Edmonton will be well-represented in our new federal government

Though most of Alberta voted blue in yesterday’s election, there were a few key races that went red, including two here in Edmonton. Current City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi narrowly won against incumbent Tim Uppal (Conservative) in Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Randy Boissonnault defeated James Cumming (Conservative) and Gil McGowan (NDP) in Edmonton-Centre.

trudeau & sohi
Justin Trudeau & Amarjeet Sohi, photo by Sukhpreet Benipal

Sohi’s victory (assuming it is confirmed) means that Council will see it’s first by-election in more than 20 years. As I wrote earlier this year, a by-election must take place within 90 days according to the MGA, but the City is planning to ask the Province for a 30 day extension so that the Christmas holidays can be avoided. That will likely mean a nomination day sometime in January with the by-election taking place in mid-February.

Throughout his time on Council, Sohi has proven himself as a strong, effective leader who understands the importance of cities. He could have run for mayor in 2013 if Iveson hadn’t. Sohi has been a consistent supporter of both expanding the LRT here in Edmonton and of our city’s efforts to eliminate poverty. I’m sad to see him go from Council, and although he leaves behind a very capable group of colleagues, I know they’ll miss his wisdom and dedication. At the same time I’m thrilled to have such a great Edmonton champion in our nation’s government.

Randy Boissonnault was the other successful local Liberal candidate. I’m sure he’s excited to get to work in Ottawa, but I bet he could also use a moment to catch his breath as it feels like he has been campaigning forever! Boissonnault has been a consistent supporter of many important initiatives in Edmonton, including TEDxEdmonton and Startup Edmonton. He’ll bring a great Edmonton perspective to the government, and seems to have a strong relationship with Justin Trudeau as well.

Randy Boissonnault
Randy Boissonnault, photo by Dave Cournoyer

Edmonton-Centre was previously held by Laurie Hawn (Conservative) who announced he would not seek re-election after serving since 2006. He defeated Anne McLellan (Liberal) to win the seat, who was at the time the Deputy Prime Minister (the last person to hold that position as the Harper government did not name anyone).

We won’t know until November 4 if either Sohi or Boissonnault are named to Trudeau’s cabinet, but it’s a positive sign that the Prime Minister-elect was in both Edmonton and Calgary on Sunday doing some last minute campaigning.

It’s also a good thing that Edmonton has strong representation from all three parties, because opposition MPs do important work as well. Linda Duncan (NDP) won re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, and Mike Lake (Conservative) won re-election in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin. Both have represented our city well in Ottawa and will continue to do so, although in slightly different roles. Joining them are new MPs like former City Councillor Kerry Diotte (Conservative) who should also bring an interesting municipal perspective to his new role.

Although we now have fewer Edmonton representatives in the government than we did under the Conservatives, I don’t think that necessarily puts us at a disadvantage. Trudeau and the Liberals are arguably a better fit with progressives like Premier Notley and Mayor Iveson. And the Liberal promise to invest $20 billion over 10 years in transit aligns very well with Edmonton’s top infrastructure priority.

For now I’m cautiously optimistic about what the new Liberal government means for Edmonton, and I’m thrilled for both Sohi and Boissonnault!

Youth Roundtable with Paul Martin & Mary MacDonald

I guess you could say that today is “federal Liberals day” here in Edmonton. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin is in town to lend his support to local candidates. He spent the day with Mary MacDonald, the Liberal candidate for Edmonton-Centre, and will join Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff at a public rally tonight. This afternoon Martin and MacDonald hosted a youth roundtable discussion that I was invited to and attended.

Paul Martin & Mary MacDonald

I was a little hesitant about attending a “youth” roundtable, because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into discussing “youth” issues. I really liked that there was a mix of ages at Mike Lake’s roundtable. Why can’t an old person care about voter apathy and a young person care about foreign policy? The first topic on the invitation for today’s event was “youth engagement” and that’s actually what organizers suggested as a topic to start the discussion. I’m happy to report that it was a free-flowing discussion after that however, with some healthy back and forth.

