Edmonton Election 2013: Update #8

Tonight our guest on the EdmontonPolitics.com #yegvote Hangout was mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte! It was a great opportunity to dig into some key issues with him, including the arena, debt, and taxes. You can watch the archive here:

Thanks for joining us tonight Kerry!

These updates are starting to get pretty long as the election heats up! For ongoing news items, be sure to check out my #yegvote Flipboard.

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

From Edmonton Elections, here’s everything you need to know about voting:

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here. Also be sure to check out the #yegvote flipboard for curated election-related stories on a daily basis.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.

Edmonton Election 2013: Campaign Colors

In one of our earlier #yegvote Hangouts, my colleague Ryan Hastman remarked on the similarity of colors between the three primary mayoral candidates. We joked about his color theory and moved on, but recently I found myself looking at campaign colors again. What colors are most common in this election? What do they mean?

That color grid represents the primary color of all 119 campaigns. They were generated by: taking a screenshot of the candidate’s website and/or Twitter page; identifying the primary color of each using Color Thief; and doing some post-processing on the results. The white boxes are for candidates that either do not have a website or Twitter page, or that have a Twitter page with the default settings (a shockingly large number fall into this category).

While it was a fun exercise, this also serves a purpose for me. ShareEdmonton’s list of candidates has now been updated with colors, and where appropriate/possible, I’ll use these colors to represent candidates on the election night results dashboard (you can see the 2010 results dashboard with color-coding here).

There are a lot of blues, greens, and purples. Fewer red, yellow, and orange. Does this mean anything? Let’s look at Paper Leaf Design’s handy color theory quick reference poster:

Check out the full poster for all the detail, but here are some election-related highlights:

  • Red often means intensity, strength, and energy.
  • Blue often means depth, stability, and trust.
  • Purple often means power, ambition, and nobility.
  • Green often means growth, freshness, and safety.
  • Yellow often means intellect, cheerfulness, and energy.
  • Orange often means enthusiasm, creativity, and warmth.

Do candidates and their campaign teams think about these things when choosing colors?

Perhaps more importantly, do campaign colors matter to you as a voter?

Edmonton Election 2013: Update #7

We were very happy to have Deb and Breanna from The Local Good on last night’s #yegvote Hangout! We discussed the latest election news plus candidate questionnaires. You can watch the archive at EdmontonPolitics.com:

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

Michael Walters - Ward 10
Love the Walters campaign shirts!

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here. Also be sure to check out the #yegvote flipboard for curated election-related stories on a daily basis.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.

Edmonton Election 2013: Nomination Day Recap

Yesterday was nomination day at City Hall, the day that all candidates running in the municipal election needed to file their paperwork and pay their fees. As many of them remarked after making it through the line, “now it’s real!” It was exciting to be there to see the dozens of Edmontonians that were willing to put their names forward, not to mention all of their supporters. Of course, there was real business to be done.

Nomination Day
Returning Office Alayne Sinclair speaks to the media on Nomination Day

Dave Cournoyer and I were at City Hall for all the action, and last night along with Ryan Hastman we held a special edition of our EdmontonPolitics.com hangout to discuss nomination day. Here’s the archive:

Let’s take a look at the nomination day statistics (here are the 2010 stats). There are 119 candidates total, an increase of six from 2010. Here are the numbers broken down by race:

And here’s a closer look at the Council races in particular:

I wanted to include that chart to show just how different some of the races will be. Ward 6 has a crazy number of candidates at 16, whereas both Wards 4 and 9 have just one other candidate aside from the incumbent. The big surprise was Ward 8, which basically went from 1 candidate to 5 in a day.

Here’s a look at the candidate breakdown by gender:

Roughly 32.7% of the field is female, which is actually the same percentage as 2010. While there were no female candidates for mayor in 2010, there are two this year (including one viable candidate). The number of female candidates for Council has decreased slightly from 22.6% in 2010 to 21.7% in this election.

Here’s a look at how many candidates had contact details available on nomination day:

I was a little surprised to see email above phones, actually. And to see Twitter above Facebook. Of course, there could be more candidates with Twitter and Facebook accounts, but they hadn’t been discovered by myself or on Dave’s list by today at noon.

