SUNDRE — Following an unsuccessful mayoral bid in the 2017 election, local business owner Chris Vardas is returning to run for a seat on council.
“I had my four-year break, and I realized that the council this round needed a little help,” the former two-term councillor said when asked what motivated him to submit nomination papers for the Oct. 18 municipal election.
“They weren’t unified,” said Vardas, expressing the opinion that, “Nothing was getting done. It seemed like they all had their different agendas. They weren’t bonded as one.”
The restauranteur who owns Original T’s and Cedar’s Pub said during a recent phone interview that he aspires to provide council with a voice that helps foster cohesion.
“Sometimes, you got to have somebody be the voice of reason on there, a businessman that understands," said Vardas.
Vardas identified two issues as his primary areas of concern that he hopes to improve.
“Number One, we need transparency in our community,” he said. “Number Two, we need homes for younger families.”
That means staying focused on the road ahead, he said.
“We need to push our community in the right direction, because we can’t keep looking in the rearview mirror, we got to look through the windshield. It’s not about today — it’s about 10 years, 20 years down the road, for our kids and whoever comes here. We need growth," he said.
Pressed about the point he raised regarding transparency, Vardas later clarified he was not alluding to any specific instances.
“It seems like a lot of people felt like they were uninformed,” he said. “I’m not blaming any particular person — it takes more than one person or one thing to actually make a train derail.”
Asked whether he believed the proverbial train had gone off course or jumped the tracks completely, he said, “I felt like it derailed a little bit.”
His impression of the current council is that there are a lot of differences of opinion, and Vardas reiterated his perceived lack of unity.
“I think it’s time for change," he said.
However, he agreed that a healthy democracy at any level depends on in-depth discourse that carefully considers a variety of ideas until a consensus on the most suitable and agreeable option or proposal is reached.
“You’re supposed to have different opinions, you’re not there to agree with everybody. You’re there to say your opinion and find the right solution," he said.
But when the discussion is over and a decision has been made, council must stand behind it as one, he said.
“Once a solution is found, they’re supposed to be unified as one to stand for it," he said.
If elected, Vardas said he would bring with him his background as not only a local business owner but also prior experience of sitting on council.
“I’ve been on council before. I know how that operates,” he said. “I’ve been in business 30 years, I’ve lived here for 30 years. Knowing and being passionate about where we live is a good contribution to being on council.
Responding to a question regarding his thoughts on the Mountain View Freedom organization and supporters who in recent weeks have rallied to demonstrate against provincially mandated public health restrictions to bring COVID-19 under control, Vardas briefly hesitated before choosing his words.
“That one’s a little bit of a touch and go situation,” he said. “I think it’s good. But I also believe certain things happen for certain reasons at certain times for it to happen.”
Reluctant to say much more because of his position as business owner who recognizes all too clearly the potential for backlash regardless of what he thinks, Vardas said, “(It) doesn’t matter what you say, you’re going to have something to rattle. As a business owner, I think we all should be united and fight for our rights, 100 per cent I do.”
Small business owners can’t afford the provincial government’s constant “up and down, yo-yo” roller coaster ride of lockdowns and re-openings, he said.
“We have to be unified. But we have to be unified at the right time, at the right place," he said.