After a month of driving by signs on the boulevards, volunteered knocking on your door, and receiving literature in the mail, Municipal Election Day in Alberta has arrived! As you sit down to enjoy a night of watching the results, tune into the live coverage at theEdmontonian.com, which is sure to be entertaining and educational (edutainment for all your political needs) and watch the results roll in online at ShareEdmonton. As a last send-off before the voting stations close at 8pm and the results roll in shortly afterward, here are some of the contests to watch:
Mayor How much of the protest over the phased closure of the City Centre Airport will translate into the vote results. Most political watchers expect Mayor Stephen Mandel to be re-elected with a healthy margin with David Dorward to place a respectable second place and Daryl Bonar in third.
Ward 2 Hard-working incumbent Councillor Kim Krushell is facing a well-funded opponent in perennial candidate Don Koziak. The closure of the City Centre Airport is Mr. Koziak’s main issue, so it will be interesting to see if it has resonated with voters at the polls. This could be a close race.
Ward 3 WIth the retirement of long-time Councillor Ron Hayter, there is no incumbent standing in this Ward. Dave Loken is trying for his third time and is facing off against Councillor Hayter’s Executive Assistant Terry Demers and former Liberal candidate Kim Cassady. I expect Mr. Loken to take it, but this could also be a close race.
Ward 4 Councillor Ed Gibbons is being challenged by former MLA Dan Backs. Mr. Back’s campaign has campaigned hard on the City Centre Airport closure, so this will be another interesting race to watch. I give the edge to Councillor Gibbons, but it could be close.
Ward 7 First-term Councillor Tony Caterina is facing a challenge from on-leave Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen and local activist Brendan Van Alstine. Councillor Caterina is a solid campaigner, but does not have a great reputation for working together with fellow Councillors. The incumbent probably has the edge in this race, but with three strong candidates it could be interesting.
Ward 11 The retirement of long-time Councillor Dave Thiele has left this seat as an open contest. My gut tells me that former Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte may skweek out a win in the end, but he faces three strong opponents in Chinwe Okelu, Shane Bergdahl, and Vishal Luthra.
A heated battle has been brewing over Edmonton’s Public School Board. Although it was re-ignited by communities angry that their Public School Board Trustees were not responsive to their concerns about the closure of neighborhood schools earlier this year, this battle is not new. In many ways, it is a conflict between the “old guard” and a newly involved group of community members who believe that the school board should be more than a bureaucracy of education administrators. Experience is good, but for too long the board has been dominated by retired administrators and civil servants who refuse to see themselves act as leaders in our City.
Two elections ago, this battle raged between the old guard made up of long-time incumbent Trustees and members of the now-defunct provincial parent advocacy group APPEAL (Albertans Promoting Public Education and Learning). In that election, APPEAL did not run a slate of candidates, but many of their members decided to step up from years as education advocates to stand as Trustee candidates in their communities.
The day before election day in 2004, the Edmonton Journal published an op-ed from Leif Stolee, longtime educator and administrator of Edmonton public schools, who effectively claimed that unless you are an educator, former administrator or have served on the public school board for at least three or four terms, you are not competent to serve as a trustee. It is likely that this op-ed side-swiped many of the new challengers and helped boost many of the old guard incumbents over the top in closely contested races for Edmonton Public School Board.
Fast forward to 2010 and the same dynamic is in play as the old guard and their supporters are still trying to hang on to their positions. Are they running scared this time?
In Ward G, incumbent Trustee George Rice has refused to debate challenger Sarah Hoffman, who has been running an aggressive campaign against him. In Ward B, I am told that Trustee Ken Shipka has also refused to debate his opponents. Mr. Shipka has been an invisible Trustee after he was forced to apologize after calling aboriginal people “nocturnal” in 2008.
One of the more heated battles is in Ward F, which has drawn three candidates to replace five-term Trustee Don Fleming. This week, candidate Bev Sawyer chastized the media for focusing on the rift between the School Board and the larger community. In addition. Mrs. Sawyer (a retired Principal and administrator) used her best online Principal voice to scold fellow candidate Michael Janz for… being too young?
Mrs. Sawyer appears to have taken an issue with comments that Mr. Janz made during interviews with CBC last week:
“The reason we’re seeing more younger candidates, fewer of the retired administrators, and more community advocates is because there is this growing realization that decisions made at the school board level will effect all Edmontonians” – Michael Janz.
As the old guard and their supporters desperately try to keep their hold on Edmonton’s Public School Board, they are missing a larger point. Legislation expected to be introduced by Education Minister Dave Hancock in the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature may further curtail the administrative powers of School Boards, potentially even replacing them with partially-appointed Boards.
When the time comes when School Boards are challenged to stand up and prove their relevance, who will be best fit to do this – an old guard who have allowed the role of Trustees to wither into glorified administrators or a new group of people who understand why School Trustees need to be relevant and responsible to the whole community?
James Cameron & the Avatarsands. Premier Ed Stelmach is facing criticism for acting like a “starstruck teenager” after receiving an invitation to take film director James Cameron on a tour of Alberta’s oil sands. While I doubt that the Ed “Hollywood” Stelmach label will stick, the Premier’s response does show how eager the PCs have become in taking any opportunity to challenge the international criticism of Alberta’s energy beach. (Will fish be on the lunch menu?)
Brian Mason’s “Just trust me” tour. NDP MLA Brian Mason made two announcements this week in his and MLA Rachel Notley‘s “Earning your trust” tour across Alberta. In CalgaryEdmonton last week, the NDP leader announced a fiscal plan, pledging that an NDP government would balance Alberta’s budget in one year. The NDP leader also announced support for the construction of a post-secondary institution in the Town of Hinton. The NDP are not going to form government or gain wide-spread support in Alberta anytime soon but I have to give that party’s two MLAs credit for being the only party on their side of the political spectrum to be making policy announcements.