We actually spent a lot of time talking about social media. Twitter came up, of course, and I learned that Mary’s tweets are written by both her and her staff. She said she has been enjoying tweeting so far, and vowed to keep it up after the election is over. I also thought it was interesting that she said she has learned a lot via Twitter. It’s a great tool for staying connected and finding information, so I was happy to hear that Mary is using it for that purpose as well as for getting her message across. Paul said he thinks there are definitely generational aspects to social media use, but conceded that it won’t be long until Twitter and Facebook are mainstream (I challenged that and said Facebook is already mainstream). What impressed me most throughout the discussion was that Paul asked a lot of questions of us. He seemed genuinely interested in learning more about how we would use social media. He brought up Canada’s aboriginal issues and asked how social media might be used, perhaps at first simply to build awareness. There were some great suggestions from others in the room – my advice was to resist the temptation to create new communities online, and instead to try to connect with existing ones. I also cautioned against thinking that only young people use social media.

We discussed a few other issues such as the arts, Internet voting, and Canada’s competitiveness. It was interesting to hear Paul share a few stories about his work in Africa throughout the various discussions as well. Given that so much of our discussion was related to the Internet, I thought it was appropriate to bring up the CRTC and the fact that Canada is an Internet backwater. Mary said their name is an indication of how out-of-touch the CRTC is, but said that it’s more than an issue of Canada having slower or more expensive Internet access than other parts of the world. She pointed out that literacy skills are perhaps more important than ever, and that Canada definitely has work to do in that regard. Digital Policy is listed as one of the Liberals’ top issues, so I was expecting Paul and Mary to talk a little more about it, but to be fair it came up right at the end of the time we had available.

Overall it was an enjoyable discussion, and I definitely appreciated the opportunity to meet Paul Martin! You can learn more about the Liberal platform here, and you can visit Mary’s website here.

If you’d like an opportunity to talk with Mary MacDonald, don’t miss candi{date} taking place from 5pm to 7pm on April 20 at Metro Billiards downtown. She’ll be there along with the other candidates for Edmonton-Centre: Laurie Hawn, David Parker, Peggy Morton, Lewis Cardinal, and Mikkel Paulson.

The Liberals Are Gone

Post ImageI am listening to 630 CHED and just heard the vote reach 171 in favor of the motion, which means the Liberal government in Canada has fallen. Actually, I have been listening for a couple of hours now, and there seems to be a few common refrains:

  • The coming election will be the dirtiest ever.
  • Southern Ontario will be the main battleground.
  • Canadians have lost faith in the political process in general.
  • All parties were hurt by Adscam.

You might recall that I voted for the Liberals in the last election. It’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be voting for them again this time around. That being said however, I don’t know who I will vote for. I don’t feel as though there is a political party that really represents me. I don’t feel as though any of the party leaders are really intriguing.

And perhaps worst of all, I don’t feel as though the coming election campaigns will be able to change that.

Canadian Politics Interesting Again?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though Canadian politics have become interesting again – at least as far as the media is concerned. Most of the interest has to do with Adscam, like the American blogger who bypassed a Canadian gag order meant to keep the details of the proceedings out of the public eye:

A Canadian commission that’s investigating charges of high-level wrongdoing in the nation’s Liberal Party has ordered news organizations not to reveal details from the proceedings, which are open to the public. But Ed Morrissey, a conservative Web logger in Minneapolis, has been gleefully violating the ban by posting detailed reports of the verboten “Adscam” testimony. His usual average of 30,000 page views a day skyrocketed during the weekend to more than 400,000…

Another blogger, this one Canadian, has also dedicated a post to the issue. Tim Bray says “the Martin government is toast“, though he doesn’t have too much to say about the opposition either, calling it “weak and divided.” Indeed, searching Technorati for ‘canada liberals‘ returns about 9500 results, but what’s most interesting is how recent they are. Here’s a few highlights:

So what do you think? Are the political parties in Canada making things interesting again, or are there just more Canadian bloggers writing about it giving the perception that it’s more interesting?