Tag Archives: Linda Sloan

7 City Council races to watch in Edmonton

With most attention focused on Edmonton’s mayoral election, it is important to remember there are a number of contest for City Council that could produce interesting results on election day. There are seven Wards that I will be keeping a close watch on when voting ends on October 21.

Andrew Knack Edmonton Ward 1

Andrew Knack

Ward 1
After three-terms, councillor Linda Sloan  announced only weeks before the nomination day that she would not seek re-election. This must have been a big surprise to her lone-challenger Andrew Knack, who had already been campaigning for months. This is Mr. Knack’s third attempt at winning a city council seat and he is not unchallenged. Health economist Bryan Sandilands, community activist Jamie Post, past-Wildrose Alliance candidate Sharon Maclise, and former CTV reporter Sean Amato have also entered the race. I suspect Mr. Knack’s head-start could be hard to overcome.

Ward 2
With three-term councillor Kim Krushell choosing not to seek re-election, there is an open race in north Edmonton’s Ward 2 . Both Don Koziak and Bev Esslinger will have name recognition from their previous political adventures. A perennial election candidate, Mr. Koziak placed a close second behind Ms. Krushell in 2010 and has run for office many times in the past, including as the Edmonton-Glenora Wildrose candidate in the 2012 provincial election and the mayoral election in 2007. Ms. Esslinger is known from her time as a public school trustee and as last year’s unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Calder. Candidate Nita Jalkanen could also play a factor in this race as a vocal opponent of the downtown arena project.

David Dodge Edmonton Ward 3

David Dodge

Ward 3
Is first-term councillor Dave Loken politically vulnerable? Challenger David Dodge hopes so. The low-profile Mr. Loken is facing a strong challenge from Mr. Dodge, the former president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. Mr. Loken has an incumbent advantage, but it could be a close race.

Ward 5
The race to replace four-term councillor Karen Leibovici has drawn a crowd. Businessman Michael Oshry, former City Hall insider Terry Demers, transit worker Allan Santos, community league president Rob Hennigar, beer man Jim Gibbon, and former Catholic schools trustee Rudy Arcilla are among the nine candidates. My money is on the cool and confident Mr. Oshry.

Heather Mackenzie Edmonton Ward 6

Heather Mackenzie

Ward 6
Sixteen candidates have entered this race to represent north central Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods. Public school trustee Heather Mackenzie, former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen, police offcer Dexx Williams and community league president Derrick Forsythe are who I would pick as leaders of the pack. But leading the pack might not be enough. Many of the candidates in this race can expect to receive a few hundred votes each by simply being on the ballot, which could siphon votes away from the front-runners.

Ward 10
Filling Don Iveson‘s shoes in Ward 10 will be a tall order (both literally and figuratively). Community organizer Michael Walters has been pounding the pavement and waging a well-financed campaign for months. As a past provincial election candidate, Mr. Walters also has name recognition in the area. He is facing challenges from university instructor Richard Feehan and businessman Hafis Devji, but they may have a difficult time catching up. My prediction: Mr. Walters’ sweeps Ward 10 on October 21.

Ward 11
Who will replace Kerry Diotte in Ward 11? Hoping to leverage his name recognition and local outrage over potholes, two-time mayoral candidate and former city councillor Mike Nickel is attempting to stage a political comeback, but he is not alone. Mixed martial arts company owner Harvey Panesar (watch his video below), retired citizenship judge Sonia Bitar, and Mujahid Chak could be the biggest obstacles to Mr. Nickel’s return to politics.

Councillor Linda Sloan not seeking re-election

Councillor Linda Sloan

Councillor Linda Sloan

To the surprise of many political watchers, Councillor Linda Sloan announced in a press release this morning that she will not seek re-election to Edmonton City Council in Ward 1. She had previously announced on June 28, 2013 that she would seek re-election.

