the day after the city centre airport petition died.

Photo by Mack Male.

As I blogged yesterday, Edmonton’s City Clerk Alayne Sinclair has found the petition opposing the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands to be invalid. According to the City Clerk, the petition spearheaded by the Envision Edmonton lobby group did not have the required number of valid signatures required to trigger a plebiscite. Under the Municipal Government Act, the petition would have also needed to have been submitted within 60 days of the original decision to be considered valid. City Councillors voted in June 2009 for the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Councillors re-affirmed their decision yesterday when they voted 10-3 not to include a ballot question in the October 18, 2010 elections.

Not enough valid signatures
According to the City Clerk’s office, the petition would need to have 78,244 valid signatures in order to force a plebiscite on the issue. After Envision Edmonton submitted their petition on August 27, the City Clerk ruled that only 73,657 of the signatures on the petition were valid.

Envision Edmonton’s reaction
Following the City Clerk’s announcement, Envision Edmonton Chairman Charles Allard accused the city of trying to “weasel” out of holding a plebiscite. Mr. Allard’s accusation is disappointing and reeks of the kind of entitlement that many of the City Centre Airport’s supporters do not deserve to be associated with.

Envision Edmonton should be commended for having collected the number of signatures that they did, as it is no easy task to collect that many. At the same time, they owed it to their supporters to have  fully understood and accepted the laws that outline the process when they began collecting signatures.

A large unanswered question is what Envision Edmonton will do with the money that they raised and advertising space they have purchased in the expectation that their petition would trigger a plebiscite? Will the lobby group accept that their petition was not valid under provincial law or will it shift its deep pockets and resources to support challengers to the Mayor and Councillors who support redeveloping the City Centre Airport lands? With nomination day approaching soon (Monday, September 20), the Mayor and many incumbent Councillors are facing minimal opposition and some less than credible candidates.

City Council

“You have to meet certain standards and those standards were not met” Mayor Stephen Mandel.

Following a long debate yesterday afternoon, Councillors voted 10-3 to not allow an exception to the rules and leave the City Centre Airport question off the ballot. This was the same number of Councillors who voted for and against the phased closure of the City Centre Airport in June 2009. Councillors like Don Iveson did not shy away from their decision to both support the phased closure in 2009 and oppose the ballot question in 2010.

I’ll stand for re-election on a record of decisions I’ve made, including and especially #ecca closure. #yegcc #yegvote – Councillor Don Iveson on Twitter

While I am continually confused why Councillors Tony Caterina and Ron Hayter are opposing the closure, I can respect the position that Councillor Linda Sloan has taken in support of continued medevac flights into the City’s core. While it may be a bit of a red herring, it is a legitimate concern. Councillor Kim Krushell told the Edmonton Journal that Alberta Health Services will not move their medevac services until a suitable establishment has been constructed at the Edmonton International Airport.

Mayoral effects
The lack of a City Centre Airport related plebiscite question on the ballot could spell a short end for some Mayoral challengers. Candidate David Dorward, who is suspected to have Envision Edmonton’s support, announced his campaign earlier this week. If Envision Edmonton is to pour their funds into a candidate’s war-chest, it will likely be Mr. Dorward’s.

Second-time Mayoral candidate Don Koziak based a large part of his campaign on opposing the redevelopment of the airport. Mr. Koziak is scheduled to hold a press conference today at 11:00am. It is obvious that he will discuss today’s news about the invalid petition and there are also rumours that he may drop out of the Mayoral race to seek a seat on City Council. Update: Mr. Koziak has dropped out the Mayoral race to challenge Councillor Krushell in Ward 2. This will be Mr. Koziak’s fifth attempt at running for City Council (he ran unsuccessfully for Council in 1995, 1998, and 2004, and for Mayor in 2007).

Provincial interference?
After meeting with Mr. Allard on September 7, Premier Ed Stelmach said that he supported the lobby group’s recommendation that the Health Quality Council should review the possible impact on medevac services before the Airport was closed. The Provincial Government may not have any official ability to prevent the closure and Premier Stelmach has been careful not to interfere too overtly in municipal affairs since entering the Office in 2006.

