Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: why mayor stephen mandel gets my vote.

Mayor Stephen Mandel standing in front of his downtown campaign office.

Last Saturday morning, I woke up extra early (for me) and trekked over to Stephen Mandel‘s campaign office on 111th Street and 102nd Avenue for a sit down with the Mayor. Joined by Jeff and Mack in a sort of ‘bloggers editorial board’ we engaged Mayor Mandel is a good question and answer session about his six years as Mayor, the campaign, and his plans for the next three years if he is re-elected on Monday, October 18.

Over the course of an hour, we peppered the Mayor with a series of questions ranging from Open Data to cooperation in the capital region to homelessness to plans for making the urban core neighbourhoods more friendly for young families.

Sitting down and talking with Mayor Mandel reminded me what a different place Edmonton has become over the past six years. Looking outwards, our City is no longer fighting with our neighbours. Edmonton is now sitting down at the table and cooperating with the other over twenty municipalities in the region through the Capital Region Board. While the municipalities were somewhat strong-armed by the Provincial Government to make the process work, it has had positive results for regional cooperation.

Looking inside our City limits, we have seen serious investment in our crumbling infrastructure and public spaces for the first time in decades. Although some people will raise a red flag about increasing debt levels, Edmonton only has about half the debt level of Calgary and a repayment plan was in place before any funds were borrowed (a requirement under provincial law. See: Section 251(1) of the Municipal Government Act).

The creation of the Universal Bus Pass for students at the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan University and the expansion of the LRT to Century Park has proven to be excellent investments that are paying off. While these advancements have been somewhat besmirched by the construction of the expensive and questionable 23rd Avenue interchange, they are important steps for our City.

Our downtown core neighbourhoods are about to blossom. When I first moved to Edmonton in the early 2000s, my apartment was located in a decrepit area of Oliver. I soon moved south across the North Saskatchewan River into the University enclave of Garneau. When I moved back into the Grandin area of Oliver two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how different the area had become. New condo and apartment buildings that had been constructed over the past five years had lead to new businesses and restaurants in the area. I was shocked to see people actually walking down Jasper Avenue at night!

While this new life has been breathed into the area between 109th Street and 124th Street and 104th Avenue, spill-over can be seen deeper into the downtown core. What was a decrepit and sketchy area down 104th Street even five years ago has transformed into a vibrant area of the downtown core. The City Market regularly draws over 10,000 people to 104th Street each Saturday and the construction of new condo towers on that street is starting the essential element to neighbourhood vitalization: people living there.

There are still challenges to bringing young people to the core. When I posed this question to Mayor Mandel, he replied that “the City needs to be far more creative” in facilitating the development of housing in the core neighbourhoods that will be friendly for young families. “We need to create a policy between the school board and the city to build attainable housing for young people in the core,” said Mayor Mandel. The City is already working in cooperation with the School Boards to set up first-time home buyers housing on surplus school sites around Edmonton, but with little surplus school land in the core, they need to look at other options.

As I wrote in my blog post about the first Mayoral candidates forum in September, I generally believe that Mayor Mandel has done a good job over the past six years, but it is not without reservation that I will give him my vote on October 18, 2010. I am skeptical about the Mayor’s support for the Expo 2017 bid and am weary of his close relationship with the Katz Group in light of their bid to build downtown area complex, but there has been too much positive movement forward over the past six years to stop now.

Under Mandel’s Mayorship, Edmonton has moved forward on a number of levels. After years of hum-drum leadership under his predecessor, Mayor Bill Smith, our City is now starting to feel like it is coming out of the doldrums of a decades-long inferiority complex. While I have respect for a number of his challengers, especially Dan Dromarsky and Daryl Bonar, I do not yet have confidence in their ability to keep Edmonton moving in the positive direction we are now on track towards.

The City of Edmonton will never be a “world-class” city like New York or even Toronto or Vancouver, but why should we aspire for that? As a medium-sized North American city, we have the opportunity to look at and learn from similar cities like Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon, who decided that their size compared to the bigger cities was a strength and not a weakness. Edmontonians should be proud of what our City could be, not in relation to Calgary or Toronto, but in terms of the quality of life and creative and smart ways that we can shape our City’s future growth.