A former president of the now-defunct Staff Nurses Association of Alberta, Councillor Sloan entered politics in 1997 when she was elected as the Liberal MLA in Edmonton-Riverview. She ran unsuccessfully for the Alberta Liberal Party leadership in 1998 against victor Nancy MacBeth, Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol, and current mayoral candidate Karen Leibovici. She did not seek re-election to the Legislative Assembly in 2001.

Councillor Sloan, along with Councillors Leibovici and Ed Gibbons, are three former Liberal MLAs who were elected to city council following that party’s disastrous 2001 election results.

In 2004, Councillor Sloan was briefly nominated as the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Meadowlark before choosing to run for City Council, to which she was elected and re-elected in 2007 and 2010.

As President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Councillor Sloan publicly sparred with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths over provincial funding to municipalities.

With Councillor Sloan’s departure, the only candidate currently running in Ward 1 is Andrew Knack. UPDATE: That was quick. Within hours of Councillor Sloan’s announcement, candidate Sharon Maclise has abandoned her candidacy in the crowded Ward 6 race to now run in Ward 1.

#yegvote Google Hangout #3 with ActivatED

On last night’s #yegvote Google Hangout, the third in our series, Ryan Hastman, Mack Male, and I were joined by Aliza Dadani from the group ActivatED. According to their website, “ActivatED is committed to electing forward-thinking progressive councillors in the 2013 Edmonton Municipal Election.” Endorsing candidates can be a messy business and ActivatED is already ruffling some feathers in Edmonton’s 2013 election season. The group has already endorsed Linda Sloan in Ward 1, David Dodge in Ward 3, Dave Colburn in Ward 7, Ben Henderson in Ward 8, and Amarjeet Sohi in Ward 12.

Thank you to Ms. Dadani for joining us on the hangout and articulately explaining her group’s raison-d’être and decision making process. You can watch the hangout in the embed above and at EdmontonPolitics.com.

There are numerous additions to the unofficial list of Edmonton election candidates. Many of the additions are in Downtown Edmonton’s Ward 6, where 12 candidates have now declared their intention to run in the ward being vacated by Councillor Jane Batty, the most of any race in the city.

New mayoral candidate Kristine Acielo thinks the proposed downtown arena is not big enough and 2012 Evergreen Party Senate candidate Elizabeth Johannson is challenging former New Democrat MLA Ray Martin in the Public School Board’s Ward D.

If you have any additions to the unofficial list of declared candidates, please let me know.

Funding Edmonton’s Downtown Arena, the strange comedy of errors continues.

The strange comedy of errors that has become Edmonton’s Downtown Arena project continued this week as City Council scrambled to fill a $100 million gap in a funding plan they approved months ago.

Stephen Mandel

Stephen Mandel

Despite repeated claims by Mayor Stephen Mandel that provincial government money would fill the $100 million gap, anyone who has paid any attention over the past year will know the province had no plans to provide funding for Edmonton’s Downtown Arena project. Premier Alison Redford, Finance Minister Doug Horner, and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths have been consistent in their public comments on the topic: “no.”

In response to the lack of never-promised funding in last month’s provincial budget, the Mayor and seven Councillors voted to withdraw a $45 million loan to be paid back through future Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding that the city could receive over the next twenty-years. In response to the decision, Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons reminded her readers this week, “[t]he clear intent of the original council resolution was that no deal would go ahead without $100 million in new provincial money.”

Daryl-Katz

Daryl Katz

In a display of common sense against what has become Mayor Mandel’s increasingly embarrassing obsession, five Councillors – Don IvesonBen HendersonLinda SloanKerry Diotte, and Tony Caterina – voted against the motion to dedicate future Municipal Sustainability Initiative funds to the proposed Arena.

Problematic for many reasons, this decision still leaves a $55 million gap in funding and Daryl Katz – the billionaire owner of the Edmonton Oilers – said he is not interested in renegotiating the financial arrangement agreed to months ago. Mayor Mandel claims this loan will convince the provincial to fill a smaller $55 million funding gap – something the province has said it has no interest in doing.