There is an important political question about how much the Wildrose Alliance, which has endorsed the Envision Edmonton lobby group, is using this issue to promote their own political agenda. Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isley told the Bonnyville Nouvelle in a recent interview that ‘his goal in life is to do everything possible in the next two years to elect a Wildrose government next election.’ ‘everything possible.’
Legislature Staffers standing in the municipal election. Two political staffers at the Alberta Legislature are trying to make the jump to municipal politics this fall. NDP Caucus Research Director Sarah Hoffman is challenging Edmonton Public School Board Trustee George Rice in Ward G. Wildrose Caucus staffer James Johnson is running against City Councillor Jane Batty in Edmonton’s downtown Ward 6.Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr dropped out of the Calgary Mayoral contest last week.
Next Provincial Election. I have started a list of candidate nominated to stand in the next provincial election (I have also created a link to the list in the bar above). By my count, the Wildrosers have nominated 9 candidates, the NDP 2, and the Liberals will nominate their first candidate on October 2. I will try to keep the list up to date, so please email email@example.com if there are additions to the list.
It was Christmas morning for political watchers this morning as candidates poured into City Hall to file their nomination papers. I have been to a lot of different political events in my time, but nothing has so far matched the euphoria of Nomination Day at City Hall.
Starting at 9am, bright eyed and well-intentioned candidates began to line up to submit their papers. As they moved down the line, candidates were peppered with questions and camera flashes by the media. For most candidates running in this election, this will be the closest they get to walking the red carpet.
After filing their nomination papers, candidates were scrummed and pressed by the media about who they were, where they were running, and what their positions were on pressing issues. Most of the media questions had to do with the decision to redevelop the City Centre Airport lands, but candidates also brought up their pet issues. Some candidates, like Councillor Jane Batty, came and left quickly. Others, like Ward 11 candidate Kerry Diotte, lingered to get as much media coverage as possible. Different styles for different candidates I suppose.
You might think that 30 days is a short time to reasonably campaign for election, and you would be right, but there were many candidates who came out of the woodwork to launch their campaign today. Most candidates came prepared and some, like Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra, came with campaign t-shirt toting entourages.
One unfortunate Mayoral aspirant, Cheryl Ullah, came with her nomination papers signed, but forgot to bring her $500 deposit with her. In a bizarre scene, she started collecting donations from reporters and other candidates only 10 minutes before the nomination deadline. Although she was able to raise $90 in about 8 minutes (with a generous $60 donation from Ward A Public School Board Trustee Cheryl Johner), she was unable to make up the extra $410 and dropped out of the race. Don Koziak has now lost the record for shortest Mayoral candidacy.
Out of 114 candidates who submitted their nomination papers today, only two were acclaimed. Incumbent Public School Board Trustees Dave Colburn (Ward D) and Catherine Ripley (Ward H) will not face any challengers on October 18. There had been rumours that some City Councillors may also be acclaimed, but in the end a few last-minute candidates filed papers to run against Councillor Don Iveson (Ward 10) and Councillor Karen Leibovici (Ward 5).
There are new candidates and competitive races across the City, but there are three City Council Wards that at this point stick out in my mind as the hot races to watch. Curiously, they are in Wards with prime numbers.
In the incumbentless Ward 3, Former Liberal candidate Kim Cassady filed his papers to run for City Council in Ward 3, taking on challengers Dave Loken and Terry Demers. This is Mr. Loken’s third time running for City Council and Ms. Demers second. As retiring Councillor Ron Hayter‘s Executive Assistant, Ms. Demers will have a special insight into the issues in this Ward. New entries into the Ward 3 contest are Shawn Philip Fairbridge, Hatem Naboulsi, John Oplanich, Greg Siver, Louis Sobolewski, and Michael Suess.
In Ward 7, former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen put his name forward last week to run against Councillor Tony Caterina. Challenger Brendan Van Alstine has been pounding the pavement for over a year to unseat Councillor Caterina, so Mr. McKeen’s entry had added some extreme unpredictability to the race in this north east central Ward. Other candidates entering the contest in Ward 7 today are Terry Rolls and Grant David Pullishy.
In south east central Edmonton, the vacant Ward 11 has drawn four main challengers in Community League organizer Shane Bergdahl, many-time candidate Chinwe Okelu, former Edmonton Sun columnist Mr. Diotte, and the well-organized Mr. Luthra. There has been an intense sign and door-knocking war happening in this Ward since earlier this year, which leads me to believe that it could be any one’s race. New candidates entering the race this morning are Roberto Maglalang and Brent Schaffrick
It also appears that some of the most competitive contests in this year’s election might be at the School Board level. In south central Ward F, long-time Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is not seeking re-election, leaving a three-way race between Michael Janz, Bev Sawyer, and Joanna Rozmus. In Ward G, incumbent Trustee George Rice is facing some serious competition from Sarah Hoffman.
Attending Nomination Day at City Hall was an interesting and worthwhile experience. At no other time during the next 30 days are all of the candidates going to be in the same room at the same time. This morning have me the opportunity to put the names (and websites, Facebook groups, and twitter accounts) to the faces and actually talk with some of the candidates. I hope that all the readers of this blog take the time to read up and try to meet with the candidates standing for election in your area. As the campaign begins in full (and the full list of candidates are released this afternoon), I will be taking a closer look at each Ward contest, the Mayoral election, and the races at the School Board level.