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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 Ivesonon 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 Krushelltold 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.
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).
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.
The municipal election is less than 90 days away and until then I will be spending more time over at EdmontonPolitics.com. I will still be posting here and cross-posting some of my writing on this blog, but as the municipal election heats up we hope that EdmontonPolitics.com becomes a hub of information and debate around the issues facing our city in this election.