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative was created by Premier Ed Stelmach’s government in 2007 to provide funding to municipalities for public infrastructure projects. Municipalities have discretion over how this provincial money is spent and they have typically been used to fund public transit, libraries, community halls and utility infrastructure. Using these funds to build a new hockey arena to house a privately-owned business like the Edmonton Oilers would use funds that could be used for other much-needed community infrastructure projects.

A concern for City Councillors should be that, like all funding transfers from other levels of government, there is no assurance that the Municipal Sustainability Initiative will exist over the next twenty-years. Its continued existence is based on three factors the City of Edmonton has no control over: population growth, provincial revenue, and the continued desire of provincial politicians to continue the program.

Will the provincial government change its tune and provide $55 million in direct funding? Not very likely. Mayor Mandel’s warpath against post-secondary funding cuts will have left many already unsympathetic provincial politicians now even less-willing to contribute to the project.

Also problematic for the provincial government is the ongoing is the investigation by Alberta’s Chief Elections Officer into allegations that Mr. Katz violated the Elections Finances Act by donating more than $400,000 to the Progressive Conservative Party in the 2012 provincial election (the individual donation limit is $30,000).

pity the billionaire. katz group asks city council for more.

Daryl Katz Edmonton Downtown Arena Oilers

Pity the Billionaire. Oilers owner Daryl Katz asks Edmonton City Council to make more financial concessions in his sweat-heart deal to build a new downtown arena.

One week after Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce warned of dramatic consequences if construction of the new downtown arena did not begin soon, the Katz Group, owned by billionaire Daryl Katz, has demanded further financial concessions to the already rich deal that City Councillors agreed to last year. Despite weak-kneed support by most Councillors who voted to build a downtown arena for the Katz Group-owned Edmonton Oilers last year, a pre-election year backbone appeared in Council Chambers today.

From the Edmonton Journal‘s Paula Simons:

In a last-minute addition to the agenda, councillors were given a top-secret briefing by city administration on negotiations with the Katz Group over a new downtown arena.

When councillors finally emerged from their closed-door meeting, they were grim. Without revealing any details of their private discussions, Bryan Anderson and Kim Krushell, two of the most passionate supporters of the arena project, moved and seconded a motion, written in the sort of code that could only be deciphered by longtime arenaologists.

Here’s the exact wording: “That in response to the Katz Group’s recent request for additional public funding, administration is directed to respond to the Katz Group that City Council remains committed to the negotiated framework approved by City Council on October 26, 2011.”

Simple translation?

No.

No more concessions for Daryl Katz and the Oilers. Councillors were united in their new-found resolve. Only Kerry Diotte and Linda Sloan voted against the motion — and that’s only because they thought last October’s deal was too rich. Read more…

According to a letter from Katz Group General Counsel John Karvellas, the current $450 million project, which includes $125 million from the City of Edmonton, $100 million from the Katz Group, and $125 million from a ticket tax. An additional $100 million is still missing from the funding formula. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel told reporters today he is confident that money will become available from the provincial government (which may be unlikely following Finance Minister Doug Horner‘s projections of a potential $3 billion provincial budget deficit).

Meanwhile, Mr. Katz’s employees, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, are signed up to earn $42-million and $36-million over the next seven and six years playing for the last-place Edmonton Oilers. Mr. Katz’s hockey company may operate in an alternate bizarro universe when signing paycheques, but these types of sky-high salaries make it difficult to feel sympathetic to his company’s plea for more financial concessions by Edmontonians.

Additional reading: Alex Abboud’s Edmonton’s Arena Will Likely Happen, But Would it be Bad Thing If It Didn’t?

tory attack ad tame by all standards.

Social-Credit-Its-a-Big-Decision

Alberta's culture of negative attack ads began with this nasty Social Credit Party newspaper ad during the 1971 election.

Alberta’s political twitterati were atwitter yesterday after a Progressive Conservative radio advertisement was leaked to the Calgary Herald. The ad defend the new law passed by Premier Alison Redford‘s government that will lower a driver’s legal blood alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05 and respond to the constant, and sometimes creative, criticism of the new law by Danielle Smith and her Wildrose Party.

