A non-partisan event hosted by the group interVivos was held Monday evening as a way to inform and engage voters on some of the hot topics facing Edmontonians.
Ten speakers and experts in their fields discussed transit, homelessness and housing, residential infill, diversity on council, and safe injection sites with a group of about sixty young professionals.
“This is the kick-off to the municipal election,” Zohreh Saher, President of interVivos, said. “People who are here today, they’re going to talk to their friends and their coworkers and say ‘oh ya have you heard about this topic?'”
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In 2013, 34 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Edmonton’s municipal election.
“If you can kind of make it fun and cool to be engaged in politics, then that’s great and this is a great way to do it,” said Lana Cuthbertson, chair of Equal Voice Northern Alberta.
Cuthbertson said a more diverse council, with more than one woman councillor, will help increase engagement.
“We’re seeing more and more the importance of having diverse voices around tables,” she said. “If we can continue to work on recruiting more diverse candidates, especially more women… we’ll see more people get engaged.”
This summer, interVivos held an informal survey asking Edmontonians what issues were most important to them. They chose transit, homelessness and housing, residential infill, diversity on council, and safe injection sites.
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‘Transit’ received nearly 90 per cent of the votes.
“I think there’s a lot of interesting ideas that’s going to impact a number of people in this demographic and that’s why we’re seeing an interest on this topic (transit),” said Dr. Manish Shirgaokar, an assistant professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Alberta.
“We have this large suburbia that a lot of this growth is going.
“You can’t fight this large housing market you have to work with it. That’s what I think Edmonton is grappling with,” Shirgaokar said.