Edmonton is nine months away from a municipal election that will see council lose decades of experience in city hall.
Three of the more senior council members have already announced they will not be running in October: Mayor Don Iveson, Ward 6 Councillor Scott McKeen and Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters.
Mayor Iveson was first elected to council 14 years ago in 2007. He has served six years — two terms — on council before being elected mayor in 2013, taking over from former Mayor Stephen Mandel.
McKeen and Walters both came on board in 2013, when six new councillors took their seats. There was a lot of turnover that year, and 2021 is shaping up to be similar.
To date, only half of the existing city councillors have confirmed they intend to run for re-election: Bev Esslinger, Jon Dziadyk, Sarah Hamilton, Tim Cartmell and Mohinder (Moe) Banga all say there’s more work to be done in their wards.
“I really enjoy, honestly, the ability to interact with people, to get on the phone or sit over a coffee and really understand what people are looking for in their city,” Cartmell said.
“It’s the best part of the job.”
“I’m really excited to continue working for the west-end,” Hamilton said. “There’s still a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve talked about a commitment to public safety… I want to make sure the west LRT gets built right.”
With shifting boundaries coming this election, Ward 7 councillor Tony Caterina said he’ll move over and put his name into the running for the downtown ward. His current ward covers central Edmonton to the north and east of the city’s core.
“I’ll be seeking re-election in Ward 5, the new ward of O-day’min, which is the downtown, basically the downtown core — Blatchford and Westmount, all over that part of the city — it’s my intention is to run in that ward,” Caterina said this past week when announcing his intentions.
On Friday, Councillor Mike Nickel announced he is running for the mayor’s chair — a venture he’s attempted unsuccessfully twice before.
Nickel also ran for the UCP nomination in 2018 — losing to Tunde Obasan in Edmonton-South.
That still leaves three councillors who are undecided: Andrew Knack, Aaron Paquette and Ben Henderson.
Whether they choose to run for re-election or not, MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said the turnover on council will be challenging.
“I think it’s going to be very important, with newbies coming onboard, for them to learn the rules very quickly and to count on the advice and inspiration of the people in the positions right now.”
It’s a sentiment Knack agrees with, explaining there’s a steep learning curve to becoming a councillor, regardless of one’s background.
“If you have six new councillors and they don’t learn the governance piece of it, it’s very hard to then get things done.”
When they joined council, both Esslinger and Knack said they were taken in by the more experienced councillors and shown the ropes.
It’s something Esslinger hopes she’ll be able to do for new people coming on board, should she be re-elected herself.
“There’s nothing like having someone you can ask the question of: ‘What would you do about this? How would you handle it?’ That’s valuable. It’s a bit like, I got it and I’m paying it back.”
Esslinger is hopeful more women will choose to run and be elected.
In the year she joined council, Esslinger was the lone female at the table after the 2013 election saw three other incumbents — Jane Batty, Kim Krushell, and Linda Sloan — retire from politics and a fourth, Karen Leibovici, unsuccessfully run for mayor.
There’s now two women on council, with the addition of Sarah Hamilton in 2017.
With the potential for so many seats without incumbents, councillor Jon Dziadyk sees an opportunity for change and a diversity of ideas.
“I would encourage candidates to challenge incumbents. One, it will keep the incumbents on their toes and it introduces new opinions into the debate,” he said.
“No one should feel that their re-election is guaranteed.”
Aspiring candidates have until Sept. 20, 2021, to file their nomination papers and pay the deposit. Candidates for mayor must pay a deposit of $500. Candidates for councillor and school board trustee must pay a deposit of $100.
For more information on the nomination process, visit the City of Edmonton’s website.
Edmonton’s municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 18.
— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News