Edmonton Election 2017: A mandate to keep moving forward

Monday’s election resulted in very few surprises for City Council. Don Iveson easily won re-election as mayor, all but one of the incumbent councillors is returning, and while it is still early, the winners of the three open races seem like they’ll fit in just fine with the mostly progressive Council they are joining. Voter turnout wasn’t great, but it was far from the disaster many were predicting with such a boring mayoral race. So why does it seem like the overwhelming narrative is that citizens are unhappy?

Consider what Paula Simons wrote in her first column after the election. “Sure, incumbent mayor Iveson cruised to easy re-election, with support from almost three-quarters of those who cast ballots. But don’t misread that,” she warned. “Iveson faced no legitimate challengers, so voters who were unhappy with his leadership had nowhere to channel their frustrations.”

Her colleague David Staples seemed to agree. “Iveson will likely have majority support for his agenda on council, but on a host of issues where he has taken a strong stand, from LRT and bike lanes to photo radar and social housing, Edmontonians appear increasingly less inclined to go along with his progressive vision.”

Or consider what the Edmonton Journal’s editorial board had to say. “If letters to the editor, media comment boards, call-in shows and candidate forums are any indication, much of the electorate is in no mood for business as usual,” they wrote. “Many may have expressed their frustration by staying home Monday, which along with the lack of a high-profile challenger for the mayor’s chair, could help explain a disappointing voter turnout.”

I look at Monday’s results and I see something very different. I see a clear endorsement of the decisions that Iveson and the previous Council made and a mandate for this new Council to build on that work.

Iveson with the new councillors
Bumped into all four new members of #yegcc on the media circuit just now. Congrats! – @doniveson

Yes, there are citizens who are annoyed about bike lanes and photo radar. Some are opposed to infill, at least in their own neighbourhood. There are plenty of citizens who love to complain about how it isn’t as easy to park downtown as it once was. But these are just squeaky wheels and we shouldn’t let them speak for the majority. There’s a big difference between being annoyed that a traffic lane now belongs to bicycles and being upset about the overall direction the city is headed. This is what people really mean when they say they want to vote for something rather than against something.

I see no credible evidence that Edmontonians are unhappy with the direction our city is going.

“They wrote letters to the editor! They called the call-in shows! They tweeted their discontent!”

Then why not show up to express that anger where it matters, at the ballot box? Voter turnout was 31.5% in this election, which is down 3% from the 2013 election. Considering that voter turnout went from 41.79% when Stephen Mandel was first elected to just 27.24% when he won re-election the first time, I’d say a 3% drop isn’t too bad at all.

“Voter turnout would have been higher but people stayed home to express their frustration!”

If citizens were really expressing frustration by staying home, I would have expected much lower turnout. Don Iveson received 141,182 votes on Monday, up from the record-setting 132,162 he received in 2013. Only four times has an Edmonton candidate cracked the 100,000 vote mark and Iveson has done it twice in a row (the other two were Jan Reimer in 1992 and Stephen Mandel in 2010). A record number of Edmontonians voted for our mayor rather than staying home.

“They only voted for Iveson because there were no credible challengers!”

Why is that? In a city of roughly 900,000 people not one credible person was willing to step forward to run against Iveson. Could it be that no one was miffed enough to go to the trouble? The 2010 election, in which the City Centre Airport was the big issue and the downtown arena debate was starting to heat up, saw a challenger step forward in David Dorward. It has happened before.

“Incumbents never lose and Dave Loken lost! Ben Henderson barely scraped by! Tony Caterina nearly lost!”

Loken won his seat in 2010 by just 507 votes and won re-election in 2013 by just 501 votes. Is it really that unbelievable that he might lose this time around by 464 votes? Both he and Henderson were pretty quiet in this election. As Dave wrote, Henderson ran “what appeared to be a stealth re-election campaign in Ward 8.” It’s not at all surprising that the results reflect that. Caterina has never been seen as one of Iveson’s sure votes, so I don’t see how his narrow victory is any indication that people are unhappy with the progressive agenda. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“The polls say people have doubts about everything!”

Don Iveson and Ryan Jespersen talked about polls on Tuesday morning. “It’s not accurate, it’s not a true thing,” Iveson said. “I would enourage all media outlets as a matter of ethics and integrity to stop reporting that.” There are definite flaws with many of these polling methodologies. Trust them at your own risk.


I have no doubt there are some people who truly are upset about certain decisions, whether it’s bike lanes or infill or whatever. There’s always going to be someone who is upset about something. And yes, Iveson and Council should take what they heard on the doorsteps to heart and they should always strive to truly listen to citizens in order to make the best decisions possible. But they should also see the outcome of Monday’s election for what it is: an endorsement of the trajectory our city is on and a mandate to keep moving forward.

Edmonton Election 2017: Nomination Day Recap

Nomination Day took place on Monday, September 18. A total of 132 Edmontonians filed their nomination papers and paid their deposits to run in the 2017 municipal election. Michelle Draper was the only candidate acclaimed on Nomination Day, so she’ll continue serving as the public school board trustee for Ward B. Barry Koperski had filed his paperwork to run for council in Ward 4, but withdrew his nomination by the deadline on September 19.

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So that leaves us with 131 candidates in this election:

  • 13 mayoral candidates
  • 70 city council candidates
  • 20 Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee candidates
  • 28 Edmonton Public School Board trustee candidates (including one acclamation)

A total of 131 candidates is a new record for municipal elections in Edmonton. The previous high was 120 in the 1986 election. The 2013 election came close, with 119 candidates filing their paperwork.