At least for the next three years, I trust Mayor Stephen Mandel to help us get closer to that reality.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: campaigning on video.

You can view more videos from candidates at ShareEdmonton.com.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: surveys say.

Having been involved in a few election campaigns, I am fully aware of the influx of surveys and questionnaires that end up landing in a candidate’s email inbox over the course of the campaign. They can sometimes be annoyingly time consuming to respond to, but they are sometime an easy way to distill where candidate’s stand on specific issues. Sometimes they also reveal some gems. A question asked in the Edmonton Public Library’s questionnaire posed one of these gem questions to candidates standing in Edmonton’s municipal election:

What character from fiction do you most relate to/is most like you?

Jamie Post – Ward 1: Hard to say, at the moment I’d have to go with Dr. Watson.
Scott Robb – Ward 4: I generally don’t read fiction, but I usually relate to the conflicted hero type.
Thomas Roberts – Ward 6: Can not think of any that is close to me– would love being a combination of Captain Jack Sparrow and Sherlock Holmes, and avoid Dorian Grey(what little I know of the charactor)/Falstaff.
Scott McKeen – Ward 7: OK, that’s tough. I’ll pick Frodo from the Lord of the Rings. A reluctant hero who faces his constant fear to reach journey’s end.
Grant Pullishy – Ward 7: Stephen King- I love thrillers.
Lori Jeffery-Heaney – Ward 8: Hmm, hard to answer – I am more of a non-fiction reader.
Hana Razga – Ward 8: Margaret Laurence Stone Angel’s Hagar Shipley – in about 30 years.
Councillor Don Iveson – Ward 10: James T. Kirk
Al Slemko – Ward 10: Marko Ramius – Red October movie
Shane Bergdahl – Ward 11: That is difficult to say. Frodo from the Hobit and Lord of the Rings comes to mind. A normal person (of sorts) tasked with doing great things.
Roberto Maglalang – Ward 11: Tom Sawyer.
Chinwe Okelu – Ward 11: None.
Brent Schaffrick – Ward 11: Some days, Dilbert, most days I seem to walk a different path then characters in books.
Daryl Bonar – Mayor: I think Rocky Balboa. He perservered with brute force and ignorance as well as a never say quit attitude. He didn’t have all the natural talent and had to overcome many obstacles but his work ethic carried him. I try my best to emulate these traits.
Dan Dromarsky – Mayor: My favorite fictional character is James Bond but how we relate or are alike is also fiction.
Dave Dowling – Mayor: Frodo.
Stephen Mandel – Mayor: I don’t know that he’s like me but the Gene Hackman character as the coach in Hoosiers.

You can also read questionnaire responses from the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, the Canadian Cancer Society, Cycle Edmonton, and the Realtors Association of Edmonton. If you have links to any other surveys and questionnaires, feel free to post a link in the comment section below.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: first mayoral debate.

Anytime I walk into an election candidates forum I almost immediately think of this great scene from Season 3 of the West Wing. Maybe I am a dreamer, but I hope that one day I will witness a debater who reaches the level of President Josiah Bartlett.

I was not sure what to expect when I ventured into the packed auditorium at Harry Ainlay High School on Edmonton’s south side. Walking the halls of the giant high school, I remembered the last time I had been in that building was for a Ward 5 (now Ward 9 and 10) all-candidates forum in 2007. I remember that auditorium three years ago being packed with skeptics of then-Councillor Mike Nickel and supporters of first-time challenger Don Iveson.

Last night, I entered the auditorium two minutes before the candidates took to the podium and I wedged myself into a seat in the back row next (which ended up being right next to City Clerk Alayne Sinclair and elections staff, who were overseeing the event and updating the @EdmontonClerk twitter account).

While last night was nothing comparable to the Bartlett-Ritchie debate in the video about, it was a raucous evening. Over the course of the evening, the boisterous crowd jeered, cheered, and heckled the candidates when different issues various pet issues mentioned (the City Centre Airport, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and… David Suzuki and climate change).

First time candidate Dan Dromarsky was the most likable among the candidates. While answering each question, Mr. Dromarsky beamed with genuine concern for Edmonton and demonstrated that he had also done his homework when it came to a lot of the issues. His performance last night made me wish that he would have decided to run for City Council, instead of a Mayoral position that he has no chance of being elected.

