Karen Leibovici, councillor for southwest Edmonton’s Ward 5, is soon expected to announce her entry into the mayoral contest. On June 15, she will mark two decades since she was first elected to public office, then as Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark. She was first elected to City Council in October 2001 after her defeat in the March 2001 provincial election.
Councillor Don Iveson is also widely expected to enter the race for Mayor of Edmonton. A Draft Don Iveson for Mayor page on Facebook has popped up and attracted more than 300 supporters.
Former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen is rumoured to be preparing a run in Council’s Ward 6. With incumbent Councillor Jane Batty rumoured to be retiring, Mr. McKeen would join already declared candidates Heather Mackenzie and Kassie Russell in this central Edmonton race. This would be his second attempt at office, having unsuccessfully challenged Ward 7 Councillor Tony Caterina in 2010.
With Councillor Kerry Diotte running for Mayor, there are plenty of rumours circulating about who could run in the now vacant Ward 11. Harvey Penasar, owner of the Aggression Fighting Championship – a mixed marshal arts league – is said to be preparing a run in that ward.
In Ward 10, Zack Siezmagraff launched his campaign this morning. This is Mr. Siezmagraff’s second attempt at elected office, having run as the federal Liberal Party candidate 2011 election candidate in the sprawling rural riding of Yellowhead. Mr. Seizmagraff will face-off against community organizer Michael Walters and University instructor Richard Feehan.
University of Alberta Ph.D. student Karen Pheasant is joining the race in Edmonton Public School Board’s Ward C. With incumbent trustee Christopher Spencer not seeking re-election, there are numerous candidates in the running. Already declared are Tina Jardine and Susan Ketteringham.
There are now two weeks until Edmontonians have the opportunity to elect their Mayor, City Councillors, and School Board Trustees (either Public or Catholic). The polls will be open from 9:00am to 8:00pm on Monday, October 18. If you will not be able to vote on Election Day, you can take advantage of advanced voting until October 16 (open 11:30am to 5:00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday).
Being a responsible citizen, I have been thinking a lot about the ballot choices I will make on election day.
Edmonton Public School Board Ward F
My vote for Public School Board Trustee was the easiest to decide. I will be voting for Ward F candidate Michael Janz. I have known Michael for a few years and know that if elected he will be a strong advocate for community involvement in the future of our public schools.
For too long, our Public School Board has acted as a pasture for retired school principals and school board administrators and because of this it has withered into insignificance among the general public. I know that Michael understands this and believe that if elected as a Trustee, he will work to increase the relevance of our Public School Board beyond teachers, parents, and children.
Marking an X beside Michael Janz was an easy decision for me, but do not let me stop you from reading more about Joanna Rozmus and Bev Sawyer.
City Council Ward 6
I am having a difficult time deciding what to do with my City Council ballot. I am feeling extremely underwhelmed about the candidates in the downtown Ward 6. I thought that tuning-in online to last week’s all-candidates forum might help me with my decision, instead it just increased my indecision.
Incumbent Councillor Jane Batty is a nice person and as a Councillor she appears invisible on the issues. I pay attention to municipal politics and still have little idea what Councillor Batty has achieved during her three terms on City Council. I have also seen little existence of her campaign in this ward and have only spotted her election signs in front of her campaign office on Jasper Avenue and 122nd Street.
Ward 6 challenger Bryan Kapitza’s ideas speak to me on paper, but that is not enough. After meeting the man in-person, I have serious questions about whether he has the personality to forge meaningful working relationships with other Councillors (which is essential if you want to achieve anything on City Council).
The other candidates all blend together. Wildrose Alliance caucus staffer James Johnson entered the contest late and has been running a fairly cookie-cutter conservative campaign. I honestly have very little to write about the other challengers, Carla Frost, Lee Permann, Adil Pirbhai, and Thomas Roberts.
Considering the challenges and opportunities facing our downtown core neighbourhoods, it is pretty disappointing that this Ward was not able to attract a more dynamic group of candidates. With the election only nine days away, the candidates in Ward 6 will need to do something pretty spectacular in order to convince me not to spoil the Councillor section of my ballot.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if there are additions to the list.
Depending on what part of Edmonton you live in, you have probably noticed the lawn signs beginning to line up on private front lawns and sprawled across City-owned boulevards. While I hear that the sign war is red hot in the closely contested Wards 3, 7, and 11, in my downtown Ward 6 I have only noticed signs from a handful of candidates (Michael Janz, Bev Sawyer, Brian Kaptiza, and Rudy Arcilla).
Thus far there is virtually no signage belonging to incumbent Councillor Jane Batty in my neighborhood. This is a stark contrast from the last time I lived in this neighborhood during a municipal election. Back in 2004, I remember the area being covered with signs belonging to Councillors Michael Phair, Mrs. Batty, and then-challenger Ben Henderson (who is now standing for election in the new Ward 8 on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River).
There have been three City of Edmonton sponsored all-candidates forums held since Nomination Day in Wards 3, 7, and 11. They were all live-streamed online and should be posted shortly afterwards on the City of Edmonton election website.
Jeff Samsonow wrote a thought-provoking article yesterday that raised some serious questions about how the media cover their colleagues who are jumping into politics. More specifically, Mr. Samsanow is referring to on-leave Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen, who is standing for election in Ward 7. Journal columnist Todd Babiak shared some of his thoughts on the Edmonton Commons blog, but did not really address the issue that Mr. Samsonow was getting at.
