EDMONTON — A local councillor and a school board chair have entered provincial politics and a former party leader has stepped down, making for some of the most interesting races to watch in Edmonton on May 5.
Deron Bilous, a former teacher, won the north Edmonton seat for the NDP in the 2012 election.
“This riding is key for the NDP to hold on to,” says Rob Murray with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
He says the PCs are anxious to take the riding away from the NDP.
“Bilous has a good reputation and is seen as an integral part of the NDP’s youth movement, and the PCs have wisely countered with an experienced city councillor in Tony Caterina.”
PC Leader Jim Prentice joined Caterina on April 2 to make the announcement he would be running for the party.
“Caterina will be able to put forward a long track record of tangible successes to the riding as part of his record, but the question remains whether a left-leaning riding would swing back to the PCs,” says Murray.
Bilous won the last election by just 200 votes. This time, he’s hoping his track record and an aggressive door-knocking campaign will help secure the seat for the NDP.
In addition to Bilous and Caterina, Owais Siidiqui (Alberta Party) is also running in the riding. The Liberals, Wildrose and Green Party have not declared candidates.
Heather Klimchuk first won this seat for the PCs in 2008 and was re-elected as MLA for the riding in 2012.
But, after two terms on the Edmonton Public School Board – one as chair – Sarah Hoffman is hoping to take the riding for the NDP. She said the PCs’ broken promises, including those relating to education, are what prompted her to throw her hat into the ring.
Murray predicts this will be a heated race.
“Hoffman brings a track record as an elected school board trustee with a a good profile, and as a cabinet minister, Klimchuk does not have as much time to spend in her own riding, so the question becomes whether voters are willing to make a change.”
Former Liberal Leader Raj Sherman served as MLA for two terms. He was elected the party’s leader in 2011, after crossing the floor from the PCs.
On January 26, Sherman announced he was stepping down as leader immediately and would not seek re-election.
READ MORE: Raj Sherman won’t seek re-election
Murray believes this election will reveal if the riding’s support in the past was for the Liberals or if it was for Sherman specifically.
“The PCs have made Katherine O’Neill a prominent candidate, and she is well-known, so she has a strong chance. That said, this is one of the ridings where questionable nomination issues arose, so whether the PC vote is united or now fractured in the riding due to the nomination scandal is unknown.”
David Eggen won the seat for the NDP in the 2012 election, but he also represented the constituency between 2004 and 2008.
PC candidate Doug Elniski won the seat in the 2008 election but didn’t run in 2012.
Murray says it’s unlikely Eggen will face a serious challenge, but the PCs have chosen a very strong candidate to run against him.
“Tom Bradley is a former commander at CFB Edmonton and has also served as a Chief of Staff in the government, so he knows the issues well and is a very well-known figure in the community.”
PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk has represented the riding since 2001 and has served in several cabinet positions.
In May 2014, he resigned as minister to run for PC leader, a position Jim Prentice eventually won.
“The reason this race becomes interesting is less about a challenger and more about whether Thomas Lukaszuk’s profile in the last year, especially during his leadership run, has helped or hurt his place in the riding,” says Murray.
He adds Lukaszuk has been one of the most visible politicians in the province in the last couple of years. Murray says the MLA is also known as a tireless worker for his constituents.
“Even so, Lukaszuk’s place in the PC Party, and some of his own disagreements on policy issues, may come into play throughout a campaign.”