Monday, August 30, 2010

Coffee With Calgary Mayoral Candidate Barb Higgins

  I was shocked and surprised at the online response and reaction to a post that I did last week about Barb Higgins lack of social media use!  This post ( link here if you want to read it) turned out to be one of my most read links ever.  It really must be a testament to the candidates popularity or the demand that the public has to learn more about her political views.  Either way, I was really shocked when I saw that Ms. Higgins left a comment and a Tweet ( yes...a Tweet!) asking to go for coffee to chat about this post.

   After some buzz on twitter about this potential meeting, I set up a coffee with Barb on Saturday morning in my neighborhood.  I was not sure why someone of Barb's stature would take the time to meet with a nobody blogger, but I was impressed with her initiative.  Many candidates do not even read the Calgary political blogs ( at their and it is pretty rare to get a direct response from one of them, let alone a request to meet in person to discuss the blog post in question.  I joked with Barb on Saturday that my wife said I should text her to make sure everything is OK, in case Barb was setting me up for a good old fashioned beat down for the comments I made in my previous post, which she thought was hilarious!

  I must admit that in person Barb is quite easy to talk to and her looks are very deceiving.  She is known for her bubbly personality and is quite upbeat, but in my opinion she really is one tough lady!  Barb politely called me out on some of the comments on my post as she had a few issues with some of the things I had said, and wanted to make sure that she was able to tell me in person.  Barb understood after meeting me that I am not some negative cave dweller that just slanders people and is cranky 24/7!  I explained that most of my posts are sarcastic and that most of my regular readers ( all twelve of them, thank you....) do understand this.  She figured as much, but still thought it was important that she set the record straight on some of the things in my post.

  Barb really took issue with the fact that I hinted that she belongs to the "Mount Royal/Rideau Park" Elite, ( which in all truth, I was sarcastically referring to the area where most of her financial backers are rumoured to live.) Barb confirmed that she in fact lives in the Beltline and comes from a modest, middle class background.  She humbly made sure that I understood that any success she has had was gained through hard work and the support of her friends, family and co-workers over the years.  We even joked about her car when we left, as I complimented her on her Convertible, which she jokingly made sure I knew was a used model that is over 8 years old.  I do believe that Barb is quite humble so I can understand why she was frustrated with my "Elite" comments.

  Barb also confirmed that her Twitter use is in fact a work in progress.  She explained that once she quit her job at CTV, a post she held for over 20 years, she needed some time to get organized after jumping head first into the campaign.  She said that she wants to "do it right" and has been easing into the social media minefield, which really is a new medium for her.  I can respect that as you want to ensure that you learn to use Twitter properly to its full potential.  Again, I explained that the "great communicator" blurbs were aimed at sarcasm. 

 She confirmed again that she will be releasing all of her platform and ideas after Labour Day, which she really is sticking to.  After this date, she anticipates a more interactive Twitter account ( although she is now following 43 people on Twitter, up from just 2 last week.) which is good news for Calgarians that want to learn about her ideas.  I was impressed that Barb also asked me about my personal views on certain issues and she explained some of her vision and she seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I am hoping to set up a video interview with her next month to chat more.

  I am glad that I survived the coffee with my legs intact and that based on Barb's follow up tweet, she realized that I am "not a cranky pants in person"!   

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  1. I'm glad you had a chance to get to know Barb better! We all think we "know" her through her last job, however, we really know nothing about her or of her political views for that matter. I'm quite interested to see what she has to say. I think it would be great for a woman to be the Mayor of Calgary! But....we must see where she stands first.

  2. Awesome Shane. Hopefully she didn't bully you into dropping the sarcasm!

  3. Thanks for posting your journalistic follow through!

  4. Sweet, Im glad she sat down with you. I've been facebook messaging here for a couple weeks and she responds to me everytime. She's got my vote!
    Mark Graham

  5. Barb is trying really hard Shane, but can she get the EXPERIENCE it takes in just a few weeks? Impossible! And I don't want to vote for Bronconnier who I have heard from numberous sources is really the puppet master. My vote is still going with the experience and track record that McIver has.

  6. Good on Higgins for initiating the meeting based on your post, and good on you for being a good sport and attending with an open mind.

    This is a good case study of how social media can work in politics to the benefit of all involved. You get a bump in readership and a bit of a kick out of meeting her, she gets a more friendly relationship with a good local blogger.

  7. I agree with Anon. Barb is trying hard but just doesn't have the experience with budgets, forecasting and a myriad of other leadership skills necessary to manage a city of this size. My vote is for Wayne Stewart.

  8. Wow! This speaks volumes about Barb.

  9. Shane, sarcasm is very easily misinterpreted, and can sometimes lead to very destructive consequences. Not that it hurts the one who is sarcastic, but it can damage peoples reputation/public perception. Be very careful man. somneday this urge to be sarcastic could bite you where the sun don't shine.

  10. I haven't made up my mind yet, but there's definitely a problem with the "no experience" argument: it's bollocks.

    Everyone on the council now has "experience" and things still take forever to vote on, or get routinely passed into sub-committees so that nobody has to take a stand with their vote.

    Why would I want to elect "more of the same"?

  11. Her only lack of experience seems to be specifically associated with TWITTER and other online social forums. Surely she won't be faulted simply for not being glued to her computer 24/7? As far as leadership skills, one has only to look back over the last 21 years to see how active she has been in the public face and with numerous political and private groups. Since coming to the fore of the public eye, she has kept herself incredibly busy working for the betterment of our communities and those affiliated associations.

    We should count ourselves very lucky that she has dedicated her life to us.

  12. I just wanted to say I am happy to see a person with ethics is actually running in a political race! We don't see that very often any more. Barb, I really hope you are successful because at least I know you will do your best to do the right thing.
    I also want to say one thing about Ric Miciver... He was my communities representative and accomplished nothing for us! He was even too weak to communicate regarding the issues at hand. What makes people think he will accomplish anything as Mayor!? The citizens need to know this and yet how do we put it out there? It took him over 3 years to get one shuttle bus to our new community. We had to drive our children to and from school because of it and he did nothing about it! We have raised issues regarding the new hospital construction and how it has affected our community and for 2 1/2 years he did nothing about it. He does not deserve this position! He only cares about having his picture and name in the news! We don't need someone like that as a leader!
    good luck Barb, you have my vote and I am trying to spread the word!

  13. Reading the interview with the Gauntlet, seems she has no clue what students are going through. Took a while getting back to them, ignored other request at other venues for interviews. I agree, Bronconier is the puppet behind her running. It would be nice to have someone with new perspective, but driven by who? McIver seems more suited.