Jyoti Gondek | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jyoti Gondek

Prabhjote “Jyoti” Gondek (née Grewal), university professor, consultant, municipal politician, Mayor of Calgary 2022–present (born 1969, in London, UK). Joyti Gondek started out in community consulting and academia before serving one term (2017–21) as city councillor for Calgary’s Ward 3. She was then elected to succeed Naheed Nenshi as mayor of Calgary and became the city’s first female mayor on 18 October 2021.

Early Years

Prabhjote Grewal was born in London, England, in 1969. Her parents, Surjit Kaur Grewal and Jasdev Singh Grewal, had emigrated from India’s Punjab region. (See South Asian Canadians.) Her name, Prabhjote, means "a little flame" or "light from God" in Punjabi. She has gone by the common nickname Jyoti (JOE-tee) since childhood.

When she was four, her parents sought better opportunities by moving to Canada. Knowing little about the country, they chose a city in the middle and settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her father, Jasdev, worked as a lawyer with the provincial land titles office; as a result, the family lived in several different communities, including Neepawa, Portage la Prairie and Brandon, where Gondek graduated from high school.


Gondek began her post-secondary studies at the University of British Columbia but soon transferred to the University of Manitoba. She graduated with a degree in sociology and criminology. In 1996, she married Todd Gondek, whom she had met at university, in a traditional Sikh wedding ceremony.

In 2003, she earned a master’s degree in organizational sociology at the University of Calgary. Her focus was on corporate social responsibility and the behaviours of oil and gas companies. She also worked as a policy analyst for the provincial government, investigating ways to improve women’s shelters.

Consulting and Academia

Jyoti and Todd Gondek spent a year in Wainwright, Alberta, where Todd, a geological engineer, worked in the oil patch. They then moved to Calgary, where Jyoti found work with the Credit Union Central of Alberta. Their child, Justice, was born in 2004. Gondek formed a consulting company, Tick Consulting, dedicated to helping companies become more socially responsible. She was very active in the city’s Sikh community and played a key role in getting Punjabi recognized as a second-language option in Calgary schools. She also served on various boards, including the Northern Hills Community Association and the non-profit recreational centre Vivo for Healthier Generations.

In 2009, Gondek entered the University of Calgary’s PhD program, studying urban sociology. She researched urban-rural challenges and impediments to socially equitable progress. Upon graduation in 2014, she became director of the University of Calgary’s Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies and taught as a sessional instructor. (See also Real Estate.) She also served as the citizen member on the Calgary Planning Commission and worked on three municipal election campaigns.

Ward 3 Councillor

Gondek has said that, while she thinks research and public advocacy are important, “It struck me that I should perhaps try to get a seat at the table and be a decision-maker instead.” In 2017, she ran for city council in Calgary’s Ward 3, in the North Central part of the city. She had lived in the Ward for 20 years and was well known through her community engagement. She and three other candidates contested the seat that had been held for 10 years by Jim Stevenson, who had decided not to seek re-election. (Gondek had served as Stevenson’s campaign manager in the previous election.)

Gondek’s campaign focused on improving the Ward’s infrastructure, transit, and recreation opportunities. She rejected attempts to cast her as left or right wing, arguing that she was a centrist and that characterizing people and positions according to ideology does nothing to advance important issues. She also emphasized the need for collaboration between public, private, and social sectors for positive city building.

On 17 October 2017, she won 7,746 votes — over 2,800 more than her second-place opponent. Her victory made her one of three women to serve on the new city council. In an election night interview, she said it was important to look beyond that fact. She said, “It’s funny, because I don’t think anyone that’s interviewing one of the new male [councillors] today is saying, ‘tell me about how you feel about being a man on council?’ My gender didn’t weigh into my decision to run.”

Gondek worked to build the Green Line to connect Ward 3 with downtown. She also advocated for police reform; more sustainable and predicable provincial funding for Calgary; a new arena for the city’s NHL team, the Calgary Flames; and the development of new communities on the suburban edges of the city.

Running for Mayor

After Naheed Nenshi announced that he would not seek re-election for a fourth term as Calgary’s mayor, Gondek announced her candidacy to succeed him in January 2021. While there were eventually 27 candidates, only she and two other candidates, fellow councillors Jeromy Farkas and Jeff Davison, were seen as having a chance to win.

Gondek’s campaign established three priorities: treating citizens like investors who want a good return on their investment; reducing the amount of tax revenue transferred to the province; and an inclusive economic recovery plan. She argued that, with this framework in place, the city could address climate change and homelessness while building social and economic resilience, supporting the arts, and constructing a new transit line.

On 18 October 2021, Gondek won the most votes in each of Calgary’s 14 wards and 45 per cent of the overall vote. Farkas came second with 30 per cent. Gondek was sworn in as mayor on 25 October. She said that with her victory — coupled with that of Amarjeet Sohi, a Sikh immigrant from India, in the Edmonton mayoral election on the same day — Albertans were making an important statement: "We have normalized now the idea of women and people of colour being in senior leadership positions. I am happy that the population sees itself reflected in its local government."

Mayor Gondek

Gondek immediately began to work on her campaign promises. In November 2021, city council followed her lead and declared a climate emergency in Calgary. The declaration allows council to consider all future actions in relation to its effect on climate change. Some critics, however, blamed the failure of the deal for the new hockey arena on the increase in property taxes that Gondek introduced.