Recap: Edmonton Next Gen’s Candi{date} :: north of the river

Edmonton Next Gen held its second Candi{date} forum this evening, this time for candidates in Wards 1 through 7. Organized in conjunction with interVivos and the MacEwan Students’ Association, the event provided young people the opportunity to sit down with candidates for 20-minute mini-dates. The first Candi{date} event was poorly attended, but tonight’s event was much more lively. Most of the candidates were in attendance and their tables generally seemed busy throughout the evening.

I decided to focus on Ward 6 candidates, since that is the ward I live in. I managed to sit down with each of them, except for Jane Batty. Here are my thoughts on the candidates I talked to:

  • I started with Thomas Roberts. He seemed unprepared, both in terms of his campaign (he had some excuse about not having materials) and in terms of his knowledge. Thomas brought up the airport, as an example of the current city council not listening to citizens. He cited business as the core reason to keep it open, but could not express why and I don’t think he really knows anything about the airport. He thought all the businesses had already moved away from the ECCA. He also thought Port Alberta was called “Port Edmonton” and that it involved the ECCA. We talked about transit as well, and he expressed his belief that the U-Pass is too expensive and should be opt in. He couldn’t tell us how much the U-Pass costs, and he did not have a strategy for making the program viable if it were opt-in. I asked him why he wanted to run for council, and he said the airport was a big issue, and there was another one…that he read in the paper not long ago…that he couldn’t remember. Frankly, I couldn’t wait for our time to be up.
  • My next stop was with James Johnson, one of the younger candidates running for office. He seemed relaxed and did a good job of answering questions, even if he lacked enthusiasm. I asked him where he sees Edmonton in twenty years, and he said “with the same boundaries we have now.” He seems to understand that a more compact urban form could help our city run more efficiently, but unfortunately, his policies don’t align with that vision. He supports the ECCA, again claiming we’ll lose business without it. I asked him what he’d do to ensure we attract new business when it closes, and he didn’t have a strategy. James has concerns with the Stony Plain LRT and referred to transit in general as a “social service”. He did acknowledge that having everyone drive is not the solution. We also touched on EXPO, something James is opposed to due to cost. I thought James was a pretty personable guy, but I disagree with his ideas about how to move Edmonton forward, and I got the impression that he’d have a lot of learning to do.
  • My third stop was at Lee Permann’s table. He was very friendly, and actually, I’d say my conversation with him was the most enjoyable of the evening. I had to start by asking him about his lawn signs, which have councillor spelled “councelor”. He blamed it on the printer, but didn’t have a reason for why he didn’t print new signs. He had a sense of humor about it though, suggesting it might get people to notice him. He lives in Westmount, and talked a lot about increasing the number of people living in the ward. He thinks downtown (I’m assuming he means Downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods together) could support another 100,000 people in the next 20 years. I’m not sure that is realistic, but I do like that he views downtown revitalization as a function of the number of people living there. He also talked about the need for infrastructure. I asked him why he wanted to run for council and he said that he felt the current council was too closely aligned with big business, but did not elaborate. Lee seems like a good guy, but I don’t think city council is for him.
  • Next up for me was Brian Kapitza. He clearly knows a thing or two about how the city works, and seems to have spent some time learning about other places in the world too. Almost as soon as we sat down he launched into his two core issues: neighbourhood renewal & empowerment, and curbing urban sprawl through property tax reform. I think his idea for property tax reform (basically you pay based on the services your land can use, rather than the value of the land) makes a lot of sense but would be difficult to get consensus on. Likewise I think his plan to give community leagues the power to veto planning and development issues in their neighbourhoods would be difficult to implement. I guess someone needs to start these discussions, but I wonder what else he’d do if elected. I really felt as though I was being lectured to when Brian talked, but I am happy to see a candidate with some experience, a vision for Edmonton’s future, and some concrete strategies to start working toward that vision.
  • My last stop was at Cris Basualdo’s table. We spent our time talking about Cris’ two major issues: creating a vibrant downtown (she includes the surrounding neighbourhoods) with more residents, and dealing with community safety. It’s a little odd to talk about how unsafe the ward is in one breath and then to start talking about bringing in more families in the next, but that’s how it went. Like Lee Permann, Cris thinks the key to creating a vibrant downtown is to get more people living there. I think she exaggerates the crime problems facing ward six, and did not share any specifics on how she’d go about improving the situation. Cris wants to take a firm stance against undesirable activities such as needle use, but did not indicate where users would go (no mention of safe injection sites, etc). I thought Cris was really friendly, and she certainly has passion for what she believes, but I don’t think she’s ready for city council.

Candi{date}

I tweeted earlier that the evening was both eye opening and depressing. The speed-dating format is a fantastic way to meet the candidates, and to find out more about them. It’s also a format that prevents candidates from hiding behind platform points or big issues. You can fairly quickly figure out which candidates know that they’re talking about, which candidates would likely be team players, and which candidates have a vision for Edmonton beyond fixing potholes. The depressing part is that I left most tables underwhelmed and unimpressed.

I’ve mentioned the learning curve a few times. I think it takes guts to throw your hat into the ring to run for office, but I also feel you should be prepared for it, and I want a councillor that can hit the ground running. Obviously there’s a learning curve for anyone new to council, but there is a whole ton of knowledge about how the city works that you can learn before getting into office. That doesn’t mean no new ideas, it just means being prepared to do the job well. I think we’ve got some momentum as a city, and I’d like to see us capitalize on that.

Candi{date}Candi{date}

I thought NextGen did a great job with Candi{date} and I’d love to see them do it again. I can only imagine that candidates would want to do more of these events as well. Daryl Bonar told me about his experience at the first Candi{date} and said it was a great way to meet lots of people in a short amount of time, far more than you’re likely to have a meaningful conversation with door-knocking. It would be great to see similar events for school board candidates as well.

Thanks NextGen (and partners) for a unique way to meet my candidates! You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

8 thoughts on “Recap: Edmonton Next Gen’s Candi{date} :: north of the river

  1. Nice post. Glad we got a chance to compare notes tonight. I’m with you on wanting candidates to be prepared and have some ideas to bring to the table.

  2. Next election Candi(date) should definitely include school trustees. I think we are seeing this election that young people and students especially are growing in their awareness about how education issues affect them. Either way, It’s great to see such a showing of support for the election!

  3. Mack, Thanks for the write up.
    I wanted to get there but had another meeting run really late. It doesn’t sound like anybody has positioned themselves as a legitimate threat to J. Batty. While not opposed to Batty I would at least like to see a genuine competition.

    Have you had the chance to talk to the Mayoral candidates? I would be interested to read your thoughts on meeting and talking with them.

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