Judging by the amount of earned media the Tories have already received about the yet-to-be-aired ad, the ad may have already paid for itself.

Unlike the negative ads saturating the airwaves in the Republican Party presidential nomination race south of the border, this Tory radio ad is very, very tame. The ads point out a clear difference between the two parties on a real policy issue that both parties believe they have something to gain from.

Albertans should expect high levels of sensationalism from mainstream political pundits in over the course of the next week. How many times can we expect the phrase “the gloves off” to be used in the next few days? Lots.

The Tory Party’s shift in tactics is important to note. Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid points out on his blog that the ad marks an attitude change in a PC Party that would typically dismiss the opposition (and romp to another election victory).

Normally invulnerable, the Tories may be worried that accusations and evidence of intimidation and bad governance may be starting to stick. The growing pile of Tory political miscalculations and mistakes are starting to pile up with an election call expected by the end of March.

Some of the latest Tory missteps include Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau’s threatening letter to school board officials in his constituency, the war of words between Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association President Linda Sloan, and the ensuing tweet of Premier Redford’s now-former Chief of Staff Stephen Carter. Along with Elections Alberta announcing an investigation into allegations of illegal political donations.

Yesterday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released information showing that 21 MLAs, mostly Tories, are being paid $1000 per month for being members of a legislative committee that has not met in over three years. Lacombe-Ponoka PC MLA Ray Prins has been collecting $18,000 a year for being the chair of the committee.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake PC MLA Genia Leskiw pleaded ignorance when asked about the extra money she was collecting from the committee, telling the CBC that “I don’t even look at my paycheque.

Maybe the Tories should be worried.

one week. too many tweets. two apologies.

Loose tweets sink fleets

Loose tweets sink fleets

With Alberta’s pre-election season in full-swing, molehills are becoming mountains and politicians are clinging to any issue they believe could help them score political points.

Kicking off this past week, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths announced that Progressive Conservative MLAs would boycott an annual breakfast hosted by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association after that organization’s President, Edmonton City Councillor Linda Sloan, criticized the provincial budget. Minister Griffiths claimed that Councillor-President Sloan’s criticisms were unfair, and in a tit-for-tat written letter, he declined the AUMA’s invitation to the meal.

The situation was quickly enflamed when Premier Alison Redford‘s Chief of Staff, Stephen Carter, tweeted that Councillor Sloan had lied, maliciously, by accusing the province of political bias in funding municipal projects. After an ensuing social media firestorm crossed into main stream media reporting, Mr. Carter issued an apology to Councillor Sloan.

Minister Griffiths then tweeted that he would attended the annual AUMA breakfast. Councillor Sloan, a former Liberal MLA, used Minister Griffiths’ u-turn as an opportunity to restate her claim that partisan interests have influence municipal grants. I expect this may be the first of many times the provincial Tories will have to face Councillor Sloan in her role with the AUMA.

Almost immediately after the story of Mr. Carter’s tweet began to die down, Tory caucus communications officer Jessica Jacobs-Mino found herself in hot water after a spat on Twitter with Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid. Her Twitter account has since been deleted.

Opposition politicians were not immune to this week’s pre-election overzealousness.  Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman delivered a pitch perfect apology after a media release sent from his caucus wrongfully accused the Town of Penhold of illegally donating $609 to the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake PC association.

A quick rebuttal from Penhold Mayor Dennis Cooper revealed that the financial transaction was not an illegal donation, but a repayment for unused rent given to the town for use of its facilities. The Liberal accusation was the latest in a series of media releases accusing the Tories of being “warlords” for their part in the painfully-named “donation-gate.”

recommended reading: how the katz group did an end run around the best interests of edmontonians.

If you read one article today, please read Paula Simons well written column on how billionaire Daryl Katz and the Katz Group were able to score major concessions from the City of Edmonton during their campaign to secure public funds to build their new downtown arena.