Speaking of email, here’s a look at which email domains candidates are using:

I am pleasantly surprised by the number of candidates that are using vanity domains! The reality is that not everyone is going to spend the $10 or so to get a vanity domain, but at least they outrank Gmail.

Nomination Day

No candidates had withdrawn their candidacy by the deadline today, so those 119 names will all appear on ballots come October 21!

If you’re looking to browse through the candidates, ShareEdmonton has you covered:

You’ll find contact details for each candidate, related tweets, and more. Stay tuned as ShareEdmonton aggregates everything you need to know about the election races.

For more photos from nomination day, check out my photoset and Dave’s photoset.

UPDATE: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the number of female candidates was slightly higher in 2013 than in 2010, when in fact the percentage is the same.

Edmonton Election 2013: Update #6

We did not host a #yegvote Hangout last night, but we’ll be back next week with a special Nomination Day episode, so stay tuned!

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

Edmonton Going to Bed
Great fall photo of Edmonton by Paul.

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here. Also be sure to check out the #yegvote flipboard for curated election-related stories on a daily basis.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.

Recap: OCL/DECL Ward 6 Candidate Forum

Tonight the Oliver Community League and Downtown Edmonton Community League co-hosted a candidate forum for Ward 6. Held at Oliver School, the forum was moderated by Beth Sanders. Along with a couple of other volunteers, she did a good job of keeping the eleven candidates in attendance on track (there are 13 on Dave’s list, but Bryan Kapitza and Javed Sommers did not take part). The turnout was pretty good for a Tuesday evening in mid-September, with approximately 125 people in attendance.

OCL/DECL Ward 6 Forum

From left to right, here are the candidates who participated tonight: Taz Bouchier, Kyle Brown, Candas Jane Dorsey, Derrick Forsythe, Melinda Hollis, Heather MacKenzie, Scott McKeen, Erin Northey, Adil Pirbhai, Alfie White, and Dexx Williams.

After opening statements in that order, Beth asked five questions from the organizers of the forum, then opened the floor to questions from those in attendance. There was time for five of those before candidates gave their closing remarks (in reverse order).

Here are the five questions asked by the organizers:

  1. If elected to Council, how would you continue the momentum of building Downtown as a centre of commerce and culture and a destination for all citizens of the city?
  2. Do you feel that the decision on the redevelopment of the Molson Crosstown site was the correct one? What would you do as Councillor to improve the City’s engagement process?
  3. As Councillor, how would you work to address the spike in violent crimes in recent months in the Oliver/Downtown neighbourhoods?
  4. Is there an adequate balance of housing options in the Oliver/Downtown core? If not, what deficiencies do you see and how would you work to address them as Councillor?
  5. If elected to Council, what important issue facing Oliver/Downtown would you give the most attention to and what would you do to ensure that it’s adequately addressed?

Each candidate had one minute to answer the question. The order was random – names were drawn from a hat. For the most part, the candidates kept to the time allotted and stayed on track with their answers. The five questions asked by citizens in attendance included one about the need for public washrooms in the core, one about supporting the arts, one about P3s, and one about regional cooperation. The only question that every candidate had the opportunity to answer was the one that received applause from the crowd: How will you make yourself more accessible?

On the question of improving the City’s engagement process, there were far too many non-answers along the lines of “I believe citizens need to have their voices heard.” This is an important issue that I’m confident will be repeatedly asked throughout the election, so I hope all of the candidates give it due consideration. Adil’s answer was that he’d hold numerous Town Halls, which isn’t a bad idea if you went about it the right way (hello technology!).

I was a little surprised at how many candidates were happy with the Molson Crosstown decision. More than a couple mentioned that they were happy to see the development going forward so that something could be done with the parking lots. Scott probably gave the answer the Oliver Community League members were looking for, saying  that “developers too often plan for Edmonton’s past.”

Far too many candidates completely bombed on the housing options question. Some, like Taz, took it to be a question about homelessness. Others offered nothing beyond saying diversity is good. Drawing on her own experience, Heather made a strong case for more diverse housing options in the core.

