Monday, October 04, 2010

Stampede to the Polls: Barb Higgins

Previous Profiles:
Ric McIver
Kent Hehr
Naheed Nenshi


The general consensus in Calgary seems to be that the mayoral race sits as:

1. McIver
2. Higgins
3. Nenshi

Sure, guys like Bob Hawkesworth and Wayne Stewart are still in the mix but...well...life is too short to blog about Bob Hawkesworth. As such, this will be the fourth and final instalment of my 2,372 part series profiling mayoral candidates.

Today, the wild card.



Barb Higgins





About Barb

Barb was born in Edmonton - something which will no doubt form the basis of nasty attack ads should the campaign get dirty. At the age of 27, she took over as an anchor at CTV Calgary News. For the next 21 years, Higgins and her co-anchor, Darrel Janz, were among most recognizable Calgarians around.

Higgins was a latecomer to the mayoral race - she declared in early August to much fanfare, but her campaign has yet to take off. Early on, she was criticized for lacking substance and concrete plans. Last week she axed her campaign manager, Don Lovett, replacing him with Alan Hallman. Regardless of what you think of Lovett or Hallman, replacing your campaign manager mid contest is not the sign of a healthy campaign.


Website
(Appearance: 7/10, Functionality 7/10, Content 7/10, Uniqueness 5/10, Overall 7/10)

Higgins' site covers the bases. Candidate's picture in front of Calgary skyline? Check. Easy to donate or tell a friend? Check. Visible link to her platform? Check. YouTube intro and social media links? Check.

Much like the candidate, there isn't a lot to get excited about, but the site serves its purpose.


Social Media

Facebook: 1165 fans (well behind both Nenshi and McIver)
Twitter: 1348 followers (similar to McIver, but well behind Nenshi)
YouTube: 17 videos with 24,475 views


My Take

Barb says her motto is "be bold", but she's been anything but this campaign. After taking a beating in the press for a lack of ideas, she finally released her platform last week. Yes, there are some tangible things in there - an end to park and ride fees and extending recycling programs to apartments and condos. But you need to strain your eyes to find concrete ideas - most of the platform is as clear as mud. Among the highlights:

I would like to see business taxes reduced. I would not go so far as to eliminate business taxes because that would mean a drop in revenues to the City of $150 million, and I do not think the City has the capacity to do that at this time. I would add, however, that I have had good discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and as mayor would seek to develop an ongoing dialogue between the Mayor’s Office, City Council and small and medium-sized businesses to make the right decisions about business tax rates.

[...]

I believe Enmax should remain in the hands of Calgarians. That said; it is time to re-visit Enmax’s overall mandate. I will ensure that their activities in generating and transmitting electricity and other business ventures remain in the best interests of Calgarians, and that Calgarians are receiving a proper return on investment;

[...]

Almost all of our amateur sports and recreational facilities are at or over capacity. I am committed to working with our amateur sports community to expand these facilities, in particular for minor hockey and minor soccer.


Yes, it's not any less bold than anything that has come out of the Ric McIver platitude machine. But it's not any different. And therein lies the problem.

When you're in second place behind a competent and well organized campaign, you need something to differentiate yourself. At this point, the only real area of disagreement between Higgins and McIver seems to be on property taxes, with Higgins wanting them to be slightly higher than McIver. Hardly the stuff that will encourage one of the most apathetic electorates in Canada to vote for you.

With two weeks to go, the smart money is on a strong second for Higgins. She'll most likely need a game changer to pull this one out, especially if Nenshi continues to drain votes off the left.

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