Although he did not have a huge impact on the debate, Daryl Bonar has positioned himself as the most aggressive alternative to Mayor Stephen Mandel. His “fight back” campaign and actual platform positions presented a contrast to the other challengers who appeared unprepared for their candidacies.

The most entertaining candidate of the evening turned out to be Bob Ligertwood, who used every opportunity to decry the Internet and Facebook (even stating at one point that the Oil City Roadhouse should be shut down so that the Police could monitor computers at the public libraries). Candidate Andrew Lineker touched on some fair points about the transition of EPCOR to Capital Power, and Dave Dowling was remarkably subdued in light of his previous runs for Mayor.

David Dorward seemed like a nice man who would probably be a great financial adviser, but his focus on repeating platitudes and grasping for political points left me wondering if had the leadership skills or vision to lead an entire City. His campaign has the backing of Envision Edmonton lobby group and the support of their wealthy financial backers, which puts him in a financial advantage over the other challengers. Mr. Dorward has only made one policy announcement (on seniors taxes yesterday) and his campaign has yet to show that he has the policy depth to be a successful Mayor.

It is unfortunate that his campaign feels like it was thrown together at the last hour. Had Mr. Dorward began preparing his bid earlier in the summer, rather than a week before the election period started, the Edmontonians in the room last night probably would have seen a more vigorous debate centered around ideas and vision, rather than platitudes and talking points.

Two-term Mayor Stephen Mandel was the most confident and answered questions with a confidence that none of the other candidates had. He fumbled a few questions, but gave the impression that of the three serious candidates (himself, Mr. Bonar, and Mr. Dorward), he was the only one who actually understood how governance works.

I voted for Mayor Mandel in 2004 and 2007, and I generally believe that he has done a good job over the past six years. I also support City Council’s decision to close the City Centre Airport over a phased period of time and redevelop the lands.

On some other issues, I have been less impressed with the Mayor. I am not comfortable with his cozy relationship with the Katz Group in light of their request for City funding of a downtown arena and I am skeptical about the City’s bid to host the 2017 World Expo. As a young Edmontonian, I also feel that the City should be more aggressive in promoting the construction of family-orinented densification and infill in the urban core, something that none of the candidates spoke about last night.

Most of Mayor Mandel’s challengers demonstrated a fairly evident lack of understanding of how our democratic process and representative democracy functions. Mr. Dorward’s supporters in the crowd jeered at the Mayor and the challengers charged that it was undemocratic for City Council to have rejected a plebiscite on the City Centre Airport redevelopment. None of the challengers thought to mention that the petition was ruled invalid under provincial law. If a candidate cannot demonstrate that they understand how a clearly laid out petition process works, then it is difficult for me to imagine them tackling the macro-level important issues facing the City.

Edmontonians deserved a better debate last night and Mayor Mandel deserved a more serious challenge in this election. Unless the challengers undergo a miraculous change between now and October 18, we may have to wait to see what October 2013 has to offer us.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: the people in your neighbourhood.


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).

I spoke with Adam Rozenhart from The Unknown Studio earlier this week about my Nomination Day experience and shared some thoughts on the election candidates. You can listen to my conversation with Adam on The Unknown Studio website or download the podcast on iTunes. The conversation starts at the 11:36 mark and also includes a conversation about how my dog needed to be rushed to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic after getting his jaw stuck in his kennel door (he is fine now).

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…”

Country music singer KD Lang has some kind words to say about Councillor Bryan Anderson, who is running for re-election in Ward 9.

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.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: know your candidates and issues better.

Municipal elections only come once every three years (on the third Monday of October) and if I had my choice, they would come every year. I love election season, especially on the municipal level. While provincial and federal elections are defined by partisan politics and leaders with micro-managed images, local politics offers a more gritty and real politics.

Instead of hearing about billion dollar gun-registries or carbon taxes, we all get to spend four weeks talking about potholes and roads, garbage pickup, traffic congestion, and other issues that affect people literally where they live. Generally there are a number of larger issues that will shape the larger debate, like (hopefully an end to the never ending debate about) the closure of the City Centre Airport or the financing of Daryl Katz‘s downtown arena – but so much about municipal politics falls under the old adage “all politics is local.”

