Category Archives: Karen Leibovici

#yegcc #lrt & #asked

Kudos to Edmonton City Council for voting for the Stony Plain Road and Mill Woods LRT By-Law today, setting the stage for public transit expansion that has been 20 years in the making. Four Councillors voted against the motion, Jane Batty, Karen Leibovici, Linda Sloan, and Tony Caterina. Defending his decision to oppose LRT expansion, Caterina accused his fellow Councillors of:

…imposing their ideology on the city. Caterina also raised concerns that online bloggers had too much influence on the decision. “A number of bloggers — who knows where they come from — are treated as gospel,” he said.

Putting aside that functionally, writing a blog is not much different than writing a letter to the editor or telephoning a City Councillor’s office, I have heard suggestions that Councillor Caterina was taking a shot at Councillor Don Iveson (who writes a blog). Iveson has been a strong advocate for public transit since being elected to City Council in 2007. There are are a number of Edmontonians who publish blogs that focus on urban issues in our City and they should take Councillor Caterina’s complaint as a compliment.

I am told that Councillor Caterina is still a little miffed that his fellow Councillors voted for the phased closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport earlier this year. During that debate a strong online campaign was launched by a group of passionate Edmontonians (which included notmyairport.ca). I have met Councillor Caterina a number of times and found him to be a fairly nice person, but a string of bizarre comments like this one has left me questioning his critical thinking abilities.

#AskEd

Three “AskEd” YouTube videos have been released with Premier Ed Stelmach responding to questions submitted to his office via email and Twitter. When it was announced I really like the idea, as it has the potential to allow for  Albertans to have some real interaction with Premier Stelmach, and it also allows the Premier to answer questions in an environment that he is comfortable in. Affording Premier Stelmach the ability to avoid the awkwardness of having to answer questions in front of the media or a public audience, the videos appear closer to ‘father figure’ Stelmach responding to questions of his choice than an authentic conversation.

Stelmach spokesperson Tom Olsen said the video responses are a lot like having a conversation with Stelmach in a coffee shop.

The videos are exactly like having a conversation in a coffee shop, especially if the coffee shop is an exact replica of the Premier’s Office and includes a large wooden desk, gavel, and Premier Stelmach reading off a laptop while talking straight into a video camera. Sounds like a typical small-town main street coffee shop to me!

Mastermaq has some good observations on the AskEd videos and DJ Kelly has offered some suggestions on how to fix the Premier’s communications problems.

edmonton businessmen recorded strategizing about city centre airport.

Discussion about how to get Councillors “on [their] side” broadcast live over the Internet.

During the afternoon recess of Thursday’s hearings on the future of the Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA), an interesting and revealing conversation occurred between a group of businessmen wanting to keep the ECCA open.

A longtime reader was listening to the public hearings online when a microphone, left on during the break, picked up what was believed to be a conversation between two prominent Edmonton businessmen whom had just spoke in favor of keeping the airport open. Likely without knowing that they were being broadcast over the Internet, the men began engaging in a strategy discussion (there may have also been a third person involved in the conversation).

During their broadcasted conversation, the businessmen hypothesized that there were five City Councillors who would vote to keep the ECCA open, and identified Councillors Karen Leibovici, Amarjeet Sohi, and Bryan Anderson as the most likely targets to “get on [their] side.”

The conversation topic quickly turned to Councillor Leibovici, who was suggested to be coming around on account of her rumored mayoral ambitions in 2010. The businessmen didn’t seem to know much about Councillor Sohi, but one of them either suggested or volunteered to “give [Anderson] a call.”

While the content of this strategy session shouldn’t come as a surprise to many Edmontonians, it does shine a spotlight on the backroom influence that some of our city’s wealthy businessmen are trying to exert in the debate about the future of the Edmonton City Centre Airport.

who will run for mayor of edmonton in 2010?

With Edmonton’s next municipal election less than a year and a half away (and new Ward Boundaries up for debate) one of the big questions looming is whether Stephen Mandel will seek a third term as Mayor. Mandel has hinted in the past that he would only serve two terms in the Mayor’s office, but if his two immediate predecessors are any indication, it is likely that he might seek a third term. Although I’m not sure if Mandel would face a serious challenger if he does run for re-election, his absence from the 2010 race could draw some interesting candidates into the contest. While no one has yet to declare their candidacy, here are some of the names that I’ve heard mentioned:

Karen Leibovici: A seasoned political veteran after serving three-terms on as a Councillor for Ward 1 (2001-present) and two-terms as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark (1993-2001), Leibovici is well positioned to compete for the Mayor’s chair. While her background in social work and time as a Liberal MLA solidified her centre-left credentials, Leibovici has played the role of Council fiscal hawk on more than one occasion (including joining with former right-wing Councillor Mike Nickel to vote against the Universal Bus Pass in 2007). Her credentials in Edmonton’s established political community also put her in a strong position to gain the support of many of Mandel’s organizers, which means her candidacy many depend on whether the current Mayor decides to seek a third term.

