Don Iveson is the person I want to lead Edmonton forward over at least the next four years. He’s thoughtful, intelligent, hard-working, and he truly cares about building Edmonton’s future. Don can imagine the great city we are working to build here in Edmonton. But he’s also practical, well-prepared and able to address the many complex challenges our growing city faces. I have no doubt that if Don is elected mayor on Monday night, Edmonton will be in good hands.
It should be no surprise that I’m supporting Don – I have been a member of his campaign team since early this summer. Many of the things I felt and thought I understood about Don then have only been reinforced through his actions and statements on the campaign trail. I consider myself fortunate to be part of the amazing team of people that have come together because they too like what they see in Don.
I have, of course, been a fairly consistent supporter of Mayor Stephen Mandel. While I haven’t always agreed with him, I do think that Edmonton has thrived under his leadership. I’m sad to see him go, but excited about the potential for someone to build atop the strong foundation he has laid. Edmonton has real confidence now that was sorely lacking before. Mayor Mandel was the leader we needed to find our path, and Don is the best candidate to lead us down it and beyond.
In my opinion, one of the biggest changes at the City over the last few years has been the professionalization of planning. It’s a much more strategic organization thanks in large part to Mayor Mandel’s efforts. We don’t need a new set of plans right now – indeed the lack of any major issues during this election is proof that most Edmontonians are happy with the course we’re on. What we need is someone who can ensure we actually implement those plans, while keeping an eye out for possibilities we haven’t yet recognized. Don has demonstrated repeatedly that he thoroughly understands the issues and can chart a course from here to there. His policy on renewing our roads and pipes is a good example of this.
One of the most important tasks facing any new mayor is to get Council working well together as a team. Councillors need to feel engaged, and the mayor must always remember that he or she is only one vote. At the same time, the mayor plays a unique role in building consensus. There will always be those who disagree, but unless the will of Council is generally aligned it’s difficult to make progress. The bar for accomplishing this task well was set pretty high by Mayor Mandel, but I think Don is more than capable of building an effective team.
If you ever watch or listen to Council meetings as I do, you’ll know that Don has a deep understanding of how the City works. He has been active in the Council chamber, making nearly twice as many motions during his last term as Karen Leibovici, and nearly eight times as many as Kerry Diotte. More importantly, I think his record shows that Don was able to earn a wider range of support from his colleagues on Council. While both Don and Karen have a similar failure rate for motions of about 2% (Kerry’s is a shocking 67%), more than 27% of all Karen’s motions were seconded by Jane Batty. Mayor Mandel accounts for another 14.5%. No two Councillors combined account for more than 30% of Don’s seconders. Stats like this can be interpreted in multiple ways however, so what about the contents of the motions?
Don’s activity on Council has not been limited to a particular issue. He’s made motions related to: funding for the Southeast LRT expansion, supporting the Edmonton Public Library, progressing smart transit fares, the operations of 311, streetlight rehabilitation, funding for arterial road renewal, reallocating funds for snow removal, the regulation of taxi and limousine services in the Capital Region, the downtown CRL, funding for Startup Edmonton, streamlining the rules for food trucks, and much more.
Don is not perfect; no candidate is. But Don’s age, perceived lack of experience, and apparent left-leaning slant are not his weaknesses. Age is just a number and any lack of experience can be mitigated by doing your homework and seeking the counsel of others. And I find the policies he has put forth fairly centrist. If there’s any weakness to note, it would be that Don has a tendency to care too much about what other people think. Fortunately that’s a weakness that’s easy to overcome. Anyone sitting in the mayor’s chair will naturally grow a thicker skin over time, and I know that like all great leaders, Don will surround himself with amazing people that can help him stay focused and motivated.
There are many issues I care about, but let me highlight a few. I have long been disappointed with the state of public involvement in Edmonton. As a councillor, Don has proven that he too would like to see things improve. He’s been highly accessible, both through traditional means and using new approaches like social media, and has led initiatives such as NextGen’s Engagement Strategy. I have no doubt he’ll continue to push for improvements as mayor. Like many Edmontonians, I want to see our LRT network built. Don has committed to working toward a full build-out of the network by 2030. I joined the Poverty Elimination Committee this year because I believe it’s an important problem that needs a new approach, similar to the success of our 10-year Plan to End Homelessness. Don has committed to elevating the poverty elimination effort to a Mayor’s Task Force. On these and many other issues, Don best represents the beliefs I have and the outcomes I desire.
I predict that the Capital Region will be one of the most important files our new mayor and City Council will need to address. The time is right for change, and Don is well-positioned to lead us in that effort. He recognizes that Edmonton is not an island and that we need to cooperate with our neighbours to maximize the opportunities before us. Don has a proven track record of working successfully with the Capital Region, and I think he’s the right person to bring about further, positive change for the region.
I also like Don’s position on Calgary. He has committed to working with the mayor of Calgary on a number of issues, to ensure that large municipalities in Alberta get the special attention they require and deserve. Whether its building out the LRT network or changing the way we fund our city, Don understands the issues and recognizes that Edmonton and Calgary have a greater chance of getting support from the Province when we speak with a united voice than when we work alone.
The challenges our city will face over the next four years and beyond will be more complicated than those we have faced in the past. As Edmonton grows and our positive momentum builds, we need a leader who can ensure we stay the course while also taking calculated risks when opportunities arise. We need a leader who understands the issues and who can provide thoughtful, creative solutions. We need a leader who is passionate about and devoted to building the Edmonton of the future. Don Iveson is that leader.