A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

A screenshot from the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website.

In a strange departure from the non-partisan politics of civic elections, it appeared for a moment today that three main candidates in Edmonton’s mayoral election were headlining a fundraiser for a Progressive Conservative Party constituency association. Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths was even slated as its host.

Once the event came to the attention of the general public, it appears to have fallen apart.

First, Mr. Griffiths withdrew from hosting the event, probably a wise move for a minister who will have to work with whichever candidate is elected. Then, mayoral candidate Don Iveson announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing from the forum. An organizer inside the Iveson campaign said a miscommunication led them to believe the candidate forum would  be separate of the fundraising program for the evening.

According to the Edmonton-Riverview PC Party website (see above for screenshot), mayoral candidates Kerry Diotte, Karen Leibovici and Mr. Iveson were to participate in a forum as part of a $150 per ticket fundraiser for the local PC Party association at the posh Mayfair Golf & Country Club on October 9. Visitors to the website are invited to fill out an online form to purchase tickets and receive a tax receipt for their political donation.

At the fundraiser candidates would be asked “How will the new Mayor get along with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government?”

Outgoing mayor Stephen Mandel was critical of Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories after they implemented deep budget cuts to post-secondary institutions in this year’s provincial budget. The 2013/2014 provincial budget cut cut $147 million in funding to Alberta’s post-secondary education system. The budget cuts have forced colleges and universities across Alberta to cut staff, programs, and enrolment in order to deal with the financial shortfall.

Edmonton-Riverview is currently represented by PC MLA and Government Whip Steve Young, who was elected in last year’s election. The University of Alberta exists within the boundaries of Edmonton-Riverview and many academic staff live in the constituency.

It seems unusual that the candidates would agree to step into a partisan event in the middle of a non-partisan election campaign, but it may speak to how far each of the main three mayoral contenders  are willing to go to seek out potential voters.

Still, it is concerning to this political watcher that  the three candidates would be willing to have their names used as a  pitch for a provincial political party event. And not just any political party, the governing party.

While this could certainly raise the ire of partisans affiliated with the Wildrose, New Democrats and Liberals, after more than forty years on continuous PC Party majority governments, there is a reality that whoever gets elected will have to work with them for at least the next three years.

The Progressive Conservatives earned 40% of the vote in Edmonton and hold twelve of the capital city’s nineteen provincial constituencies (one former Tory, Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu, now sits as an Independent). 

Update: Mr. Young announces the mayoral forum is now cancelled:

Ms. Leibovici’s campaign released the following, awkwardly worded, statement:

The only reason that we agreed to participate it because our opponents agreed to. We’re not participating. We will debate our opponents on the issues anywhere, anytime on any subject. We have more experience than they have because this election matters.