A new poll released by ThinkHQ suggests Calgarians’ perception of their mayor and city council continues to decline after a year on the job.
The poll, released on Thursday, shows approval of Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek sits at 35 per cent while 55 per cent of respondents disapprove of the mayor’s performance.
10 per cent of Calgarians surveyed still aren’t sure how they felt about Gondek.
Gondek’s approval rating shows a three per cent slide since the last ThinkHQ poll in the spring, which showed her approval rating at 38 per cent.
According to the poll, Gondek’s approval is slightly higher amongst women, as well as Calgarians living in the city’s northwest and inner city.
Findings also showed disapproval of the mayor was higher amongst men, Calgarians over 55 years old and those living further from the downtown core — especially in south Calgary.
“You expected this first year to be a bit bumpy. Mostly new councillors, you got a brand new mayor getting used to how things work,” ThinkHQ president Marc Henry told Global News. “This is more than bumpy. These numbers are bad, there’s no sort of sugarcoating it.”
Those surveyed were also asked to rate the performance of their ward’s councillor and city council as a whole.
The poll showed 39 per cent of Calgarians approved of their elected councillor, which declined to 35 per cent approval of the performance of city council as a whole — a six per cent decline since the poll back in March.
Men surveyed and those living in the inner city offered a more negative rating of their councillors, the poll found.
“When you look at it aggregately, the lowest (ratings) we’ve ever recorded, certainly lower than I can recall for any sort of sitting Calgary councillor or mayor,” Henry said.
Mayor and councillors respond
Gondek told Global News she understood the sentiment felt by Calgarians surveyed in the poll, but added the role of mayor isn’t a “popularity contest.”
“This job is about making some pretty tough decisions and doing some pretty heavy work,” Gondek said Thursday. “The reflection of 1,200 Calgarians is that they’re not as happy as they wish to be.
“I get it, I wish we were in a better place too.”
Henry attributed the recent feedback from Calgarians to several “contentious” issues council dealt with early in their tenure including a “surprise” tax increase during last year’s budget adjustments, the collapse of the deal to build a new event centre and the climate emergency declaration.
But Gondek also noted several controversies stemming from various members of city council potentially impacting Calgarians perceptions of city council.
Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu was censured by council at the beginning of the term after allegations he sexually assaulted a minor when he was a police officer in 1997; he was recently allowed back on city committees.
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean recently apologized and stepped away from committee duties after videos surfaced online that appeared to show him mocking Indigenous people.
While Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra was removed from his roles on city committees for failing to disclose a property he owns in Inglewood, and resigned from his role on the Calgary Police Commission while he remains the subject of an assault investigation.
“These are heavy things we have to address,” Gondek said. “I can understand Calgarians not being happy with our collective performance. We will do better.”
Those frustrations were shared by Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, who said she was “surprised” to see the findings in the poll.
“Is there (negative) perception? Possibly. There’s been things percolating that doesn’t help,” Sharp told reporters. “I’ll be honest: we’ve got to start parking the drama to the side and start doing our job and that’s governing.”
“As a new councillor, it’s hard to walk into work and see new scandals about individual people,” Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said. “I think that affects the public’s perception, but we are 15 individual people and I think we have to look at our own individual results.”
Henry noted that many of the poll’s respondents felt city council is “out of step” with the challenges and issues average Calgarians are facing, and where council is directing its attention.
According to Henry, those are issues like affordability, public safety, community development and inflation.
However, Henry said council has an opportunity to turn around public perception with the upcoming four-year budget deliberations.
“That is a prime opportunity to help identify for citizens, for voters, what their priorities are and what they’re focusing on,” Henry told Global News. “Your operational spending, your services, your service levels, your infrastructure spend, what taxes are going to be like and user fees are going to be like for the next four years. It sets a tone and a direction for voters.”
The poll, conducted by ThinkHQ Public Affairs Inc., surveyed 1,172 Calgarians from Oct. 17 to 20. Those involved were from a random stratified sample of panelists and the company said the margin of error was about 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.