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Calgary mayoral candidates challenged over stance on arena on 2017 nomination day

WATCH ABOVE: Calgary mayoral candidates speak to media after filing papers to run for mayor.

Incumbent mayor Naheed Nenshi arrived at city hall on the 2017 municipal election nomination day on a new, four-car C-Train with a group of supporters in tow.

FULL COVERAGE: Calgary election 2017

“People care about things like taxes and transit,” Nenshi told reporters when asked if he felt he was running against Gary Bettman as much as he is against other mayoral candidates. “They care about a better economy. They care about being safe in their communities. They care about making city hall work better.

“All the rest [is] kind of a distraction.”

But the arena issue is on the minds of Nenshi’s challengers.

“The reason we’re in this position right now is because there’s a failure of leadership,” competitor Bill Smith said. “We have a mayor that won’t deal fairly with anybody. You look at contemporary art, you look at Calgary Sports and Entertainment group, and we see the same things happening time and time again.”

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Smith declined to answer questions from reporters as to whether he believes the city’s arena offer was reasonable.

“I’m not going to talk about the numbers until I see what the Flames have to say and we will talk about it then.”

Watch below:  Incumbent Naheed Nenshi arrived at city hall on a four-car blue line train from the northeast Monday morning

READ MORE: Calgary election 2017: Candidates running for mayor and council

WATCH: Loren Falkenberg with the Haskayne School of Business joins Global Calgary to discuss the risks of negotiating a new arena in public, rather than behind closed doors.

The risks of negotiating a new arena in public
The risks of negotiating a new arena in public

City councillor-turned-mayoral candidate Andre Chabot also placed responsibility for the arena being an election issue on the shoulders of Nenshi.

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“I think the mayor made it an election issue. It probably would not have been. I think it’s an important piece for Calgary. It’s something I believe is going to be beneficial for the city, but I still don’t believe property tax dollars should be used to finance it.”

Fiscally conservative Chabot was one of the earliest competitors to declare his run against Nenshi, announcing his intention in March 2017. Smith is also conservative, but Chabot is unconcerned about any potential vote splitting.

“I think if anyone’s splitting the vote, it’s Bill,” Chabot told reporters. “Not that I’m suggesting that I should be entitled to anything, but I believe I have the right experience, knowledge and understanding of the city’s finances to deliver in these tough economic times.”

Watch below: Andre Chabot and Bill Smith file their nomination papers

For Smith, leadership is a key talking point for his campaign, having circled back to the topic many times while talking to reporters on Monday.

“I want Calgarians to decide whether they want four more years of the same thing or not,” he said. “That’s four more years of a lack of fiscal responsibility, four more years of bad leadership. They have a choice to make and I think I’m the right choice for that.”

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“I take nothing for granted,” Nenshi said. “I have been hard at work for seven years, every single day, and I will continue to be hard at work for 30 more days and hopefully four more years … fighting for every vote, but mostly fighting for the right of every citizen to live a great life here.”

LISTEN: What are going to be the issues of focus during the electoral race?

In addition to Chabot, three city councillors will not be running for re-election, including Ward 6 Councillor Richard Pootmans, Ward 3 Councillor Jim Stevenson, and Ward 11 Councillor Brian Pincott.

Calgary’s municipal election will be held on Oct. 16.

Which election issues matter to you? Let us know your top concerns and burning questions.

In total, 131 candidates filed nomination papers on Monday for the offices of mayor, city councillor and trustee for the public and separate school districts.

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Two races were decided by acclimation with Catholic district trustees Linda Wellman and Kathy Williams filing the lone nomination papers for their wards.

Watch below: Nominations close for the 2017 Calgary election