Local food advocate and urban chicken activist Paul Hughes, chair of the Calgary Food Policy Council, officially declared his run for mayor at a screening of Mad City Chickens at the Plaza Theatre last night.
"I'm the classic outsider, but I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have anything to offer," says Hughes, a single dad of a seven-year-old son. "I felt I could add a voice to the race because I'm very connected to a lot of Calgarians and I speak to a lot of people who feel they don't have a voice."
Hughes, 45, has been ruffling feathers as of late with his push for the city to change its bylaw forbiding Calgarians to raise chickens in their backyards. He'll be appearing in court later this month to fight a ticket bylaw officers handed him recently for possessing and keeping livestock.
"My past experience over the past few years dealing with city hall has given me a sense that there's a real need for strong prioritized policies in Calgary," says Hughes.
Hughes' first policy will focus on providing children under 12 with free access to the city's recreational facilities and programs. "If we can build $25 million bridges, then we can do something to make sure all the kids in Calgary have access," he says.
Calgary is an "autocracy" where elected officials treat city coffers like a bottomless bank account, says Hughes. He's sickened by the $25-million pricetag for the Peace Bridge. "You could build 10 bridges for that."
His entry makes him the second candidate to step forward since three-term mayor Dave Bronconnier announced last month he wouldn't run again this fall. Alnoor Kassam, who spent more than $1 million in a failed mayoral bid in 2007, says he intends to run again this year.
In contrast to the huge amount spent by past candidates, Hughes says he'll run a tight ship. His house will be his headquarters. Campaign signs handmade. And fundraising? Not even on his radar. "I'm not planning on raising hardly any money," he says.