May 29th, 2024

Ben Christensen: Council candidate hopes voters will see his shift in perspective

By Tim Kalinowski on May 22, 2021.

Ben Christensen is hoping voters will look past some of his past lapses to give him an opportunity to serve on city council. Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski


Lethbridge city council candidate, community media volunteer, and small business owner Ben Christensen is hoping voters can look past some of the lapses of his past and judge him as the man he is today.
Christensen is the latest candidate to declare his intention to run for city council, but he acknowledges his candidacy comes with some baggage voters will have to consider carefully.
In 2011 Christensen, who was then a member of the Occupy Calgary Movement, was arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to one charge of intimidation of a justice participant when he sent a threatening email to Crown prosecutors while trying to get abuse charges dropped against a fellow Occupy Calgary activist.
Christensen later filed an appeal to have his conviction overturned which was rejected, and made a formal complaint about the officers who conducted the investigation to the Calgary Police Service. He says he has documentary proof about 20 serious misconduct allegations related to those officers who investigated his case which prompted a two-year Calgary Police Professional Standards Division probe.
The Calgary Chief of Police at the time, says Christensen, ultimately ruled he found no merit to the allegations, and none of the investigating officers were ever charged. Nor was Christensen’s case ever re-opened.
“Ultimately the charges and the conviction remained,” confirmed Christensen. “By the time I was able to do anything with it the investigation had spanned two years, and I was past the limitations to be able to file any further appeals.”
Christensen said after everything was all over he made a determination to get on with his life in the best way he could.
“I would say people need to look not at what somebody has done in the past,” he says, “because we all make mistakes. We all have different viewpoints throughout our life. We go through changes, we go through shifts in perspective, and I don’t want that to be the focus of my ambitions for city council because the person I was in 2013 is not the same person I am now.”
Christensen hopes to bring that “shift in perspective” to city council if elected, he says.
“My ambition has always been toward effective leadership,” he states. “The reason I am running (is) to provide our community a leadership that is connected to our city to advance the complex issues we have to deal with.”
He says he has three main issues of concern: functional and local solutions to help small businesses recover post-COVID-19, tackling the pressing housing and social issues the city faces, and the elimination of photo radar.
In regards to helping local businesses, Christensen wants to advocate for local municipal tax breaks to small businesses to provide relief.
In terms of tackling the city’s social issues, he says more creative solutions are needed.
“As far as tackling the opioid crisis, and tackling some of these other social issues, the big issue has been consideration for the impacts things like transitional housing and treatment centres are going to be having on residents of businesses in our community because of location and the overall economic impact those are going to have on us,” he says. “To strike that balance between consideration for the taxpayers and these social issues, I think we need to shift our focus to focus on finding suitable placement for these services. We have been looking for ways to bring these services into the community within city limits.
“What I think has been overlooked is consideration for looking at the possibility of some of these services being constructed in outlying areas of the city where there is undeveloped land that could be put to use, or areas in neighbouring communities that maybe want to partner with our city to facilitate changes by welcoming these services into their communities.”
As for photo radar, Christensen says, in his assessment, it is a program that demonstrably does not work.
“The objective of the program is to improve safety in our community,” he says. “The unfortunate thing that has happened is it has been subject to some abuses, and those abuses have continued. Because the administrators of that program do not want to follow the appropriate guidelines and stay within the scope of that program’s focus, I do not believe it is of benefit long term to our city’s taxpayers to continue funding the operation of the program that is ultimately creating more upset with our city’s taxpayers than it is creating solutions to improving public safety.”

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Dale Leier

Notwithstanding Mr. Christensen’s history, my biggest concern is his lack of experience in Municipal office. Instead of starting off at the top, it makes a lot more sense to start off in a junior role such as Councilor. By shooting for Mayor without the requisite experience causes me to question both his humility and his judgement.