Tag Archives: Jan Reimer

Karen Leibovici launches Mandel 2013 campaign

Karen Leibovici Edmonton
Karen Leibovici

Councillor Karen Leibovici launched her campaign for mayor of Edmonton at a press conference this morning at the CKUA building in downtown Edmonton. The four-term city councillor kicked-off her campaign by delivering a speech that sounded as if it should have been delivered by outgoing Mayor Stephen Mandel, had he decided to seek re-election in this October’s election.

She echoed Mayor Mandel’s oft-heard comment that Edmontonians should not settle for “good-enough” and spent much of her speech praising his progress on infrastructure, transportation and arts issues over the past nine-years.

While Councillor Leibovici spoke about continuing along the current path laid by the mayor, she gave little explanation as to what she would do to build upon the ambitious past nine years. She did talk about the need to return to “bread and butter issues,” and was overly cautious not to criticize the outgoing mayor, vaguely responding that she only wanted to do better on some issues.

It is no surprise that Councillor Leibovici is trying to position herself as the heir to the current mayor. She is expected to have the backing of a swath of Edmonton’s political establishment, including the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff Catherine Keill, now an employee of Hill & Knowlton, and veteran Progressive Conservative Party campaign manager Hal Danchilla, who is rumoured to be a key strategist. Her campaign is also sending a message that it is well-financed, as demonstrated by the slick branding and glossy media kits handed out at her press conference.

Karen Leibovici GQ
Slick branding: The Three Leibovici’s.

She also used her remarks to target one of her competitors. “Edmonton needs a mayor with experience, one who doesn’t reduce significant issues to one-liners,” she told reporters, taking an obvious direct shot at Councillor Kerry Diotte.

Councillor Leibovici will be a formidable contender for the mayor’s chair, bringing with her 27 years of election campaign experience at the provincial and municipal levels.

After two unsuccessful runs as a Liberal Party candidate in the 1986 and 1989 provincial elections, Leibovici was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark in the 1993 provincial election. She was re-elected as MLA in 1997 and in 1998 she placed third in the Liberal Party’s leadership contest, behind former Tory cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth and Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol. She was elected to City Council less than a year after the Liberal Party’s rout in the 2001 provincial election, of which she was a surprising casualty. She was re-elected to City Council in 2004, 2007, and 2010.

Edmonton’s last mayor with any lengthy amount of prior elected experience was Jan Reimer, who served three-terms on City Council before being elected as mayor in 1989. Mayor Bill Smith had only run for elected office once before his win and Mayor Mandel served only one-term on Council before being elected as mayor in 2004.

More council candidates enter the fray

Past provincial Liberal Party candidate Arif Khan is expected to run in Councillor Leibovici’s soon-to-be-incumbentless Ward 5. The Edmonton-based consultant placed second to Tory Steven Young in Edmonton-Riverview in the 2012 vote.

Citizenship judge Sonia Bitar and former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel announced their candidacies in southeast Edmonton’s Ward 11. Edmontonians may remember Mr. Nickel from his unsuccessful mayoral bids in 1998 and 2001, and his one-term on city council from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, Mr. Nickel was unseated by Don Iveson in southwest Edmonton’s sprawling former Ward 5.

Councillor Iveson is expected to enter the mayoral race before the end of the month.

See an updated list of declared election candidates here.

Mandel’s retirement kicks-off Edmonton’s first open mayoral race in 45 years.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election in the October 21, 2013 election has made way for our city’s first real open mayoral contest in 45 years.

Over those 45 years, Mandel is only the second Edmonton Mayor to leave on his own terms. In 1988, Mayor Laurence Decore stepped down to become leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party. Mayor William Hawrelak died in office in 1975. All other Mayors or interim Mayors were defeated in an election.

Here’s a short history lesson about Edmonton’s mayoral elections:

When Mayor Vincent Dantzer retired from municipal politics in 1968, he was succeeded by Mayor Ivor Dent. Dent was defeated by former Mayor Hawrelak in the 1974 election. When Mayor Hawrelak died in office in 1975, Alderman Terry Cavanagh became interim Mayor. Interim Mayor Cavanaugh contested the 1977 election and was defeated by Cec Purves. Mayor Purves was then defeated by Mr. Decore in 1983. When Mayor Decore resigned in 1988, Alderman Cavanaugh once again filled the role of interim Mayor and was defeated in the 1989 election by Councillor Jan Reimer. Mayor Reimer was later defeated by businessman Bill Smith in the 1995 election. Councillor Mandel unseated Mayor Smith in 2004.