It was really interesting to hear what candidates felt the most important issue was. Dexx mentioned the issue of parking being unavailable for residents because non-residents use it all. Melinda claimed that the Municipal Development Plan isn’t actually a plan, and said she’d want to do something about that. Candas talked about the need for consultation. Scott mentioned the arena. Some mentioned housing, others mentioned tackling crime.

The vast majority of the answers tonight were “I believe” or “I think” answers, lacking substance or concrete ideas for action. I suppose it’s difficult to go much beyond that with just a minute to answer, but it still would have been nice to hear some specifics. I did not feel a great deal of confidence that the candidates up at the front of the room tonight have a solid understanding of what being a Councillor would entail.

OCL/DECL Ward 6 Forum

Here are my notes on the closing remarks:

  • Dexx highlighted his passion for the ward and reiterated that he’d work hard to ensure residents’ concerns were addressed.
  • Alfie admitted that this was all a new experience for him, but that he hoped to be able to represent the ward.
  • Adil expressed his distaste for projects like the arena, Indy, and EXPO 2017, and then went on to suggest that Council hadn’t said anything about the post secondary cuts. I guess he missed the State of the City Address.
  • Erin also admitted that this was a new experience and suggested that she’d be happy to just learn and make connections.
  • Scott praised the strong field of candidates, and said that Ward 6 could become the ward that slows urban sprawl.
  • Heather said responsiveness to the community and attracting more people to the core are both priorities.
  • Melinda said she’s passionate about the ward, and that city must grow responsibly, taking care to maintain the uniqueness of each neighbourhood.
  • Derrick focused his closing remarks on improving public consultation, and said a commitment to work with communities is needed.
  • Candas said that cities need to have big dreams, but also need to know how to pay for them.
  • Kyle said the ward needs someone who can represent the diversity you’ll find within it.
  • Taz highlighted her experience in community development, and said she’s familiar with legislation, bylaws, and the orders of government.

There were an awful lot of repetitive answers tonight, which is no surprise given the large number of candidates running (already there are five more declared than officially ran in the last election). I have no doubt the field will narrow in the weeks ahead (or at the very least some clear frontrunners will emerge).

Instead of picking “a winner” for tonight, let me simply mention the candidates that I thought did well. The two names most often mentioned as frontrunners are Scott and Heather, and I thought both did well. Scott only mentioned his journalism background a couple times, and had strong answers for all the questions. Heather cited her experience as a school board trustee a few times, and though she generally read from her notes, gave strong answers as well. Candas did well and had some of the more thoughtful answers of the evening. I think Dexx impressed me most tonight – he delivered a good amount of passion and was articulate in his answers.

Monday is nomination day, after which we’ll know exactly who’s running. The official Ward 6 forum will take place on October 9, so mark your calendars.

Thanks to the organizers of tonight’s event and to all the candidates who participated!

Edmonton Election 2013: Update #5

I was unavailable for tonight’s #yegvote Hangout but Dave and Ryan kept the show going along with special guest Steven Dollansky. The guys talked about regional cooperation, Edmonton’s debt levels, expanding the LRT, and other big issues of the election so far. On debt, Steven said the next mayor “isn’t going to have as much room on the credit card” and will have to make some tough decisions. On the LRT, he said the next mayor is going to have to go the province and “be more creative” to bring ideas beyond grants to the table.

You can watch the archive here or at EdmontonPolitics.com:

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here. Also be sure to check out the #yegvote flipboard for curated election-related stories on a daily basis.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.

Edmonton does not have a debt problem

There has been a lot of talk about Edmonton’s debt recently, with some candidates going so far as to highlight debt as a key election issue. Debt is one of those topics that is easy to complain about but difficult to understand. Throwing out a billion-dollar number and proclaiming it bad is easy, understanding how we got to that number in the first place and how it fits into the broader context of the City’s financial situation takes more effort.

Here’s a look at Edmonton’s debt history for the last fifteen years:

So we can see that at the end of 2012 our city’s debt totaled $2.2 billion, which is 53.4% of our debt limit as outlined by provincial legislation. Is that high or low? Let’s make some comparisons. Here’s what Edmonton’s per capita debt looks like compared with Calgary:

So we’ve got less debt per person than Calgary does, and have had significantly less over the last decade. What about the rest of the province? Municipalities collectively owed about $7.7 billion at the end of 2011, with Calgary and Edmonton together accounting for 69% of that amount.

