Could Calgary’s water crisis help public perception of Mayor Gondek?

It’s no secret that Calgary’s mayor is not doing particularly well when it comes to polling numbers, with a survey released last week suggesting residents remain unimpressed with the city’s municipal government.

But some suggest the water supply situation stemming from a major feeder main break in the city’s northwest last week could help improve the perception of Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

Keith Brownsey is a political science professor at Mount Royal University and he believes the mayor has shown a strong sense of leadership throughout the crisis by making frequent media appearances, while doing her best to understand the evolving situation.

However, he doesn’t think it will be enough to make a difference during the next municipal election in October 2025.

“People don’t remember the exact circumstances of a crisis such as this for very long,” he says.

The Leger polling released last week found less than one-quarter of the 415 respondents say the city is on the right track, while two-thirds feel the opposite. Just two per cent reported feeling strongly that the city was on the right track.

Only one-in-ten residents responded that they felt Gondek was doing a satisfactory job addressing their most important issue, and that they would vote for her if an election were held tomorrow. More than a third said she was doing a poor job, and the average rating was 3.9 out of 10.

“I don’t think people will lay a lot of blame at her feet for this, so maybe it’s a chance to reintroduce herself to some folks,” says Leger vice president Andrew Enns. “On the flipside, that’s two-thirds of the city that think things are going in the wrong direction. This might be an exclamation point on that sentiment.”

Jon Roe, research assistant at the Angus Reid Institute, says perception could improve, but only because it can’t get much worse.

“If she can show some leadership here and guide Calgarians, perhaps she could benefit from it,” he says.

Over the weekend, Gondek apologized for the city’s communication and vague messaging around the water crisis. Roe notes that could go either way, with people either interpreting it as being humble, or as being unknowledgeable.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that you feel the need to apologize because you came out of the gate so poorly,” he says.

The mayor pledged to step up communication with several additions that include daily news conferences, infographics, and clear timelines. She says there will be daily news conferences at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day until the issue is resolved.

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