Simons: Katz Group power play scores major concessions from city

Call it the art of the deal — raised to the level, not of a Donald Trump, but of a Leonardo da Vinci.

Back in April, Edmonton city council agreed that it would only support Daryl Katz’s proposal for a new downtown arena under a long list of very strict circumstances. Among them? The motion required the Katz Group to put up at least $100 million toward the capital cost of the arena. It put a strict $125-million ceiling on the city’s direct cost for building the facility. And it specified that no deal would go ahead until another level or levels of government had somehow made up the remaining $100 million funding shortfall.

There is still no public hint of that magical $100 million, from either the Alison Redford Tories or the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

Yet at a hastily called meeting this past Friday, with three councillors out of town and one on a medical leave, city council voted to buy the land that Katz has optioned for a new arena. (Bryan Anderson, who’s recovering from surgery, missed the vote. So did Ben Henderson, who was stuck on a plane. Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan were out of the country on holiday, but voted over the phone.) Of those councillors who did vote, only Sloan, Tony Caterina, and Kerry Diotte opposed the purchase.

Read the rest and if your stomach is feeling queasy when you reach the end of the column, phone or email the Mayor and your City Councillor, and tell them how you feel about the decisions they are making by rushing the decision to provide public funds to pay for a downtown arena for Mr. Katz and his company.

a look at the alberta liberal leadership candidates.

You might be forgiven if you have not paid much attention to the Alberta Liberal Party leadership contest, which is currently under way. The Liberal contest is not as exciting as the Progressive Conservative’s leadership contest, as flashy as the Wildrose (now minus the Alliance), or intriguing as the new Alberta Party, but it is important enough not to ignore. The Liberal Party is still the Official Opposition and while it has taken a beating in the polls and public image over the past few years, its next leader will play a role in the next provincial election.

Here is a look at the candidates for their leadership:

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman

Laurie Blakeman
Slogan: Laurie4Leader
Elected Experience: MLA for Edmonton-Centre from 1997 to the present.
Background: Laurie Blakeman is known as a vocal and unrelenting critic of the governing Tories. As Deputy Leader under party leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann, she also served as critic for Finance, the Environment, and Culture.

Her strong views as an unapologetic feminist representing Edmonton’s densest urban constituency have made her an enemy to many conservatives, but her skills as Opposition House Leader have gained her respect from some Tory MLAs across the floor. She is also one half of Edmonton’s political power couple, her husband is Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson.

In 1998, Ms. Blakeman supported then-MLA Linda Sloan‘s leadership bid. She declined to run for her party’s leadership in 2004, telling the Globe & Mail that “she doesn’t have the fire in her belly to run” and again in 2008 admitting that fundraising was not her strength. Earlier this year she publicly mused about joining the Alberta Party, but instead decided to seek the Liberal Party leadership.

(Disclaimer: I like Laurie Blakeman have volunteered for her election campaigns in 2004 and 2008).

Liberal candidate Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey
Slogan: Returning to responsible government
Elected Experience: Liberal candidate in Calgary-East in 2004 and 2008.
Background: Calgary financial advisor Bill Harvey entered the leadership contest this week with a message that Liberals need to return to their past roots to succeed in the future. The main message on his website reminds Liberals of their 1990’s glory days under former leader Laurence Decore and is peppered with fiscal conservative language.

In 2008, he ran a “law and order” and “tough on crime” focused campaign, which earned him an endorsement by Craig Chandler‘s hyper-conservative Progressive Group for Independent Business. His website says that he will be releasing a detailed platform later this month.

Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar from 1997 to present
Background: Since stepping into his role as the opposition labour critic during his first-term and making headlines over the government’s shaky handling of rotting pine shakes roofing and lack of whistle-blower protection, Hugh MacDonald earned a reputation as a dogged critic of the Tories. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, his focus on uncovering Tory scandals sometimes makes him appear on the verge of paranoia, but he is relentless and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see Mr. MacDonald buried in books, doing his own research in the Legislature Library.