It may be easy to believe that because the Prime Minister gets more airtime on the 6pm news that your municipal elected officials are just not important. Although Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s single-vote on City Council probably will not have national repercussions, it could affect the way your City operates and your quality of life. This is why it is important to take some time over the next few weeks to learn more about your candidates and see what ideas they are running on and platforms they are presenting (or not presenting, as is the case thus far with the platform-absent Mayoral candidate David Dorward). Take the time to learn about your candidates and then vote.

If you think you will not have any time over the next four weeks to learn more about the candidates who will be on your ballot on October 18, 2010, you should think again. The miracle of the Internet has led to the birth of extensive resources and information available about the issues and candidates. Instead of spending your lunch hour watching YouTube or your evening chatting on Facebook, take a look at some of the online resources available.

The City of Edmonton has a comprehensive website with any kind of elections information you will need as a voter or candidate. The fourteen all-candidate forums sponsored by the City of Edmonton will also be live-streamed online so that anyone can tune in from their homes and even submit questions online. For political watchers, this will make it much easier to catch what is being said at the forums (and who is excelling or crashing and burning). Remember that the Ward boundaries have changed and that you will only be able to vote for one Councillor this year.

Share Edmonton is an excellent resource for finding out which Ward you will be voting in, dates and times of all-candidate forums in your Ward, and links to candidates’ websites and contact information. Share Edmonton is also a great resource for finding out the election buzz on Twitter. Avnish Nanda has also compiled a great social media catalogue for City Council, Public School Board, and Catholic School District candidates.

The Edmontonian and The Unknown Studio will most certainly be providing informed, entertaining, and unique coverage of the election. EdmontonPolitics.com will have some commentary and Mastermaq is the man about town and the king of data. Edmonton’s alternative news Vue Weekly also has their very own special elections webpage.

The mainstream media has also set up special websites dedicated to election information. Check out CTV Edmonton, the Edmonton Journal, and the Edmonton Sun. Also make sure to check out the new Edmonton Commons blog hosted by Edmonton Journal columnists Paula Simons and David Staples.

As I delve through the links, websites, platforms, and news I will publish profiles of some of the contests and issues over the next few weeks. If you are following any of the contests or candidates on the ground, or just have some information you want to share, please comment or send me an email at daveberta.ca@gmail.com.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: nomination day at city hall.

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.

I was able to live-tweet this morning and you can see those tweets at @davecournoyer and others at #yegvote.

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.

Almost Mayoral candidate Cheryl Ullah

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.

Luckily for Edmontonians, Mayor Stephen Mandel and challengers Daryl Bonar, David Dorward, Dave Dowling, Dan Dromarsky, Bob Ligertwood, and Andrew Lineker remembered their $500 deposits.

Councillors Don Iveson and Bryan Anderson

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.

Councillor Karen Leibovici is seeking re-election in Ward 5.

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.

Candidate Chinwe Okelu is standing for election in Ward 11.

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.

UPDATE: The full list of candidates has been released (h/t to TheEdmontonian.com)

Categories
Edmonton Politics

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.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

david dorward joins the sleepy mayoral contest.

A fifth candidate has joined Edmonton’s sleepy Mayoral contest. David Dorward, a chartered accountant and driver behind the GO Community Centre in south Edmonton announced his candidacy yesterday. Mr. Dorward’s speaking notes were vacant of policy positions or what he actually wants to accomplish if elected Mayor. The only issue he appears to have a position on is his support of the Envision Edmonton petition to stop the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands.

Mr. Dorward’s supporters include Cal Nichols, the Chairman of the Alberta Enterprise Group and pro-airport advocate. His media release lists Paul Edwards-Shand as his media contact. Mr. Edwards-Shand is the former assistant to former Conservative Edmonton-Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer.

In 2008, Mr. Dorward ran as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Gold Bar, placing over 1,000 votes behind Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald.

Incumbent Mayor Stephen Mandel is also being challenged by declared candidates Daryl Bonar, Don Koziak, and Daniel Dromarsky.

