The civic election campaign is now officially underway, even though, judging from the thousands of signs that are now mostly knocked down along city boulevards, it has been on unofficially since Labour Day.
This will certainly be the most interesting civic election campaign in many years, with an unbeatable mayor stepping down, and six almost as unbeatable councilors stepping aside. Incumbents are generally favored in most any election, but much more so in a civic election. Even though a civic politician has more impact on your day-to-day life than your MP and MLA combined, civic votes generally have a dismal turnout, and with no party affiliation to vote for, name recognition is often all it takes.
I live in a Ward 5, where there is no incumbent, with means I will have to pay attention to the candidates in my area. So far, I am unimpressed. I recently got some literature from a candidate. It didn’t address one single civic issue; it was all platitudes about what a great city Edmonton is (cough, cough) and how the candidate will make it better (cough, cough again) just by their very presence. There are a couple of other candidates in my ward who has littered the ward with thousands upon thousands of their signs, in the hopes that signs on public property will create an impression of support. That’s how politics works, folks.
I haven’t paid too much attention to the civic vote, but not that it’s one month away, it’s time to get down to business. So listen up, council candidates; I have one vote to give away. Somebody’s going to get it, and it might just be you! But, you’ll have to work for it.
Here’s what I want.
I don’t want promises. City councilors have a terrible time keeping promises. They are, after all, just one person on a 13-member council, one vote. Trying to get something past the other members of council — or an even greater obstacle, the bureaucracy — is a herculean, nearly impossible task. So, don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
What I want to hear from you is where you stand.
Where do you stand on tax increases? I know a candidate can’t promise a break in Edmonton’s yearly tax increases, but I’d like to hear a guarantee that you’ll vote against any tax hike. I have yet to hear why city council can’t go to the bureaucracy and tell them, “Guess what? You’re getting no additional money in next year’s budget. Work with it.” I will vote for anyone who says they will propose a zero percent increase for all city departments, including that most sacred of sacred cows, the police. I will also vote for anyone who believes that the city has way too many employees, and who will fight to put a freeze on any further civic hiring.
Where do you stand on our roads? (In a pothole, is my guess.) I’ll vote for anyone who advocates for an increase in the roads budget. Ah, but you’re saying, ‘how can you do that with no increase in the civic budget?’ I dunno. Not my problem. Take it from another department, but do something to fix our roads. They are an embarrassment to our city.
I will vote for any candidate who will vote against the next pie-in-the-sky project from a city department manager. Edmonton is paying way too much attention to civic desserts, and not enough on the bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes stuff that makes a city run (roads, infrastructure, that kind of thing). The candidate who will ask for the firing of the next city employee who comes up with an idea for a funicular to the river valley, or a redesign of Churchill Square, or another multi-million dollar footbridge across the river, will get my vote.
I know, of course, that no candidate would ever talk in these tones. Not upbeat enough, with too much hard-nosed financial thinking, and not enough platitudes and murmurings of sweet nothings. So, I’ll settle for anyone who even suggests any of the above. Give me something to latch onto, some statement that maybe, just maybe, the city needs to reorder its priorities, and you’ll get my vote.
Let the groveling begin!