Here’s a comparison of the amount of available debt used by Calgary, Edmonton, and all other municipalities grouped together:

Notably Edmonton has used less of its available debt than Calgary, with the gap narrowing only in the last few years. It wasn’t until 2003 that we started to take on more debt. Why is that? And what is the impact?

Here’s what current Ward 6 candidate Scott McKeen wrote in the Edmonton Journal back in 2003:

And of all the cities in Canada, Edmonton stands out for being a skinflint among cheapskates. Our per capita debt is about one-fifth of Calgary’s and one-tenth of Vancouver’s.

As you’re maybe already aware, Edmonton’s hell-bent determination these past two decades to eliminate civic debt has created its own set of problems: neglected and decaying roads; inferior civic services; dated, second-class public facilities.

But we so loved the idea of getting out of debt that we ignored our mounting repair bills. We also ignored the fact that some other cities — Calgary and Vancouver, for example — were busy borrowing money to pave the way for growth.

The kind of debt Edmonton has taken on in recent years is “smart debt”, money for which the debt servicing costs are tied to revenue. It’s not debt for operating costs, it’s another financing tool the City can use to build the infrastructure we desperately need.

The 2007 Debt Management Fiscal Policy Review also discussed this history:

At the end of the 1970s, tremendous growth pressure resulted in a relaxation of the City’s debt limit, leading to a threefold increase in the City’s annual borrowing.  This resulted in Edmonton’s tax-supported debt being higher than most other major Canadian cities at that time.

The recession of the early 1980s and high interest rates necessitated a revised Policy.  Under this new debt policy, tax-supported debt issues were limited to $25 million per year.  Moreover, new tax-supported borrowing was prohibited after 1990. Subsequent to 1990, an exclusive pay-as-you-go approach was adopted for capital expenditures. Shorter borrowing terms for utility debt (self-liquidating) were also required.

In 2002, to address growing infrastructure issues and flat sources of financing, tax-supported debt was reintroduced through an amended Policy.  A five-year borrowing guideline called for an annual approval of $50 million in debt-financed projects for 2003-2007, totalling $250 million.  Adoption of the five year guideline has enabled the City to construct a number of much needed projects such as fire halls, a senior’s centre, libraries, parks, an interchange and other road works.

It also included this chart which shows the amount of debt Edmonton had outstanding throughout the 1980s and projected amounts through 2016 as permitted under higher borrowing limits:

The jump might look significant, but Edmonton’s outstanding debt is still well within both the provincial debt limits and the City’s own more strict debt limits. The City’s credit ratings remain very strong.

It’s true that Edmonton’s debt has grown significantly over the last decade. But it’s also true that taking on that debt has enabled us to invest in much-needed infrastructure to support our growing city. Candidates that don’t recognize this risk pursuing a policy that would take us back to the 1990s, reversing any progress we’ve made toward tackling our ever-growing infrastructure deficit. As the City says, “an appropriate and sustainable level of tax-supported debt is recognized as a legitimate part of any long-term capital financing plan.”

Note: Much of the data in this post came from the Government of Alberta. While figures are available for 1994-1996 at that site, I excluded them because the values for Edmonton were highly inconsistent with the rest of the data and were extremely different from the City of Edmonton’s published values for those years. I have submitted an inquiry about the validity of the data.

Edmonton Election 2013: Update #4

On tonight’s #yegvote Hangout we had special guest Kathleen Smith join us! You’ll probably know her better as KikkiPlanet, her sassy online persona. We talked all about signs, the race in Ward 5, candidates’ use of social media, and Kathleen’s own political ambitions. It was a fun hour – thanks for joining us Kathleen! Check out the video at YouTube or embedded here:

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

edmonton
Photo by Paul

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.

Edmonton Election 2013: Update #3

Today’s guest on the EdmontonPolitics.com #yegvote Hangout was Councillor Don Iveson. As you know he’s running for mayor this time, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to grill him on a number of subjects. Here’s the archived video:

We look forward to chatting with the other mayoral candidates in upcoming episodes!

Here’s my latest election news roundup:

You can follow Edmonton Election news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegvote and you can see my coverage here.

What have I missed? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m actively volunteering for Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign.