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Brian Gregg’s Edmonton

The left-leaning candidate’s says he wants
to build a ‘caring economy’

Brian Gregg and a Breezy-themed No. 9 bus. The candidate offers a slate of progressive policies. (Brian Gregg)

By Chris Ranta

IT MAY STILL BE EARLY in the mayoral race, but Brian Gregg seems unlike any other candidate thus far.

Often referred to by his nickname, Breezy, Gregg doesn’t have a background in politics. Instead, he’s a musician by trade, primarily known for busking around the city. He even spoke out in 2018 on a pilot project to regulate busking on Whyte Avenue.

 Despite his lack of major political experience, this isn’t Gregg’s first time running for mayor. He ran in 1998, but only got 1.03 per cent of the vote. That was the year Mike Nickel, the current Ward 11 councillor and fellow current mayoral candidate, also started running for office.

But what really separates Gregg from the bunch is his platform, which is more radical than those of the other candidates. His policies aren’t specifically downtown-oriented, but, as he tells The Magpie, “I’m looking at the whole city and not trying to single out any certain area to give them special treatment.”

With that said, Gregg does have some policies in mind that could help downtown in the long run, including his plan to make public transit free.

“I think that will really help downtown … because it’ll allow people to travel freely in and out of the core. It’ll take the pressure off the huge expense we have of maintaining the roads. It’s just less wear and tear on the roads if more people are using mass transit.”

However, Gregg adds, something needs to happen in the city first, before anyone can introduce free transit: create affordable housing for impoverished Edmontonians.

“We have to do that first before we bring in free transit because, if people have a nicer place to go home, they’re not going to go and pile onto a bus in the middle of cold weather or into the LRT shelter.”

His insistence on a “housing first” focus comes from concerns he has heard from ETS workers.

“When we did have temporary free transit, it was a big imposition on the transit workers, because we don’t have housing for the homeless. All of a sudden, a bus became the best possible shelter for anyone to find. It had all kinds of people that are suffering from mental health issues, addiction, and poverty piling onto the busses and causing a big problem for transit workers.”

Gregg also agrees with the idea of freezing the police budget and widening the focus to include alternative measures to reduce the city’s crime rate.

Some of his ideas to reduce crime include asking the federal government to decriminalize drug use, fully funding and stocking local food banks to avoid theft, and, again, implementing an affordable housing program in an effort to ensure “people who need social services are housed first.”

‘We have to work towards rescuing the environment
and rescuing the workers’ 

Gregg is also pro-union, and has openly stated in his platform his plans to “promote the unionization of all essential workers.”

“Until we elect better governments, which I will speak up for, the best we can do is encourage people not to patronize businesses that exploit workers and ask workers to join unions and to refuse to work for less than what they are worth. I know this is hard for many, but we need pressure both by voting for progressive candidates and by punishing exploitative business with boycotts, as both workers and consumers.”

Even if he can only do so much, he says, he acknowledges that “there are some levers though that the city can pull.”

“Only contact services that hire union workers. De-privatize. Stop privatizing services and stop hiring so many private consultants. Hire people to serve on citizen assemblies that provide consulting for the city.”

Even with such ambition, he says he doesn’t see his platform as a series of promises. Rather, he’s only promising that he’ll “speak up” for Edmontonians.

“As mayor on City Council, I have one vote only and have to depend on others to support the initiatives I do,” he says. “I will be speaking up on these issues and I will work to convince others on council to speak up as well.

Not only is Gregg’s platform unlike any of the other candidates, but his strategy to get the vote is also different. He refuses to accept donations of any kind and he hasn’t bought any advertising, including signs –  instead relying on “relational organizing to communicate with my community.”

“I want to make a point of getting big money out of our civic politics. I feel like we can show that we can make our democracy strong. We don’t need money, we don’t need big developers and construction companies funding candidates, so they can buy a lot of signs and influence the way people vote.”

Ultimately, Gregg’s major goal in his bid for mayor is to take the first steps in making Edmonton a better, more caring place for everyone.

“We have to work towards rescuing the environment and rescuing the workers that are being exploited from what I see as an uncaring economy, and we have to build what I call a caring economy.”

If you want to check out Gregg’s policies or get in touch with him, visit his campaign website.

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