Mr. MacDonald is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal partisan. Even if the Liberal Party is wiped off the political map in the next election, Hugh MacDonald will fight to the end (clasping a battle-axe in one hand while caped in blood-soaked battle armour under a Liberal Party flag). Inside the Liberal Party, Mr. MacDonald appeals to the stalwart crowd who believe that it is not the Liberal brand that has damaged their party, but that party members who have not adhered enough loyalty to the Liberal brand are responsible for the party’s 80 years of electoral defeat.

Mr. MacDonald has the endorsements of former party leaders Nick Taylor and Ken Nicol and former MLAs Bill Bonner and Yolande Gagnon.

Bruce Payne Liberal candidate

Bruce Payne

Bruce Payne
Slogan: 87 Strong
Elected experience: Nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Varsity
Background: An unknown outside some Calgary political circles, it is difficult to know whether Bruce Payne is actually a serious candidate in this contest.

A long-time union leader, in 2007 he led the 6,000 southern Alberta carpenters union as it and seven other construction unions threatened Alberta’s first multi-trade strike in almost 30 years. He was later the Spokesperson for the Alberta and Northwest Territories Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and President of the Building Trades of Alberta Southern Council.

His 87 Strong slogan is in reference to the 87 constituencies that will be created when the next election is called. His campaign also takes a shot at the current Liberal MLAs and their tendency to attack the Tories for every “scandals, faux-pas, screw-ups, miscues and arrogant decisions” without a long-term strategy.

His campaign manager is the former Liberal Caucus communications director Neil Mackie, who departed from his job at the Assembly earlier this year.

Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman Independent Liberal

Raj Sherman

Raj Sherman
Slogan: None
Elected experience: MLA Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2008 to present
Background: Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman could be both the wildcard and the front-runner in this contest. Six months ago he wanted nothing to do with the Liberal Party as he sat in the PC caucus as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health & Wellness. Since writing the bluntly-worded email that led to hm being kicked out of the PC caucus, Dr. Sherman has attained a folk hero status among many Albertans.

After opening up their leadership vote to any Albertan without having to purchase a membership, I have a difficult time seeing Dr. Sherman as anything but the front-runner in this contest.

Although his opponents will criticize him for switching parties, it is hard to believe that Dr. Sherman has ever actually “belonged” to any political party. On February 13, 2008 PC candidate Dr. Sherman told the Edmonton Journal, “Ideas belong to society, they don’t belong to a party. For me, it wasn’t so much about parties as about getting the idea to the people who make decisions.”

Dr. Sherman has the support of former MLA Bharat Agnihotri, and I have been told that Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr and Calgary-McCall MLA Darshan Kang are lending their support to his campaign.

Not yet entered the contest:

There may be a sixth candidate to enter this contest. Word on the street is that the executive of a medium-sized Calgary-based energy company may announce his candidacy next week.

understanding the katz arena district debate: community revitalization levy, opportunity costs, and the arena poll.

Edmonton City Council voted yesterday to enter formal negotiations with the Katz Group to develop a downtown arena though framework documents developed by the City Administration. These documents are problematic for many reasons, but mostly significantly because they present a $100 million gap in the funding framework.

Mayor Stephen Mandel remains a steadfast supporter of this mega-project and a few Councillors expressed their discomfort at entering this stage of the process with a surprising lack of important information available to them. Councillors passed a 12-part motion requesting reports on the community benefits, the potential to raise money from licensing or selling seats, the impact on businesses near the area, and the status of negotiations with Northlands. The lack of important information still unavailable makes yesterday’s motion very much a tentative move towards negotiations between City Council and the Katz Group.

After a heated day of questions and debate, Councillors Don Iveson and Linda Sloan were the only two Council members to vote against the motion to enter negotiations, which was voted upon separately from the rest of the 12-point motion. Councillor Iveson wrote a blog post last night expanding on why he did not support the motion and raised the important point that perhaps: “we should just call this a subsidy and be transparent about it.” This point raises another important question that I asked in a previous post: should municipal governments be responsible for subsidizing professional sports in Canada?