Linda Sloan: Also a Councillor for Ward 1 and former Edmonton-Riverview MLA (1997-2001), Sloan could be a strong candidate for Mayor. Her background as a nurse and former President of the Staff Nurses Association would likely ensure her campaign strong support from the City’s public sector unions. While her passion for seniors and emergency services issues has gained her notoriety, Sloan’s passion can sometimes be the source of tension between herself and fellow Councillors. During last year’s budget debates, Ward 5 Councillor Bryan Anderson infamously muttered the words “Jesus, Linda. Shut up, please” during one of those tense moments. Her seat at the head table with Michael Ignatieff at his recent Edmonton fundraising dinner have fueled rumours of a potential candidacy for the Federal Liberals in Edmonton-Centre.

Kim Krushell: After working as Executive Assistant to Councillor Larry Langley, Krushell was elected to her first term on Council in 2004. Since then she has been closely identified with Edmonton’s Next Gen committee and was Council’s point-person on the Universal Bus Pass (media-savvy Krushell could also be counted as the Councillor most likely to get media exposure on a weekly basis). While it may be easy to dismiss Krushell’s chances, it would be a mistake to confuse her enthusiasm for a lack of political savvy. A long-time PC Party member, Krushell endorsed Jim Dinning for the PC leadership in 2006 and could potentially call on her partisan connections to help her campaign in a potential contest against two former Liberal MLAs.

Wild Cards:

The ‘Airport’ candidate: As I wrote in an earlier blog post, with the City Centre Airport (ECCA) issue coming to a head around the time of the next municipal election, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) use this as a springboard to front a candidate for Mayor. Who would take this mantle? The AEG originated from the organization created to provide financial backing to Mark Norris’ unsuccessful campaign for the PC leadership in 2006, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see this group support an attempted political comeback by the former Edmonton-McClung PC MLA. Another potential ‘Airport’ candidate could be current Ward 3 Councillor and staunch defender of the ECCA, Tony Caterina.

Robert Noce: After trying twice for Mayor in 2001 and 2004, a vacancy in the Mayor’s chair could convince Noce that third time’s a charm. While the former Ward 3 Councillor (1995-2001) has stayed away from official politics, Noce has represented local developers in a number of cases, including the controversial high rise condo development in Glenora in 2008. Noce was rumoured to be interested in the Edmonton-East Liberal candidacy before the 2004 federal election, and more recently I have heard (questionable) chatter that he is interested in seeking the Conservative nomination when five-term Conservative MP Peter Goldring retires.

Don Koziak: After placing a distant second with 25% of the vote in 2007s thoroughly uncompetitive Mayoral race, I would imagine that the Team Koziak will be unlikely to re-start their engines if the contest attracts a stronger field of candidates in 2010. Koziak, the owner of the Chateau Louis Hotel was an unsuccessful Ward 2 candidate in 1995, 1998, and 2004. In 2000, Koziak was the PC candidate in Edmonton-Calder before withdrawing his candidacy for personal reasons.

Mike Nickel: Where in the world is former Councillor Mike Nickel? Gone into self-imposed political exile after being unseated by Don Iveson in 2007, the former Stickman, one-term Councillor, and two-time Mayoral candidate (1998 and 2001) has dropped off the political radar. Three years may be too soon for Nickel to mount a political comeback, but the new proposed Ward boundary changes could make a City Hall comeback much easier for Nickel.

Brian Mason: Ok, I’ll admit that this is an unlikely scenario. Though the leader of Alberta’s NDP probably won’t run for Mayor, with the name recognition earned after two decades as a Councillor (1989-2000) and MLA (2000-present), Mason would make an interesting entry into the race. His victory would be long-shot, but his departure from the Legislature would open a door in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood for some new blood for Alberta’s third-place party (Deron Bilous or Janice Melnychuk could make convincing candidates) and would allow for heir-apparent and well-spoken co-caucus mate Rachel Notely to take the helm of the tiny Alberta NDP caucus.

what’s eating the alberta liberals?

The first sentence of a recent letter sent out by Liberal Leader David Swann sums up the state of Alberta’s Official Opposition Party:

“We need your help to keep the ALP office operating at a reasonable level, and ready to serve Albertans.”

Over a year after the last election, the Alberta Liberals are struggling to pay their bills. It’s hard to understand why a political organization that earned 251,158 votes in the last election would have such a hard time paying off their 8-year debt, now sitting at around $400,000. The once $1 million debt-load was largely the product of the 2001 election campaign under former leader Nancy MacBeth. The Liberals went from 16 to 7 seats in that election, including a loss by MacBeth in Edmonton-McClung.

