A wise, old man once said that it’s time to start involving young people in politics and turn around voter apathy.
This wisdom was espoused by former Cochrane Eagle publisher Jack Tennant – who carries with him a lifetime of experience whistle blowing on politicians of all stripes.
His newest political engagement is becoming agent for the first, officially declared mayoral candidate for the 2017 Cochrane municipal election.
Lifelong Cochranite Tom Hardy, on the brink of his 25th birthday, filed his forms this week and declared that he will run for his first term in public office, against Mayor Ivan Brooker.
Brooker has confirmed he will seek re-election this fall, but was overseas on holidays at press time and reserved expanding on his upcoming campaign until his return.
Acknowledging that his perceived greatest obstacle is likely his age and lack of political experience – Hardy is confident that his “fresh, new perspective,” willingness to listen to what people want and priority to make Cochrane a better place to live will be just what voters are looking for.
“I feel like Cochrane is drifting in a really strange direction. I don’t think the heavy focus on development is benefitting us at this time,” said Hardy.
“I want to focus on infrastructure and improving quality of life rather than bringing people in to town.”
After a heavy term of growth, with some years exceeding more than 10 per cent, Hardy feels it’s time to make sure Cochranites are getting the best quality of life as taxpayers and residents.
A Heartland resident, Hardy is concerned about the lack of connectivity between communities such as his and the downtown core – noting there is no safe, direct route for residents west of the Highway 1A/22 intersection to travel to town.
He also views single entries in and out of Cochrane communities as problematic and, if elected, Hardy said promoting better interconnectivity would be a priority – including promoting walkability and pathways.
Trending topics such as transit are “complicated” because affordability needs to be factored in, yet the town needs to provide options that alleviate traffic congestion.
In-depth traffic studies would be a priority for Hardy – who would like to take a crack a working with CP Rail for better rail crossing solutions, even the possibility of a train tunnel – which he acknowledged as a massive undertaking.
A lover of the arts, Hardy would approach a future arts/community hub with caution.
After the $48 million cost of the Jayman Built aquatic/curling centre, Hardy wants to make sure Cochrane could afford another major capital project before jumping in – even looking at a more multi-user space that could double as a conference centre.
Bottom line, according to Hardy, is that he is going to campaign with a grassroots approach with a focus on bringing greater transparency to council.
Former Cochrane mayor Truper McBride remembers being the youngest player on the field.
Elected as a town councillor at age 23 back in 2001, McBride served two terms before his election as mayor by age 29 – where he served another two terms until stepping down in 2013 and moving on to a career in private sector urban planning and development.
“The challenge you run into is that you need to demonstrate your credibility … that you’ve given this some thought and you have a vision,” said McBride, adding that he and Coun. Morgan Nagel – who was elected at age 23 in 2013 – are proof that good presentation and a clear message can win a seat.
“Your ability to get things done on council is to work with others … you have to be a team player.”
“To me, there isn’t much logic in dismissing somebody due to their age,” said Tennant, noting Hardy’s age will work to his advantage – as previous experience on council can serve to cloud one’s vision rather than making them a better leader.
Raised single-handedly by his mother, Cheryl, Hardy grew up entrenched in community spirit and volunteerism.
Cheryl has sat on and chipped in for numerous committees, boards, organizations and events – including helping out with the unsuccessful mayoral campaign for David Smith in the 2013 municipal election and Tom Copithorne’s run for the Banff-Cochrane Wildrose seat in 2012, which was lost to incumbent PC MLA Ron Casey.
Cheryl said she is “very proud of Tom and all that he has accomplished” and that his age will only make him more open to change, ideas and what his constituents want.
The Cochrane High School grad comes armed with a Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Calgary and has his sights on an eventual career as a doctor for the National Aeronautics and Space Association or the Canadian Space Agency.
He currently works at Canadian Tire in town.