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Monday, October 22, 2007

edmonton election 2007: the undiscovered country.

It has now been a week after the October 15, 2007 Edmonton Municipal Election and I've had a chance to put together some thoughts on this new Council...

New Councillors: Tony Caterina (Ward 3), Ben Henderson (Ward 4), Don Iveson (Ward 5), and Amarjeet Sohi (Ward 6). These new Councillors will definitely shake up the current political structure on City Council.

Returning Councillors: Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan (Ward 1), Kim Krushell and Ron Hayter (Ward 2), Ed Gibbons (Ward 3), Jane Batty (Ward 4), Bryan Anderson (Ward 5), and Dave Thiele (Ward 6). And of course, don't forget Mayor Stephen Mandel.

It will be very interesting to watch the new dynamic between members of this City Council.

With Don Iveson defeating Mike Nickel in Ward 5, it looks like new Ward 3 Councillor Tony Caterina is the heir to the now empty right-wing seat on Council. It will be intesting to see if Caterina will take note of Mike Nickel’s missteps and learn that cooperation and collaboration with other Councillors, rather than confrontation, is the only way to accomplish goals on City Council.

With three of four new City Councillors having been elected on progressive forward looking platforms, Don Iveson, Ben Henderson, and Amarjeet Sohi are strong additions to Council and will bring forward some new ideas and fresh perspective in the next three years. They will find allies in Linda Sloan and Dave Thiele, but will also need to cooperate with other Councillors in order to implement some smart change in City Hall.

There are some big issues facing the new Council...

Sustainability and Smartening up Growth

A common theme of many candidates (new and returning) was the need for smarter urban planning. Like I wrote for CBC Edmonton during the election, it’s time this City Council to look outside the box in order to create a plan in order to deal with urban sprawl and growth issues. This includes building up more density in the inner core (smart infill and alternatives such as more Transit-Oriented Development).

Growth issues that this Council need to face is also dealing with the challenges that growth brings to the public transit system. With the expansion of Edmonton’s LRT southwards, it will be critical that the new Council take a serious look at redesigning the current transit route system in order to respond to the needs of Edmontonians – especially those in the far reaching areas of the city. It’s also time for the city to get more aggressive during community consultations in explaining to neighbourhoods the advantages of what Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will being to public transit in Edmonton.

Decades of not properly maintaining our municipal infrastructure have caused major deterioration of Edmonton’s roads and transportation systems (which was partially due to the provincial government downloading services to the municipalities while failing to increase public funding).

As well, affordable housing is a key area that the City of Edmonton will need to step in to create affordable homes for people to live in.

Also, implementing smarter growth strategies and initatives will be the key to delivering more effective and cost-efficient public services in order to improve the quality of life in Edmonton.

Regionalism

Unless the provincial government takes a strong role in creating a regional cooperation and cost-sharing framework, it will be unlikely that the dozens of cities, towns, villages, and counties in the region will come to a decision themselves.

Though it is promising to see that St. Albert’s new Mayor Nolan Crouse is interested in working with the City of Edmonton on regional issues, there still remains a substantial amount of conflict between many of the smaller municipalities (not to mention Edmonton and refinery-rich Strathcona County).

As I’ve written before, public transit is a perfect example of where the Capital City regional municipalities can work together.

Democracy

It’s time for City Council to address some of the key democratic issues in Edmonton civic politics including the ridiculous size of Edmonton’s Wards. Edmonton needs to take a serious look at reforming the Ward system to create smaller, more manageable Wards (perhaps, 12 or 14 Wards). It's also time for Edmonton to take a look at creating regulations on political donations for election candidates (as a response to the complete lack of any restrictions and regulations on political donations at the municipal level in Edmonton).

It’s also important that City Council position itself to be prepared for the next provincial electoral boundary redistribution to ensure that the growing city doesn’t once again fall victim to the rural Tory powerbase and lose representation in the Alberta Legislature.

There is a lot of potential for this City Council in the next three years and I will be watching with interest…

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am really looking forward to the new progressive vision that this new council has the potential to embrace.

Stay the course, Edmontonians deserves the council they got last week. Good times ahead!

Abdul-Rahim said...

Is there no initiaitive in Alberta for any sort of municipal reorganization, as has happened in some other parts of Canada, so as to be better co-ordinate among regions.