Scanning some of the candidates websites over the past few days has revealed some interested gems. Who would have thought that the people in your neighbourhood were such a colourful bunch? For example, did you know that the guy living down the street believes that the relationship between North Edmonton and South Edmonton is similar to North Korea and South Korea? Ward 3 candidate John Oplanich says so on his website.
The Northside has been ignored for far too long at the expense of the Southside/Westend/Millwoods and City Council (Ron Hayter, Kim Krushell, Ed Gibbons, Tony Caterina) has allowed this to happen. The southside/westend /Millwoods continues to flourish, prosper and live in luxury as the northside is drowning in controversy – City Center Airport/CN Railway in Calder. For 80 years we have called this corridor a Wasteland-Dead Zone. Can we afford to wait another 40 years? We need a strong and clear voice on City Council. VOTE for CHANGE. I‘m starting to feel like I live in North Korea and on the opposite side of the river is beautiful South Korea.
Ward 4 candidate Scott Robb is the first open Satanist to stand for election in Edmonton. I do not wade into the topic of organized religion very often on this blog (for good reason) and I am not going to start now, so you can make your own judgments. Whether you agree with Mr. Robb’s religious beliefs or not, he deserves some credit for being so open with it (at least he’s not running for the Catholic School District). I asked Mr. Robb about an online campaign that has emerged against him:
“All I have to say about it is it is one man’s narrow-minded ignorant opinion of me in which he fabricated stories, took posts of mine out of context (and some were photoshopped, although he publicly denies it)…
I’m curious, is that where everyone is finding out my religious beliefs? Because Satanism is not a cult, it’s been recognized as a legit religion since the british repealed their witchcraft laws in 1951! Cults brainwash people and don’t let members leave, we urge people to learn on their own and allow them to leave our church simply with a notification that they wish to…”
Meanwhile, retiring Trustee Gerry Gibeault is sharing some advice from his fifteen years on the Edmonton Public School Board: School Board Secrets. One political watcher close to the public school board has told to me that the online presence of this normally low-profile Trustee in this campaign could signal Mr. Gibeault’s desire for more than just a quiet retirement. The source suggested that Mr. Gibeault could be interested in a return to provincial politics in the near future. He was the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 1986 to 1993.
Mayoral candidates targeted the vote rich communities of Senior citizens in the City today. Mayor Stephen Mandel announced plans today about Seniors Housing and Recreation. The Seniors Housing plan proposes more cooperation between the City, the Province, Builders, and Seniors Groups to expand the number of seniors housing units available in Edmonton.
Mayoral candidate David Dorward made his first non-City Centre Airport related policy announcement today focusing on seniors and taxes. It has not yet been posted online or emailed out to their media list, so I do not have link to refer to. Thanks to @OrganizerMike for providing a less than 140 character summary of Mr. Dorward’s announcement:
@davecournoyer i stopped by his Presser- tax caps, tax rebates to seniors, review LRT spending -basically #yegvote
The first Mayoral all-candidates forum will be held tonight at Harry Ainley School from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. I will be there live-tweeting (follow @davecournoyer and #yegvote) and will provide some reflections on the debate later tonight.
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.
I like to believe that most of the things worth writing about in this world have already been covered in an episode of the West Wing. While the topic of this video clip of Big Block of Cheese Day may be slightly more outlandish than the idea of a downtown arena district, it is the last 2:26-3:10 point that reminds me of this debate.
The minute I walked into the lobby of the Art Gallery it became very clear that the Downtown Arena District is a political campaign. The professional branding, warm colour patterns, the drawings of futuristic downtown starchitecture, and the focus-group-tested-sounding talking points of the hosts signaled to me that the Katz Group was clearly delivering a political sales pitch. Rather than actually providing new information on costs, funding models, and zoning, guests were welcomed by Katz Group executives or associates dressed in $3,000 suits who testified to the virtues of a new Downtown Arena District. “Why downtown? It has to be downtown.”
As obvious as it was to me that this was an unbridled exercise in persuasion, I worry that it may be working. As a good friend of mine pointed out, with the municipal election less than six months away, the Katz Group may be on their way to convincing Edmontonians that the Downtown Arena District is such a good idea that no cost – even the $400 million handout that they are seeking from the City – is too much for such a well-marketed idea.
I was very pleased to read that most of City Council, including both of my City Councillors (Jane Batty and Ben Henderson) remain skeptical of the Katz Group proposal. I hope that our elected Councillors do not give into the flashy marketing of this well-financed campaign and continue to demand answers from a group that is acting as if it already has its hands on the City of Edmonton’s cheque book.
…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.
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!
Why are Councillors voting for this change? A new 12-Ward system will allow Councillors to more easily manage constituent requests (smaller population to represent) and will theoretically create more equitable representation for Edmotonians (in many cases, the more high profile of the two Councillors in the current large 6-Ward system receive the lions share of the constituents requests). Overall, I think the proposed 12-Ward system would be a positive move for our City.
The proposed new boundaries largely respect natural and community league boundaries, and in most cases are simple divisions of the current 6-Ward map. It’s unfortunate that City Councillors are drawing their own electoral boundaries, which is something that should change in the future, but Edmontonians should be proud that their Councillors avoided the kind of gong show debate that recently engulfed Calgary’s City Council.
Here is the map of the proposed new boundaries:
From a political perspective, Council will be taking a risk in accepting the new boundaries. Looking to the 2010 election, the new boundaries will likely play a factor in determining who runs for Mayor in 2010 and if any incumbents decide to run against each in the next campaign (I’m putting early odds on an Ed Gibbons versus Tony Caterina fight in the new Ward 4, and a Ben Henderson versus Jane Batty showdown in the new Ward 6).