Linda Sahli
Returning Office Linda Sahli

“This morning ran very smoothly – now it’s the voters’ turn,” said Edmonton Elections Returning Officer Linda Sahli.

Andrew Knack, councillor for Ward 1, was running unopposed until Nomination Day, when three challengers came forward. “Thankfully people will have a choice in Ward 1,” he tweeted. It’s actually Ward 2 that has the fewest candidates for council, with just three, a significant decline from 2013’s seven. In the 2013 election, Wards 4 and 9 had just two candidates each.

There are 24 female candidates for mayor or council, which is about 29%, and that’s up from 17% in 2013. Counting all the races, 36.6% of the field is female (48 candidates), which is up from 32.7% in 2013 (39 candidates).

Election Candidates by Year

Edmonton Elections has made the full candidate list available on its website and in the open data catalogue.

You can see more photos from Nomination Day courtesy of Dave Cournoyer. Here’s my recap of Nomination Day for the 2013 election.

Your Guide to the 2017 Municipal Election

We’ve combined open data from the City with other data that we’ve collected to build an election microsite at Taproot Edmonton. You can browse the full list of candidates, all the wards and voting stations, and a list of election-related events. On Election Night, you can watch the results dashboard to see who your new elected officials are.

For a more personalized experience, try our Election Guide feature. Simply put in your home address and we’ll tell you everything you need to know – which wards you’re in, who your candidates are, where to vote, and more.

We’re also publishing a weekly roundup of election news and other links. Here’s our latest edition and here’s the archive. You can sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each week.

If you find the election microsite and/or newsletter updates useful, spread the word! Maybe we can bump the voter turnout numbers up a bit. And if you want to support the work we’re doing at Taproot Edmonton, become a member. It’s just $10/month.

Here’s where to find the latest Edmonton Election news for 2017

During the 2013 election, I got into the habit of writing a regular series of posts to collect all the election-related news I could find in one place. It was useful for me, to keep tabs on what everyone was doing, and I think others found it useful too. This year I’m doing the series again, but at Taproot Edmonton! Currently we’re publishing the roundup every two weeks, but we anticipate increasing the frequency as we get closer to the election.

This is a bit of an experiment for us, just like our #YEGFringe Daily Digest that Ryan Stephens has been writing for the past couple of weeks. Like some other future-of-media entrepreneurs, we think email has a big role to play. For all the talk about spam, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence that people like email newsletters!

If you’d like to get our Edmonton Election Update in your inbox for free, join our mailing list here. If you’d like to support the creation of our local feature stories as well, consider becoming a full member of Taproot Edmonton. It’s just $10/month or $100/year to join.

Edmonton Election Update

The format we’re using at the moment is 2-3 “feature” items, followed by a list of other news items and events. If you read and enjoy my regular Edmonton Notes or Media Monday Edmonton posts, the election roundups should feel very familiar. Here are the three I have written so far:

  • Aug. 23 — Helping Edmonton’s homeless community vote, Taz Bouchier is running for mayor, Work the election on Oct. 16
  • Jul. 27 — More than three dozen female candidates already, Campaign finance reform, Fahad Mughal to challenge Iveson for mayoralty
  • Jul. 13 — Iveson remains uncontested, Ward 5 heats up

If email isn’t your thing, watch our Twitter and Facebook — we’ll be sharing each roundup on social media as well. We’re still working on the rest of our election coverage, and will have more to share on that in the weeks ahead.

Have an election-related tip for us? Let us know by email, or share it on Twitter with the #yegvote hashtag and tag us @taprootyeg.

What do you think?

Recap: Political Pub Night

In the 2013 municipal election here in Edmonton, just 39 of the 119 candidates who ran for office were women. And of the 79 candidates who ran for City Council specifically, just 17 were women. Nomination Day for the 2017 municipal election isn’t until September 18, but already there are more than three dozen female candidates who intend to run!

Political Pub Night

Many of them were in attendance earlier this evening at Political Pub Night, an informal mixer organized by Ward 5 candidate Miranda Jimmy. “I went to an Equal Voice event last month and everyone said ‘we need to get more women elected’,” she told me. “I thought, the way to do that is to support each other.” She organized the event to give people an opportunity to meet the women running in this election in a more casual environment.

Political Pub Night

There were about two dozen candidates who confirmed their attendance and the free event “sold out” in just four days. “Obviously, there’s a need for this,” Miranda said after I remarked how impressive it was that so many people gave up a beautiful July evening to talk politics.

Political Pub Night
Miranda Jimmy and Amanda Nielsen

Amanda Nielsen, past chair of Equal Voice’s Northern Alberta chapter, said events like tonight’s mixer are important to help candidates build confidence. “Being a candidate is tough, so you need to build support for what you’re doing,” she told me. Equal Voice has been holding training schools for candidates on door knocking, organized the Fundraise-HER event last month, and is paying attention to Twitter to proactively respond to gendered attacks.

In addition to meeting potential voters, the event was an opportunity for candidates to meet one another. “There’s a lot we can learn from one another,” Miranda said.

Here’s the list of candidates that was shared at the event:

You can see more photos from tonight’s event here.

For more election coverage, be sure to subscribe to Taproot Edmonton’s newsletter or become a member to support our work.