Public hearing on the Katz Group’s zoning proposal are scheduled for today and more public hearings are expected to be held in mid-March.

As City Council awaits a response to its motions, it is important that all Edmontonians understand the wider issues surrounding this development, so that they can fully participate in the debate and ensure that our elected officials are making the most responsible decisions for the future of our City. Here are three of those wider issues:

Understanding the Community Revitalization Levy
An important thing to remember when trying to understand the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) is that despite its name, it is essentially a tax (in other jurisdictions it is known as Tax Increment Financing).

There is a good explanation of CRL on the WhyDowntown? blog. Mack Male has also written a helpful three part series explaining some of the basics about CRLs, how they are already being used in Calgary’s Rivers District, in Edmonton’s Fort Road, and is in the process of being implemented in Edmonton’s The Quarters District, and how a CRL could work in a Katz Arena District.

Understanding Opportunity Costs
The Charette’s Scott Lilwall has taken a look at some of the opportunity costs facing the City of Edmonton if public funds are used to subsidize the Katz Group Arena. Are the opportunity costs of subsidizing a new downtown arena good for Edmontonians?

Given that it’s never a sure thing, we need to ask ourselves – what is the opportunity cost? If downtown revitalization is our goal, is a new arena the best thing we could spend $250 million on? It seems to be a high price to pay for bringing people to the downtown for a few hours at time. Even if the new arena was booked every night, most people are going to be in and out: come downtown for the event and then go home. Some of them will stick around for a few hours beforehand. Do some shopping. Do some eating. Spend some time downtown.

That’s good. But it can’t be all that we aim for. What we need is to get more people living around downtown, people who will be eating and shopping and walking and doing what people int he neighborhoods they live in. And they’ll be doing it at all hours of the day. That should be our goal, and the arena is only one way of getting closer to it. But are there better things that we can do with that big pile of money?

Understanding the Arena District Poll
Last week’s news stories in the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun were filled with praise for a poll showing that a majority of Edmontonians not only supported the construction of a downtown arena and public funding of the project.

Luckily for Edmontonians, the Journal’s Paula Simons took a more critical look at the poll results and the questions asked in the poll. Ms. Simons’ closer look confirms the old adage that you can always formulate polls to give you the results you are looking for.

In her column today, Ms. Simons reminds Edmontonians that many questions still need to be answered before this arena deal spins out of control. Hit the books and get learning, Edmontonians. The future of your City deserves a good debate.

the wildrose’s new hired gun.

The Wildrose Alliance is bolstering their staff in preparation for the next provincial election.

Recent hire William McBeath left his position as Director of Operations for Minister Diane Finley in Ottawa to become the Director of Candidate Operations and Party Communications for the Wildrose Alliance. Although he spent some time in Ottawa, political watchers will remember Mr. McBeath from his time as Alberta Regional Organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada, as researcher for former Edmonton City Councillor Mike Nickel, and as an organizer for Ted Morton‘s PC leadership campaign in 2006. Mr. McBeath joins long-time Conservative Party organizer Vitor Marciano, who was hired as the Wildrose Executive Director in March 2010.

The Wildrose Alliance has also attracted the support of two former Conservative Members of Parliament. Retired Edmonton-St. Albert MP John Williams and Westlock-St. Paul MP David Chatters are supporting Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Wildrose nomination candidate Link Byfield in his campaign against PC MLA Speaker Ken Kowalski.

“The issue is not the MLA; it is the party and the government. The government has been around too long.” – Former Conservative MP John Williams

The Wildrosers will be holding a contested nomination meeting in the Liberal-stronghold of Edmonton-Riverview. Candidates John Corie and Chris Ozdoba will duke it out on October 21 for the chance to hold their party’s flag in the constituency represented by MLA Kevin Taft since 2001 (who is not seeking re-election).

The Liberals have yet to announce a nomination date in Riverview, but rumours are circulating that retiring Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is interested in seeking the Liberal nomination. Before Dr. Taft, the Riverview constituency was represented by current City Councillor Linda Sloan from 1997 to 2001.