Who can Edmontonians expect to run in our first real open mayoral election in a generation?

Councillor Kerry Diotte launched his campaign last week and Councillors Don IvesonKaren Leibovici, and Amarjeet Sohi are suspected to be interested in running. The absence of an incumbent candidate might also draw candidates from outside City Council or traditional political circles.

More on this soon.

macewan university – the future of story conference & alberta’s political narrative.

I had a great time participating in the Future of Story Conference organized by MacEwan University‘s School of Communications this weekend (you can read tweets from participants at #futureofstory). I was lucky to be invited to join a panel discussion focusing on “the political narrative” that was led by writer Curtis Gillespie and included panelists Michael Phair (Edmonton City Councillor from 1992 to 2007) and Patricia Misutka (Chief of Staff to Mayor Stephen Mandel). Our discussion topic led to some very interesting conversation about the role (and dangers) of narrative in politics and the differences between narrative, spin, and ideology.

Opening the discussion, I offered my thoughts on how the political narrative and mythology of Alberta has been translated into how Canadians from other provinces see us (a topic that I have recent written about). A sincere glance at our province will make it easy for anyone with common-sense to debunk the myth that Alberta is a cultural, societal, and political monolith.

Michael Phair spoke about the political narrative that dominated the run up to the 1995 municipal election. At the time, it was largely believed that Edmonton was falling behind and needed to elect a new and “business-friendly” Mayor. Two mayoral candidates, including Bill Smith, adopted this narrative as central to their campaigns and in October 1995, he was successful in unseating two-term Mayor Jan Reimer. Upon entering office, Mayor Smith discovered the limitations that municipal governments have to creating immediate economic growth and attracting businesses. This political narrative pigeon-holed Smith, who over his three-terms in office was typecast as solely being the “business Mayor” or “cheerleader” for Edmonton. Mr. Phair pointed out that this narrative overshadowed many of Mayor Smith’s accomplishments – including the leading role he played in ending smoking in bars and restaurants in Edmonton. Interestingly, current Mayor Mandel, who arguably has just as much business background as his predecessor, has successfully avoided being overshadowed by this political narrative.

Patricia Misutka gave a really good example of how the vacuum of leadership from the provincial and federal orders of government has allowed municipalities across the world to become leaders in environmental and sustainability initiatives. Having attended the ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton last summer, I completely agree.

The panel also generated some interesting discussion on the challenges of differentiating political narrative and political ideology. When describing the various political narratives that Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party has been successful in creating since they were first elected in 1971, a number of audience members pointed out that the root of the political narrative that defined Premier Ralph Klein‘s government was rooted in the ideology of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I argued that Premier Klein’s decision to embrace a harder-line fiscal conservative agenda was less based on sincere ideology than it was in ideology of convenience. It was pointed out by one of my fellow panelists that the first politician to begin crafting that narrative in Alberta was Liberal leader Laurence Decore. As is fairly well-known in Alberta political circles, Premier Klein understood that Albertans were embracing that narrative and he embraced the idea and branded it as his own. Under this narrative, his party was re-elected in 1993, 1997, and 2001. Arguably, after the deficit and debt has been paid off, Premier Klein’s government drifted through the 2004 “Kleinfeld” election until his retirement in 2006.

One of the biggest challenges facing the government of Premier Ed Stelmach is its lack of defining purpose, or political narrative that Albertans will embrace. In the absence of any dominant narrative, there are a number of citizen groups and political parties competing to craft their own political narratives (or spin) around the upcoming provincial budget, including the Taxpayers federation, Join Together Alberta, the Parkland Institute and the Wildrose Alliance. This weekend, the Manning Centre for Building Democracy hosted a Conference on Alberta’s Future, where among many things, crafting various shades of blue political narratives for our province were discussed (you can read more about it here, here, here, here, and here). In a couple of weeks, citizens involved in Reboot Alberta will gather in Kananaskis to discuss other new ideas in crafting a new political narrative for our province. We are only two months in and 2010 already looks like it is going to be an interesting years for politics in Alberta.

Overall, The Future of Story conference generated some excellent discussion about the future of the craft of storytelling and brought together over 250 interested and passionate storytellers to share their ideas.