Mr. Bonar was the first candidate to launch his Mayoral challenge and recently held a joint-media conference with Ward 6 Councillor candidate Cris Basualdo and Ward 8 candidate Lori Jeffery-Heaney announcing their intentions to “fight back” against City Hall. Mr. Koziak, a hotelier and second time Mayoral candidate, launched his campaign by taking a bizarre stand against LRT expansion and for more freeway construction. Both candidates also oppose the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands.

Six years ago, Mayor Mandel’s election was considered a breath of fresh air after nine stodgy years under cheerleader Mayor Bill Smith. For all his faults, I believe that Mayor Mandel has done a decent job over the past six years.

With only a month until Election Day, it is difficult to imagine any of these candidates mounting a serious challenge against Mayor Mandel. As the election period official begins on September 20, I hope that these candidates will at least take the time to expand on their vision for our City beyond the single-issue of the City Centre Airport.

Categories
Alberta Politics

the facebook campaign.

Earlier this week I joined Calgary blogger DJ Kelly on CBC Radio’s alberta@noon province-wide call-in show to talk about social media and the upcoming municipal elections. Over the course of the show we had a good discussion about how the Internet is changing how voters seek information about candidates and how social media tools are increasing the ability of candidates to communicate and engage with voters. As I have previously written, while social media tools are too important for a serious candidate to ignore, they do not replace the kind of human contact that is achieved through traditional campaigning, such as door-knocking.

DJ’s most recent blog post used Facebook followings to gauge the support for candidates in Calgary’s competitive Mayoral election. It might not be scientific but the analysis is curiously similar to a recently released poll. The race for Mayor of Edmonton has so far been a lot less exciting than the crowded field of 17 candidates in Calgary. On the Facebook front, Mayor Stephen Mandel is absent. Challengers Daryl Bonar‘s Facebook Page has 483 followers and Dan Dromarsky‘s page has attracted 349 (with a lofty goal of 75,000).

Looking at City Council races, Councillor Amarjeet Sohi appears to be leading the pack with 503 members in his Facebook group. Following Councillor Sohi’s lead are Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra‘s group with 503 members, Ward 7 candidate Brendan Van Alstine‘s group with 291 members, and Ward 11’s Kerry Diotte with 229 members.

Online and on the streets, the Public School Trustee elections are looking like they might be some of October’s most competitive races. The two leaders on the Facebook campaign appear to be Ward F candidate Michael Janz with 717 fans and Ward G candidate Sarah Hoffman‘s group with 769 members. If previous elections are an indicator, these numbers could signal an incredible jump in interest in the School Board elections. Links to more School Board candidates websites and Facebook Pages can be found on the ARTES website.

As the October 18 election day approaches, I will be following and writing more about how candidates are using social media in their campaigns.

This post was cross-posted at EdmontonPolitics.com.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

my edmonton: reshaping the urban core.

The petitions have been delivered and it appears likely that there will be a plebiscite deciding the future of the City Centre Airport lands on October 18. After a two-month long petition drive, the Envision Edmonton lobby group claim that they have collected the signatures needed to support a vote on the issue.

If the signatures are successfully validated by officials from the City Clerk’s Office, City Council will likely begin the process of creating a question that Edmontonians can vote on in the October 18 election.

As a citizen who has been involved in this debate for the past two years, I am 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.

If a plebiscite is held, it will be a heated debate with passionate Edmontonians on both sides presenting their arguments for and against the closure. Envision Edmonton has talked about turning the Airport into a hub for aviation training and industrial development. Unfortunately, their proposal has largely been overshadowed by a public feud between Envision spokesman Charles Allard and Mayor Stephen Mandel. I disagree with Mr. Allard’s position, but I recognize and respect that the Edmontonians participating in this debate want what they believe is best for our City.

A few months ago, I outlined some of the challenges and positive opportunities facing our downtown and urban core. Over the next two months I will expand on these ideas and the opportunities presented by redeveloping the City Centre Airport lands. We have a unique chance to do something that most similar mid-sized North American cities would envy. The benefits of new smart communities filled with residential and commercial development could reshape our City’s urban core for the positive. The chance to break away from the traditional urban sprawl and reshape the urban core makes me excited to call Edmonton home.