The Wildrosers have a head start in candidate nominations, but are not the only party holding nomination meetings.

The Liberal Party nominated former MLA Weslyn Mather in Edmonton-Mill Woods last weekend and will be holding a nomination meeting in Edmonton-McClung on October 23. Former MLA Mo Elsalhy is expected to be acclaimed at the nomination meeting.

The NDP have a contested nomination meeting in Grande Prairie-Wapiti scheduled for next week. Contestants Paula Anderson and John Friesen are probably participating in the first contested candidate nomination for the Grande Prairie NDP in recent memory.

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.

tories would love to put opposition-held ridings on the chopping block.

Edmonton-Riverview under the electoral boundaries created in 2003.

I was not surprised to hear rumours that Edmonton-Riverview might be on the chopping block when the final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is released in July (the interim report had kept Riverview largely intact). The Tories have been trying and have been incredibly unsuccessful in capturing enough support to elect an MLA in Riverview since it was created in 1997. With decisive margins, Liberal MLAs Linda Sloan and Kevin Taft have been successful in holding off Tory challengers including Gwen Harris, City Councillor Wendy Kinsella, Fred Horne, and local president Wendy Andrews. I have read and heard many arguments in favour of disassembling Riverview, the largest being that it does not make sense for a riding to span across the North Saskatchewan River, which should act as a natural boundary (under the current boundaries, three Edmonton ridings cross the River). It is silly to argue that an urban MLA cannot represent a riding divided by a river when many rural MLAs represent ridings that span across the province.

With three appointees on the five-member Electoral Boundaries Commission, the PCs may finally get their chance to put Riverview on the chopping block.

Large-scale changes to Riverview were not included in the Commission’s interim report, but there were large changes to other opposition held ridings. Much of Edmonton-Cadler may merge with Edmonton-Glenora, a change that could pit former Calder NDP MLA David Eggen against Glenora PC MLA Heather Klimchuk in a riding that also has a tradition of electing Liberal MLAs.

Edmonton boundary changes proposed in Electoral Commission's interim report with poll-by-poll results from the 2008 election.

In Edmonton-Gold Bar, proposed changes in the interim report would give four-term Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald an 8-vote margin, compared to a 1,018 margin of victory under the current boundaries in 2008. While sometimes overly-eccentric, Mr. MacDonald is one of the hardest working Opposition MLAs in the Assembly. It should not be surprising that the PCs have their eyes on Gold Bar, a riding that has elected Liberal MLAs since 1986.

The changes proposed in the interim report are not entirely unkind to the opposition when looking at the 2008 election results. The interim boundaries reduce PC MLA Tony Vandermeer‘s margin of victory in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 337 votes to 101 votes. Nominated New Democrat Deron Bilous is already gunning for Mr. Vandermeer’s job. The interim boundaries would have also helped Calgary-Elbow Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins defeat now-Justice Minister Alison Redford by 272 votes (instead, Mr. Cheffins was unseated by 419 votes in the current boundaries).

They are the most politically organized force province-wide, but it is understated how much of an advantage their 2006 leadership selection gave the PCs in 2008. Just over a year after their intensely competitive leadership race, large and fresh membership lists have the PCs a large advantage over their opponents, who had not developed these kind of large-scale lists.

The next election will present Albertans with new electoral boundaries and also a new political environment. The PC Party’s popularity has significantly dropped in the polls since the last election and its caucus has shrunk by a by-election defeat and MLA floor-crossingsDavid Swann is the first Liberal leader from Calgary since the 1970s and his party is nearly debt-free. The Wildrose Alliance is on its way to becoming well-organized and well-funded under the leadership of the politically-savvy Danielle Smith. The existence of the new Alberta Party is drawing support from many centrist and progressive political organizers. There is a general unhappiness and unease among Albertans with how the politics of governance is being operated in Alberta.

Even if some opposition-held ridings do get chopped and diced, the shifts in the political environment since the last election could make the could make any gerrymandering near irrelevant.

#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.