Tonight I attended the Ward 2 candidates forum at Rosslyn School. There were over 200 people in attendance, and without question the City Centre Airport was one of the major reasons for that. Both Kim Krushell and Don Koziak had large cheering sections on hand, and there were a number of familiar faces in the crowd, such as mayoral candidate David Dorward (who left after the opening statements) and former city councillor Patricia McKenzie. All of the candidates were present, except for Michael Waddy.
I thought both Krushell and Thomas Hinderks did the best job of fielding questions tonight. Hinderks in particular sounded confident and knowledgeable. Roxie Malone-Richards was also confident, but couldn’t seem to answer a question without referencing her support for the City Centre Airport, or her catchphrase: “overhaul city hall this fall.” Shelley Tupper didn’t have much to say, and frequently she simply agreed with what Krushell had said.
Here are my notes. My commentary is in italics. First, the opening statements:
- Hinderks said the biggest issue facing Ward 2 is the creation of new jobs.
- Koziak started off by questioning Krushell’s record and saying “we can do better”. He talked about the airport and its relation to business, saying that “business depends on customers”. He also said that if anyone on council is going to support the airport, it should be the Ward 2 councillor. First of all, retiring Ward 2 councillor Ron Hayter was one of the more vocal supporters of the airport. And secondly, you shouldn’t have to support something simply because of where it is located.
- Krushell started by thanking Ward 2 residents, and said it is important to have a voice with experience representing them on council. Her commitment going forward is on results. She mentioned being in favor of decommissioning the trolley buses (which earned her a few jeers from the audience) and that she wholly supports LRT expansion (which earned her loud applause). She closed by stating that any discussion on the airport must be “guided by facts, not rhetoric or emotion.”
- Malone-Richards said the big issue facing Ward 2 is the airport, and she is firmly in favor of keeping it open. She felt that there was a lack of democracy in council’s decision. She also promised to donate her 5.5% salary increase to charity if elected, and said she would increase the snow removal budget and frequency.
- Tupper talked about her community experience, and mentioned a couple times that she has been a resident of Kensington for more than 20 years.
- When asked about whether or not they would take direction from city administration, both Koziak and Hinderks agreed they would give direction instead. Tupper said she’d listen to constituents, administration, and others, and then make a decision.
- In response to a question about where the funding for LRT expansion will come from, Koziak replied that he is “extremely concerned” with the city’s debt levels. He otherwise avoided the question, and asked the same thing in response, where are we going to get the money?
- Hinderks said that while LRT is important, “I wish we’d start calling it transit.” I like his overall point, that LRT is just a part of the public transit system.
- In response to a question about an overpass at 127 Street and Yellowhead Trail, Malone-Richards said that she’s in favor of removing the lights on Yellowhead. All the candidates agreed that the overpass is needed, and Koziak went so far as to say the overpass would be his key transportation issue.
- Koziak then took the opportunity to ask the audience for a show of hands if they took the LRT to get to the event. No hands went up. I thought this was one of the funniest things of the evening. I’m sure the room was divided into two. Those who support Koziak’s skepticism on LRT expansion were probably quite satisfied with the lack of hands. Those of us who support LRT expansion were probably thinking, ‘what a silly question, there’s no LRT station even close to here’. The nearest station, Belvedere is still two buses or a one an a quarter hour walk away from Rosslyn School.
- When asked how we can ensure the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands results in affordable housing, Malone-Richards said “I’m not ready to give it up yet.” Krushell said the lands need to have a mix of housing options, and noted that any development would still have to go through the zoning process.
- When asked about the bicycle plan, Koziak said he learned as an engineer that “one big truck causes more damage to a roadway than a million bicycles.”
- On redevelopment and curbing urban sprawl, Malone-Richards say she supports incentives or penalties to encourage land and building owners to redevelop empty lots or derelict buildings. Except when it comes to the airport, of course.
- Hinderks said a few times that if he’s elected, he expects constituents to call him daily to ensure he is keeping is promises.
- One of the best questions of the evening was how we can retain talent in Edmonton, and diversify our economy. Malone-Richards said she wasn’t sure how to answer. Hinderks said that to make Edmonton more than an oil town, we need to focus on the City Centre Airport. Krushell finally answered the question, citing Next Gen and open data as two successful examples of the right approach, and said that closing the City Centre Airport will result in NAIT expansion and lots of new jobs. Koziak disagreed.
- Hinderks also talked a lot about focusing on “advanced technology” in relation to the City Centre Airport, but never elaborated on what he meant.
- In response to a question about social housing throughout the city, Hinderks said it “is a load that must be shared by everyone” and then quickly clarified that social housing is not a load but is “our friends and neighbours”.
- At this point in my Twitter stream, Tupper once again agreed with one of the candidates. Woman of few words? Also of few thoughts/opinions?
- There were a couple of questions about EPCOR. Koziak said that he thinks the goal of creating Capital Power was simply to create a new highly-paid CEO in Edmonton. And I’m quite certain he wasn’t joking. Krushell stood up for the decision, saying that by creating two companies, city council was actually helping to grow EPCOR.
- The final question asked candidates for their vision of Edmonton as a whole. Malone-Richards said EXPO 2017 is “a colossal waste of money”. Tupper said she sees a city in which people care for one another. Hinderks picked up on the EXPO 2017 reference and said “we’re already on the map” and also “we don’t need to be on anyone’s map”. Koziak said “we have it pretty good here” and listed a bunch of negative things we don’t have, such as earthquakes. The only vision he referred to was infrastructure. Krushell responded by citing the success of Next Gen and similar initiatives, by pointing out that we’ve had a net increase in migration and that we’re creating more jobs.
And finally, closing statements:
- Tupper didn’t say much, but encouraged everyone to vote.
- Malone-Richards said “I’m the gal that talks the talk, walks the walk, and gets things done.”
- Krushell said she has delivered over the last six years, citing some key accomplishments, and asked for continued support.
- Koziak used the first half of his one minute to talk about where he and Krushell first met. He eventually got around to saying that he hopes to stop talking about the airport and that he wants to bring fresh ideas to council. Yes, in the same sentence.
- Hinderks lectured: “Don’t just vote!” and be done, but after the election is over, “start riding your selection’s butt.”
My hat is off to the Toastmasters who moderate these forums. Without fail, someone will get to the microphone and talk for an hour if you let them. And without fail, the person at the front of the question line complains once the time for questions is over. Tonight’s moderator handled both situations expertly.
You can learn more about Ward 2 at ShareEdmonton. Election day is Monday!