concern that is one thing, but without public scrutiny you can’t have effective government. If there is to be meetings behind closed doors, there needs to be some method of determining if it was necessary. And if not, then the records need to be made public immediately. This would allow people to question the decisions their representative makes.

2) What local volunteer work have you done in Ward 11? How have you reached out to the constituents in your ward?

EM: Tough question and one I am embarrassed to say I am lacking in. For the last number of years we have been running a small business and that has resulted in 12 hour work days on average. This is not meant as an excuse, but rather as a fact of life that when the recession hit I had to buckle down to survive with a fledgling business that was just getting off the ground. Before that, I was involved in the church I attended and traveled with a group to Uganda to build a playground and help at a school.

As for reaching out, I want to try and meet every person. I have tried to get in touch with all of the community associations and have had mixed responses. Some are excited about hearing from new people, others appear disinterested and some are happy with the status quo not seeing a need for change.
3) Campaigns take a lot of time, volunteers and money. I always respect people that put their name forward for elections. What made you decide that the time was right to run in 2010? Are you having a hard time finding volunteers? If not, where are they coming from?
EM: The decision to run came from some careful prodding of people I respect. My wife and I sat down and discussed the decision as we were expecting a new baby and I wanted to make sure that this was something she felt we could and needed to do. Family is important and often times it is too easy to get caught up with other things and forget that. So after many long conversations, we decided it was the right thing to do and the right time. Calgary is a wonderful city to live and work in. I have spent a lot of time in other cities across the prairies and have traveled throughout the US and have yet to find a nicer city. However, I think Calgary can be even better and I want to help make it so. I want to stand up and be counted, because if I don’t who will? We have so many people who are in city politics for their own agenda and themselves, forgetting that government is for the people. I have watched our municipal government over the past few years and cringed at what was happening. It wasn’t until someone told me to do something about it that I started to realize that I needed to stand up and not just be another person who sat back to complain, unwilling to step up and try and make the change.

  We are slowly finding people who want to help. I think people are tired; there are so many demands on their time but many are willing to find the time because they crave change as much as I do. As we meet more people, we are finding even more people willing to contribute their time which is great. Until the team fills up, I am going to do whatever needs to be done. That means that most days it is early morning with research and such, business hours is working on our business, late afternoon is phone calls, evening is doing campaign work and meetings. I finish my day by spending an hour or so with my wife and new daughter and then to bed. Sundays is my no work, no politics day. It is the day I reserve for family, that is the deal I have with my wife, and I don’t want to disturb people on a Sunday. We all work hard and need at least one day to spend as we choose, whether with family or friends. I am looking forward to meeting even more people who can respect my dedication to the campaign and hopefully the base of volunteers will start growing quickly.

4) Tell me why you would make a better Alderman than the incumbent? Also, what is the biggest mistake that Pincott has made as Alderman?

EM: I live in Ward 11. I believe that if you are going to represent a group or community, you should be part of that community. Because of this, the issues facing this ward are also the issues that I face personally as a resident. I think that it is important for the constituents to realize that the decisions that I would make as an alderman therefore also impact me. Twice it was suggested that I run elsewhere, but in both cases my response was simple: I want to represent the people I live with. I have received a lot of positive feedback regarding this choice I have made. Being a resident of Ward 11 when running for the position of alderman seems to be something that is important to people in the communities and that speaks volumes to me.

  I am conservative leaning. I believe in smaller government and agree with the statement that as government grows freedoms shrink. I think that when spending money the question has to be asked, “If this was my last dollar is this where I would spend it?” City council needs to have a touchstone of some sort. Today they don’t seem to. As I have said before and will continue to say, the money the city spends is not theirs it is ours, the residents of Calgary.

  I am not a special interests person, I think we need to care for our environment, but there are many other considerations as well. The arts are important but so are having the streets cleaned and the budget balanced. We need to work with residents and businesses to make our city better. There doesn’t need to be this ongoing battle between business and residents. When business is successful they hire more people, pay better and support important cultural things such as the arts. For me, this appears to be a good thing. We need to make our city attractive to both business and people.

  I want to be of service, this is a desire I have always had. When I was 17, I joined the reserves. Two years later, I chose to leave deciding that my family needed me more than the reserves. I had joined because of my desire to serve our country and I still think that it is one of the greatest callings to serve others in any capacity. I view politics as another opportunity to serve; an opportunity to serve Ward 11, the city of Calgary, the province of Alberta and Canada as a whole.

5) As the incumbent, Pincott would seem to have a huge fundraising advantage over your campaign? How do you plan to fundraise? Do you think a lack of funds may hinder local campaigns?

EM:  I think that the incumbents have an advantage simply because they are already in the position that we are all vying for. Those being said, if you plan properly, work with the people and work hard that shouldn’t be an obstacle that cannot be overcome. My team and I are contacting people we know (both individuals and businesses) and putting the word out that we want to be a positive voice of reason and change. One of the areas we are looking at trying to beef up is finding people to get involved in the fundraising (Interested???).

  As you will have noticed that I am pretty straight forward. If I don’t know something I am going to say so. We all have different opinions and that is what makes us great. I want people to vote for me not because I tell them what they want to hear but because they like who I am and what I stand for. We need people to stand up and say, “This is what I think and this is what I stand for!” Otherwise we are lost. Too often people who are in power or want to get in power will say what people want to hear, but I won’t do that. I would much prefer that people disagree with me so that we can have a frank, respectful conversation where we can express our views and be open to the other’s point of view.

 You can reach Ernest at his website at 


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  1. This post will change the media in Calgary forever.

  2. Thank you Shane, I found this to be very interesting. Great questions and well thought out answers.

    I was in Ward 4 but with the changes in boundaries am now in Ward 7 so hopefully you will be doing the same thing with the Ward 7 candidates.

  3. I love this post also, and can't wait for more to come. People always talk about the obscurity of politics, and this is one great way to learn about the players.

  4. As a Ward 7 resident with limited internet skills I am having a tough time finding out who's running in this ward and ABOVE ALL else a CONTACT info sheet for them. How can we contribute if they don't speak out. Blogging is for a certain generation and you are missing many voters. Jill

  5. All I read in this interview is blah blah blah. Nothing concrete and nothing with any depth of though by this candidate.

    And he has never volunteered with his community? I think this disqualifies him immediately. He has no idea how things really work.