I was glad to read that former City Councillors Michael Phair and Patricia Mackenzie have also shared their optimism for the redevelopment. As the October 18 election approaches, I hope that Edmontonians will look beyond the short-term spin and participate in an honest and positive debate about how we want our City to grow in the coming decades.

Categories
Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 8/06/2010

Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Carl Benito at the Premier's Capital Ex Pancake Breakfast on July 27, 2010.

A promise is a promise, except if it’s a Carl Benito promise. SEE Magazine and the Edmonton Journal are taking Edmonton-Mill Woods PC MLA Carl Benito to task over not fulfilling his election promise to donate his entire MLA salary to a scholarship fund. According to Mr. Benito, when he promised to donate his entire salary, he did not really mean his entire salary. Mr. Benito is having a pretty tough time arguing against his own statements from election night in 2008:

On Monday night, Benito repeated his promise to donate his MLA salary (about $75,000) to a scholarship program. The idea was created to sway young people into more positive areas and away from youth-related crime, he said.
We’ve put that in writing and we’re 100-per-cent committed to it. I strongly believe in giving back to the community. The young people in Mill Woods are the future of our community.”

Since he was first elected in 2008, Mr. Benito has championed the noble causes of establishing Alberta’s Official Mushroom and trying to bring the Miss Universe Pageant to Alberta. He also described his constituents as “simple people” during a Legislative Committee meeting.
– The Government of Alberta has launched another advertising campaign promoting the oilsands as Greenpeace ninjas grab international attention by hanging a banner off the Calgary Tower.
– Two former Liberal MLAs have announced their intentions to stand in the next provincial election. Rick Miller will stand in Edmonton-Rutherford and Weslyn Mather will seek to reclaim her former riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods against the previously mentioned PC MLA Carl Benito.
– Party Vice-President Debbie Cavaliere has been chosen as the interim President of the Liberal Party, filling the vacancy left by Tony Sansotta. Ms. Cavaliere is a former Trustee with the Edmonton Catholic School District and was the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Meadowlark during the 2008 election. Ms. Cavaliere joined the Liberals after being defeated by Dr. Raj Sherman in that constituency’s PC candidate nomination.
– The Wildrose Alliance has officially opened up candidate nominations in thirteen constituencies across Alberta.
– Two time candidate Michael Cormican is seeking the Federal Liberal nomination in Lethbridge. Mr. Cormican placed third with 9.3% of the vote in the 2008 election. The Conservatives have nominated Jim Hillyer and NDP Mark Sandilands.
– Edmonton City Councillor Ben Henderson will launch his re-election campaign in Ward 8 on August 9 at the Forest Heights-Terrace Community Hall at 5:30pm. Councillor Henderson was first elected in 2007 and is married to Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman.
Don Koziak, son of former PC cabinet minister Julian Koziak, kicked off his campaign for Mayor of Edmonton by laying out a bizarre anti-LRT platform. Mr. Koziak ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Stephen Mandel in 2007 and has made three unsuccessful bids for City Council (1995, 1998, and 2004). He was briefly nominated as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Calder in 2001 before resigning for personal reasons.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

Categories
Alberta Politics

danielle smith walks into an air hangar…

Tell me if you’ve heard this one… Danielle Smith, Hugh MacDonald, Brian Mason, and Doug Elniski walk into an air hangar…

The silliness of summer has reached a new height this week. Mayor Stephen Mandel had some tough words for Wildrose leader Ms. Smith yesterday as she declared her four… err… three MLA caucus support for the group collecting signatures for the City Centre Airport petition. Mayor Mandel made it clear that he did not appreciate the Wildroses intrusion into a debate that has become highly passionate among a disgruntled section of Edmonton’s business community. One Calgary columnist accused the Mayor of Calgary-bashing, but it is much more nuanced than that.

Why would Ms. Smith wade into this issue? Might it be a genuine desire to see Edmontonians vote on the airport issue? With no local MLAs and second or third place support in the City of Edmonton (according to most polls), it could also be a political power play. With all but one PC MLA silent on the issue, Ms. Smith could be looking to draw in the support of that disgruntled (and largely conservative) crowd who might not be happy that their newly elected PC MLAs are silently enjoying their summer vacations.

