Thursday, October 10, 2013

Campain Relief - Edmonton Election 2013

I try to be a good citizen; I do my best to keep abreast of the issues, I try to make informed decisions, I not only make a point of voting every chance I get, but I encourage others to do the same.

And then I find myself at the ballot box looking at a list of school trustees and trying to pick one based on their name, often based on alliteration due to my being a comic book fan.

This year I decided to be different.  I would try to put at least as much thought into my selection for school trustee as I did into my last toaster purchase.

It took quite a bit of research through the City of Edmonton website, clicking through multiple links, determining what Ward I'm in for trustees (because it's different from councillors, don't you know), but eventually I was able to determine...that I don't have a choice to make; the post was filled by acclamation.

Well, fine, it gave me the shove I needed to really start looking at the candidates for Mayor and Ward 2 councillor.  I've been a fan of Kim Krushell for years, and while I am glad she is making time for her family, I'm sad I won't have the opportunity to vote for her again.

Looking at the 7 candidates, the only two bits of name recognition for me are Don Koziak, who has run for both mayor and council on an anti-airport closure, pro-business platform as the number two go-to guy for Envision Edmonton (so, no), and Bev Esslinger, an experienced former public school trustee, and who I am neither here nor there on (but lean towards there as she has run as a provincial PC).

It could be worse; ward 6 has a whopping 16 candidates to select from, including writer Candas Jane Dorsey and former Journal columnist Scott McKeen.  But even with only a half-dozen to choose from, where to start separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak?

Well, one group has started doing some of the legwork: calling themselves activatED!, a group of young and engaged types took it upon themselves to evaluate all the candidates for mayor and council and use a predetermined list of criteria to assess which of each was the most progressive.  In this case, 'progressive' means things like a commitment to sustainable transportation, opposition to urban sprawl, and disclosure of funders prior to campaign day.  They have given their endorsement to a single candidate in each ward, and in some wards, no endorsement at all, which I found interesting.

Even if you don't agree with their endorsements, it gives you a good starting point, and if you are, I don't know, regressive? you can use their list to determine who you aren't going to vote for.

In terms of their council pick for ward 2, I am warming to Ted Grand, a good guy with a well, let's say design-challenged website.  He's got a tremendous record of community league involvement and leadership, and was even awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal.  If you like a meaty platform, there's lots to read on his website, and some of it is pretty substantive, which is a nice change of pace from candidates trying to get by on being responsive, good listeners, and people persons.  I have a week to make up my mind, but at this point, he's my pick.

Mayor is a little trickier, but only between Don Iveson and Karen Leibovici.  Even if he wasn't a ginormous negative Nancy obsessed with potholes, Kerry Diotte has no vision for the city, and I have a hard time seeing him building any sort of consensus on a rookie council if he did.  If he does have a vision for Edmonton, it is a colorless, grey box of a city... with roadways the envy of the developed world.  I don't want to live in that city.  You know, again.

Karen Leibovici has a lengthy and distinguished council record, and could bring both experience and diversity to a council whose two primary characteristics could be the number of rookies and older white guys sitting on it.  She is a social progressive with a great reputation for budgeting, but I just can't get excited about her, and with a four-year term, vision, energy and excitement are what I am looking for.  

On top of that, she moved very quickly to negative campaigning, and comes off kind of shrill at times.  For example, a 'mayoral forum' was cancelled following Iveson's and Diotte's pulling out when it was discovered to actually be a Progressive Conservative fundraiser.  Leibovici was slow to respond and when she did, the peevishness was evident: The only reason that we agreed to participate it because our opponents agreed to. We’re not participating. We will debate our opponents on the issues anywhere, anytime on any subject. We have more experience than they have because this election matters. (Does that last sentence even make sense?  Or sound like it was written by someone out of elementary school?) At one of the mayoral forums, Paula Simons described Leibovici's responses as "probably the most thoughtful - but she needs to lose the cliches and jargon. And stop saying 'champion'."

I remember Don Iveson for his angry response to the 2009 development plan, entitled "The Way We Grow", and which he said might as well have been called "The Way We Sprawl".  He walked it back a little afterwards, but stated his position eloquently on his  website.  ActivatED! has picked him as their progressive candidate of choice and written a fantastic endorsement, as has political blogger Dave Cournoyer at daveberta.  (Dave also does a great weekly recap of municipal election news called Substance and Style which is quite enjoyable.)  People I like like Iveson, from my formerly apolitical friend who is volunteering for him because of the energy he brings, and even The Duchess patisserie on 124th street.

Most important, Iveson brings vision and vitality to the role of mayor, something it has always needed, and has often lacked.  As far as I am concerned, it's Iveson for Mayor.

As the election enters its final week, I encourage everyone to start looking now, before the last minute mudslinging and rhetoric makes it even more difficult to find out.  Most importantly, get out and vote; Diotte appeals a lot to  older and angry voters, both of whom can be counted to turn up on election day October 21st.  As another Edmonton blogger, Maurice Tougas, says, "gruntled voters stay home; disgruntled voters go to the polls".

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