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January 28, 2022
October 17, 2017

Edmonton Election: The day after

Our first look at #yegvote

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Let’s talk about the election! 

We got almost what was expected, but it’s always nice to have a surprise or two. Here are some of my first thoughts on what Edmonton just voted for, with more depth on the issues to come in Wednesday’s Headlines, and a look at the regional results (and what they mean for Edmonton) on Friday. 

All results are unofficial until Friday, but here’s how things look in the fresh light of Tuesday.

We obviously need to start with:

The upsets

We saw one incumbent lose in each race in Edmonton – city council, public school board and Catholic school board.

Ward 3’s Dave Loken lost his seat by just 3% of the vote. Jon Dziadyk squeaked out the win. Another challenger, Karen Principe was right behind Loken too, so this is Edmonton’s closest three-way race. 

Dziadyk is an urban planner, so he brings some expertise to a city in the midst of building itself for one-million people. He also talked about putting his ward and the north-side of Edmonton ahead of wider city interests, so we’ll see how that plays out when he’s at the council table.

Loken was starting to form a bit of a north-side team with Bev Esslinger, especially around transit, so we’ll see if that continues across the Ward 2-3 border (or even extends over to Ward 4… more on that below).

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In the Edmonton Public School Board, incumbent Orville Chubb lost to Shelagh Dunn. While it wasn’t only about LGBTQ issues, this was one of the races that was highlighted when talking about GSAs and protecting students

On the flip side of protecting LGBTQ students, Marilyn Bergstra lost her seat on the Edmonton Catholic School District’s board to Lisa Turchansky, and Bergstra had been a vocal supporter of students.

The expected new faces

While those three races mentioned saw incumbents lose, we had a whole bunch of other wards that were wide open for someone new to win.

The Edmonton Catholic School District’s board, noted last term for its dysfunction and challenges over LGBTQ policies, gets four other new trustees along with Turchansky. After the provincial government kept an eye on them last term, let’s hope for a more functional board this time (and let’s hope for progressive policies that respect and protect students). Newcomers are Terry Harris, Alene MutalaSandra Palazzo, and Carla Smiley.

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In Edmonton Public School Board races, there was one open seat, and that went to Trisha Estabrooks, who will likely increase the progressive voice of the school board, and could add to the pressure to keep education money in the public system.

Edmonton city council also had a few open races, with three councillors stepping down after their terms. We have new councillors in Wards 4, 5 and 9. Up in Ward 4, Edmonton elects Aaron Paquette, our second-ever Indigenous councillor. Paquette may align nicely with Dziadyk in a push for more services in Edmonton’s north, as he made that a focal point of his campaign

This push may come to a head over future LRT (or BRT) as new councillor Tim Cartmell sits next to incumbent Ward 10 councillor Michael Walters in the south’s own push for mass transit. This one started to kick up dust before the election and which direction LRT goes next is going to be an issue.

Edmonton also doubles its women on city council, to two, with the election of Sarah Hamilton in Ward 5. This was a ward with some questions about our next planned LRT expansion through the west end.

The usual suspects

It’s incredibly difficult to unseat an incumbent in Edmonton municipal politics. They have name recognition, possibly money left over from their last race, and maybe their constituents actually like them. It’s an uphill battle. 

So, it’s no surprise that Edmonton returns just about every incumbent to city hall. That means mayor Don Iveson (this was never in doubt), Ward 1’s “Acclamation” Andrew Knack (his challengers only showed up Nomination Day), Ward 2’s Bev Esslinger, Ward 6’s Scott McKeen, Ward 7’s Tony Caterina (in the closest result of the night), Ward 8’s Ben Henderson (in a four-way fight), Ward 10’s Michael Walters, Ward 11’s Mike Nickel and Moe Banga in Ward 12. 

The Public school board returns most of its incumbents, in what trustee Michael Janz called a referendum on the board’s policies of inclusion. Along with Janz, trustees Sherry Adams, Ken Gibson, Nathan Ip, Cheryl Johner and Bridget Stirling are returning to the board. Michelle Draper was already back, since she was the sole acclamation of this election.

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Edmonton Catholic only sees two trustees return, with Debbie Engel and Laura Thibert winning re-election. They’ll have their work cut out for them getting almost an entirely new board ready to go.

The issues

As I had mentioned, I’ll dig into the potential issues for the next city council (and some school board stuff) on Wednesday, after I’ve had some sleep. But a number of items do jump out to me right away, as we begin to look at our new council and school boards:

The north-south fight. It might just centre around LRT (or bus-rapid transit, BRT) dollars, but there does seem to be a growing split over where Edmonton should invest more, next. 

LRT. This one became an issue during the election for a few reasons. There’s the cost vs. building BRT, where we build our next lines (see: north-south fight), and how we build the Valley Line through west Edmonton (will we pay more to raise the train over certain intersections?). Tied into Edmonton’s new transit strategy, this will be one of the largest files for the next council.

Everyone vs. Downtown. A few of the campaigns mention downtown investment explicitly (and the bike lanes have come under fire). I’m not sure if this will shake out as a reduction for downtown money in general, anti-urbanist planning (sprawl, suburbs, car-first roads) or simply political posturing that gets toned down or disappears once council meetings begin.

Infill housing. I think the super-duper strong mandate for Don Iveson, and most of the councillors who were re-elected, means infill housing in our mature neighbourhoods continues. Some candidates were pushing back against this, but I don’t think this is a council that will just scrap the plans. That said, how infill housing is built, and handled by the City, is going to be important, as is finding ways to speed up the process and make housing in older neighbourhoods more affordable.

Image courtesy: Strathcona County

Safer streets. In a survey from the Edmonton Journal, most candidates were in favour of reducing speed limits on neighbourhood roads. What we end up defining as “neighbourhood”, and what the speed limit goes down to (40 km/h or 30?) is going to be one of the big debates of the next term. When we mix in feelings about bike lanes, photo radar and “the war on cars” this one could get heated.

Protecting LGBTQ students. While it will remain to be seen how this ends up progressing at the Catholic school board, most of Public trustees re-elected were very much in favour of more protections for students, particularly around privacy in GSAs. It will be one of the first issues we see on the agenda.

Oh, there’s a lot more to talk about. Edmonton’s next four years are important when it comes to deciding if we’re a city that’s ready to become urbanist, walkable and family-friendly or if we’re going to see geographic squabbles, reduced services and unsustainable suburbs. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the next Headlines.

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