While Ms. Smith’s endorsement made headlines, barely anyone has noticed the motley crew of three local MLAs who have peeped up with opinions on the issue. First-term backbencher Mr. Elniski, anti-establishment hound Liberal MLA Mr. MacDonald, and NDP leader Mr. Mason are the only MLAs to speak publicly in favour of the airport petition. I have heard from a number of sources that PC MLAs have been told to steer clear from this potentially dangerous debate, with the exception of Mr. Elniski whose Edmonton-Calder constituency encompasses the airport.

In 2004, a group of PC MLAs became entangled in a nasty quarrel with City Council over the move of scheduled 10-seat flights from Calgary and Lethbridge to the International Airport. That quarel is considered by many people to be one of the factors that led to a Liberal sweep of Edmonton in the November 2004 election.

During that quarrel, then-Councillor Mandel had some harsh words when now former PC MLAs Mark Norris and Brent Rathegeber sided against the City:

“Enough is enough. There gets to be a point where you have to ask, ‘Can Edmonton make a decision without someone interfering in it?’ ” Mandel said.

“Because another city complains, we have to change things. Let’s hear Calgary complaining, and then I’m sure will have to reinstitute those flights. I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that the city of Edmonton has to play second fiddle to anyone.”

SOURCE: Stay out of it, mayor tells the province, Keith Gerein and Kelly Cryderman. Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Jul 27, 2004. pg. B.1

Less than three months after making this statement, Councillor Mandel was elected Mayor.

Categories
Alberta Politics

green trip taking baby steps.

Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette is scheduled to announce details and funding for the provincial Green Trip Fund at 10am this morning at Government House in Edmonton. Minister Ouellette is expected to be joined by Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel.

This announcement will come days after Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce told the Calgary Herald that “[n]obody has heard anything” about when or if the funds would be distributed. The fund was originally announced two years ago and was meant to support local, regional and intermunicipal public transit, but the criteria for municipalities to apply for funding was never announced. It is expect that Minister Ouellette may announce the criteria today.

Update: Here is a link to the media release. The fund will provide a one-time capital expenditure of $800 million in funding will be available to the Capital region; $800 million to Calgary and surrounding area; and $400 million to other municipalities throughout Alberta.

The program is available to owner/operators of public transit services, which may include municipalities, regional entities, non-profit organizations, Metis settlements and the private sector. Submissions for GreenTRIP funding must include a business case that describes the sustainability of the project. GreenTRIP will provide only capital funding assistance for public transit infrastructure and technology, not operating funding for transit service.

Categories
Uncategorized

alberta politics notes 5/18/2010

– Legislative mega-bills may make for dry conversations, but the upcoming changes to health care legislation is one that Albertans should pay close attention to. The Friends of Medicare and Join Together Alberta have announced a series of open consultation meetings on the Alberta Health Act.
Intervivos is hosting a political party mixer with the Wildrose Alliance‘s Danielle Smith and the Alberta Party‘s Chima Nkemdirim on June 9 at Latitude 53 Metro Billiards the Billiards Club on Whyte Avenue.
– The National Post has published an interesting article about the Alberta Party’s Big Listens.
– Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will be touching down in Edmonton on May 20 for his annual Leader’s Dinner fundraiser.
– Calgary MLA Kent Hehr is launching his campaign for Mayor today. Mr. Hehr’s 2008 PC opponent Sean Chu has announced that he is running for Alderman in Ward 4.
Alex Abboud has a great rundown of the Edmonton City Council elections.
– Lt. Daryl Bonar is the first challenger to Mayor Stephen Mandel.
– Father, Husband, Career Security Officer, Ordained Satanic Priest Scott Robb is running for Edmonton City Council in Ward 4.
– Councillor Tony Caterina is seeking re-election in Ward 7. Councillor Caterina will face off against Brendan Van Alstine and potentially Harvey Voogd.
Dale Peterson would give most conservative politicians in Alberta a run for their money…
UPDATE: I should not be surprised that a parody has already popped up (though I believe the original is still better).

We’re Better Than That, Too!!!! w/ Dale Peterson – watch more funny videos