Only one PC MLA, Doug Elniski, whose Edmonton-Calder constituency includes the airport lands, has been vocal in support of Envision Edmonton’s petition. Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Brian Mason have expressed support for the petition, as has the Wildrose Alliance caucus.

What’s next?
The drive to force a plebiscite opposing the City Centre Airport redevelopment was essentially the Envision Edmonton lobby group last ditch effort at using a democratic mechanism to stop the closure. While there will be not ballot question on October 18, the lobby group could very likely throw their support and endorsement behind some of the aforementioned candidates for Mayor and Council. Strategy wise, it really appears that the lobby group was unprepared for their petition to be ruled invalid. These time constraints will limit their choices of legitimate candidates if they decide to support and endorse candidates of their choosing.

On August 27, I wrote that I was looking forward to sharing why I support the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands and why I believe our City will benefit from this redevelopment. While yesterday’s decision will allow me to focus less on the specifics of the City Centre Airport lands, I am still looking forward to writing about the challenges and opportunities for redevelopment and new ideas in our City’s urban core. There are a broad range of issues that are going to play a defining role in shaping our City and communities in the next decades. Without a single ballot issue dominating the headlines, there will be a lot of room for Edmontonians to have a serious debate about how our City will grow – schools, public transit, infrastructure, crime, economy, and urban sprawl – let us have an election that focuses on these real quality of life issues.

19 thoughts on “the day after the city centre airport petition died.

  1. Anon

    Enter David Dorward, long time friend of Cal Nichol. Also collector of over 200 signatures…. and access to a list… Politicians love lists.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Envision Edmonton’s petition insufficient, City Centre Airport phased closure will continue at MasterMaq's Blog

  3. Scott

    Another red herring — the assertion made repeatedly (including by David Staples in yesterday’s Journal) that the 1995 plebiscite was a vote to maintain City Centre as a general aviation airport.

    This is not even technically true. The plebiscite did state, “Under both options the City will continue to own and offer general air services (e.g. private planes, small charters, air ambulance) at the Municipal Airport.” However, the vote was whether or not Edmonton should move all scheduled air service to the International.

    The confusing wording, and the accompanying mealy-mouthed mitigation, clouded the issue somewhat. But, as someone who voted in that plebiscite, I can say that the vast majority saw it as a vote either for or against the Muni.

    And the vote came in at more than three-to-one against. That, Mr. Allard, is democracy.

    In 1995, the vast majority of Edmontonians were ready to start phasing out the airport. Now, 15 years later, can we finally say that the decision is final? Please?

    Reply
  4. Martin Levenson

    Good luck with that last wish, Scott. As I suggested yesterday in response to Dave’s previous post, EE is now taking the electoral route to try to overturn the airport decision. Koziak is abandoning his mayoral bid to run against Krushell, and EE is throwing their financial support behind David Dorward’s mayoral bid…and anyone else for Council that they deem “open and transparent and committed to democratic process”

    That last statement is a joke: EE STILL hasn’t revealed their membership, so I suspect that they wouldn’t know open and transparent if it bit ’em on the ass…which it may well do.

    I’m also curious as to how many of “their” candidates will even admit that they’re getting funding from EE. Go ahead, ask ALL the candidates this fall; I’m willin to bet that no one will admit it, and because of our archaic electoral financing rules, we won’t find out ’til well after the election.

    EE claims that their favoured candidates will be supportive of a plebiscite, but don’t be fooled; if they get their candidates in, they WON’T hold a plebiscite, they’ll just overturn last year’s decision. Their argument will be that the current council didn’t run on a mandate to gradually close the CCA, yet made a decision to do so, so if “their” candidates DO run on keeping the airport open, they will have the “moral” high ground. It’s BS, but many will fall for that.