Two leaders and four years later, Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft led the Liberals to reclaim a majority of seats in Edmonton and gain a three-seat beachhead in Calgary. While PC leader Ralph Klein was unceremoniously shown the door in 2006, the Liberals had high hopes. Ed Stelmach was selected as PC leader, and the Liberals raised $1 million in 2007 and won the by-election in Klein’s abandoned Calgary-Elbow constituency. As the 2008 election approached, most people predicted the PCs would be re-elected, but with a reduced majority government.

On March 3, 2008, the PCs got their vote out, and everyone else stayed home. Well, that’s not really what happened, but it’s almost true. The PCs surged from 63 to 72 seats, unseating Liberals, New Democrats, and Wildrosers across Alberta, but voter turnout dropped to record low levels. With only around 90% of Albertans registered to vote, the pathetic turnout likely sat under 40% of eligible voters (including 22 out of 83 ridings which had less than 40% turnout).

While the Liberals dropped to 9 MLAs in 2008 by losing seats in Edmonton and facing decreasing support in rural Alberta, they did manage to increase their seat and vote total in Calgary by electing two new MLAs. The election of Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall shifted the power base in the Liberal caucus to southern Alberta for the first time in recent memory (five MLAs from Calgary, three from Edmonton, and one from Lethbridge). In the contest to replace Taft, two Calgary MLAs quickly became frontrunners.

In December 2008, Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann won a first-ballot victory against fellow Calgary MLA Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy to become the first Liberal leader from Calgary since Nick Taylor campaigned in that city during the 1970s (Nick Taylor was eventually elected MLA in the Westlock-Sturgeon and Redwater ridings north of Edmonton from 1986 to 1996).

Following his victory, Swann appointed Elsalhy to lead a committee tasked with proposing recommendations to renew the Liberal Party. Joining Elsalhy on the committee are Norma Block of Drayton Valley, Barry Cavanaugh and Stephanie Laskoski of Edmonton, Jade Boldt and Peter Willott of Calgary, and Zack Moline of Lethbridge. The committee has launched a website to jump start some discussion, and in a recent email, Elsalhy announced the launch of a survey for ALP members and non-members asking what Alberta’s Liberal Party can do to renew itself. At the Legislature, Swann has brought in former MLA Rick Miller as Chief of Staff, and Calgary Federal Liberal organizer Neil Mackie as Communications Director.

Can the Alberta Liberals renew by creating momentum, attracting new members, and paying down their financial debt? What will it take for the Swann Liberals to attract new strong candidates, as well as re-attracting the many former Liberal MLAs who have moved on to other levels of government (Edmonton City Councillors Linda Sloan, Karen Leibovici, and Ed Gibbons come to mind).

The Alberta Liberals are in a rough spot, financially and organizationally, and though it may be easy to criticize Swann’s choice to focus on open consultations rather than implement a pre-made strategy, consultation and dialogue are his style. At this point in the game, the Liberals have very little to lose, so my recommendations to them are to be bold, challenge their status quo, and turn things on their head, because if the current fundraising trends continue, the Alberta Liberal Party may not be in the position to do so after the next election.

Coming Wednesday: Tiny Perfect Alberta NDP

24-7 transit for edmonton?

In case anyone missed it, Kerry Diotte had an interesting column on the idea of 24-hour transit in Edmonton.

Coun. Karen Leibovici, who asked administrators to prepare one of the two reports, is cautiously supportive of extended service.

“We’re becoming more and more of a 24-7 city,” said Leibovici. “We need to start looking at it,” she said. “But the biggest problem is cost. Perhaps we don’t have to run all night or even until 3:30 a.m.

“Maybe we can do a pilot project on Whyte Avenue or extend service for one extra hour.”

Yes, there are many options.

Maybe we could afford it if we cut little-used routes and keyed on busier ones – or stopped using tax money to fund new routes to distant suburbs.

Do we need smaller buses on some routes? Or could we have fewer stops so buses get to destinations faster, thus encouraging more people to use the system?

Those options too, would help pay for extended hours.

I think there are some pretty valid points in exploring the idea of 24-hour routes for Edmonton Transit (or potentially an hourly or half-hourly LRT run after 1am). Though I believe there tends to be too much focus on the Whyte Avenue bar scene when talking about 24-hour transit service, I do think that it could be an interesting place to conduct a pilot project.

I’ve even heard of an idea that would have buses running down Whyte Avenue after closing time delivering bar patrons to destinations east and west of Whyte Avenue to designated taxi pick up areas (perhaps the Bonnie Doon Mall parking lot to the east and the Jubilee Auditorium or Lister Hall Parking lots to the west). Though there would be a number of issues to work out (bus driver safety and “bus cleanliness” being two), it would successfully cut down the conjestion on Whyte Avenue before and after closing time.

As Edmonton grows, these types of public transit questions are only going to become more critical to making Edmonton a smarter and more efficient city.