    The EE candidates will also justify not having a plebiscite on the grounds of “cost”, and their perceived urgency to overturn the decision prior to the NEXT election three years and a month hence.

    I think it’s ridiculous that we’re contemplating running the civic election on a single issue, that’s why I wanted a plebiscite to put this issue to bed, hopefully closing the airport sooner rather than later.

    There are LOTS of important issues facing Edmonton’s citizens, and we deserve city councillors capable of taking account of EVERYONE’S interests, not just those of whowever paid their election costs. If one encounters one of the EE candidates (although how you would know I don’t know!), ask them for their thoughts on some of the other issues; I’m willing to bet that their platforms will consist of a single, wobbly plank, and that they haven’t really thought about anything else.

    Reply
  5. David Staples

    The provision to keep open the downtown airport was was right on the ballot. Without that provision, the vote is much closer, and mabye there’s no consolidation.

    Reply
  6. Jordan Schroder

    Kim Krushell is one of the brightest and most thoughtful politicians I’ve ever met. I’m in Ward 11 myself, but I’ll be doing my damnedest to get her re-elected in Ward 2. It would be tragedy if Koziak were to oust her on this issue.

    Everyone who supports closure, and a better future for Edmonton needs to do what they can to help her out.

    Reply
  7. Carla Clark

    Umm, Mr. Levenson, do you not recognize the contradiction in your own words? General aviation, scheduled aviation. You clearly state in one sentence that the first plebiscites were not about keeping the general service open at the muni, then in the next you CLEARly state that they WERE. Please, make up your mind.

    Btw, I would like a lot more transparency under ALL circumstances, but, apparently, to others, such as yourself, this only applies when you disagree on something. Have you held the Municipal Government just as accountable? I haven’t heard you calling for anything like that when it is the Municipal Government that is being asked for transparency. Hmmm….

    Reply
  8. Martin Levenson

    Carla, I think you may have confused me with another post. I said nothing about previous plebiscites…so I’m not sure what you’re refering to.

    Reply
  9. Martin Levenson

    “The truth”…” you have an ultimate agenda of wiping out world air travel” hahahahaha! Paranoid much?

    It’s only through efficient air travel (in BIG planes!) that “us lefties” will be able to bring HORDES of “third world” immigrants to north america and subvert the North American way of life!

    Oh…and the “Greenies” aren’t really “left”, btw.

    Reply
  10. Brian Dell

    The airport closure is not really a left/right issue EXCEPT that there are a lot of starry eyes about the benefits of redeveloping the airport lands, and this sort of idealism comes more readily to those who lean left.

    Reply
  11. Martin Levenson

    You’re correct of course, Brian, it really isn’t a left/right issue (is “left” and “right” even meaningful anymore?).

    What really strikes me as odd about those on the “right” supporting the maintenance of the CCA is that increasing urban density by putting 20K + people closer to the city core actually is also a move towards more efficient provision of city services (as opposed to more and more far-flung “greenfield” developments) which theoretically “should” reduce the rate of increases in property taxes.

    I was under the impression that business types would FAVOUR efficiency and minimized taxes, but I guess not if “their” profit making capabilities are somewhat curtailed.

    Instead, they seem all too willing to allow the increased costs of unfettered development to be borne by Edmonton’s citizens generally, thereby “socializing” (ironic, isn’t it?)their development costs.

    Reply
  12. Martin Levenson

    My “starry eyed” idealism is mostly focused on the probable efficiency gains in the provision of city services, which I suppose discredits any “lefty” credibility I may have.

    However, I AM excited about the possibility of the development of a “green” community close to the city core, similar to Calgary’s ground-breaking development of Echo Haven.

    Reply
  13. Pingback: edmonton election 2010: first mayoral debate. | daveberta.ca

  14. Larry Switzer

    Steve I noticed that the comments were closed as you said that council wasn’t breaking the law.
    The right way to respond would have been a referendum.
    You were afraid that all that money would slip through your fingers.
    Wait till the next election!!!!

    Reply

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