The race for councillor in Edmonton’s Ward O-Day’min

Click to play video: 'Edmonton election 2021: 10 candidates running in O-Day’min' Edmonton election 2021: 10 candidates running in O-Day’min
The new ward O-Day'min is in the heart of Edmonton. With Coun. Scott McKeen not seeking re-election, 10 candidates will be on the ballot to fill his chair downtown. While there's no real incumbent, the race features familiar and fresh faces. Sarah Ryan reports. – Oct 13, 2021

Ward O-Day’min covers the city’s core communities like McCauley, Riverdale, Blatchford, Westmount and Oliver — but also downtown.

With Councillor Scott McKeen opting not to seek re-election, 10 candidates have stepped forward to represent the citizens and businesses in O-Day’min.

Though there’s plenty of fresh faces, there’s also a familiar one for city council followers: Tony Caterina.

In January, Caterina announced he’d be giving up his home ward to instead run downtown.

“I was surprised when he made that move. I don’t know why he did that because he’d represented that part of northeast Edmonton around where Northlands is and the old Coliseum, for years,” said political analyst John Brennan.

Caterina was first elected back in 2007, and said that time on council makes him the most qualified to tackle O-Day’min’s pressing problems.

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“O-Day’min is going to be the key in the recovery, economic wise, social wise — and I have the most experience, I felt obligated,” he said.

However, back in the 2017 election, he narrowly held onto his seat by 155 votes after an intense challenge from Kris Andreychuk, a City of Edmonton employee.

Caterina said that close call wasn’t the reason he switched wards.

“That had absolutely nothing to do with the decision,” he said.

READ MORE: Edmonton election: Mayoral candidates talk downtown revitalization

His opponents question whether someone who lives outside the ward has the best understanding of the local needs.

“Does he know the issues we face in this community? Homelessness, abject poverty, slum landlords and community safety,” explained O-Day’min candidate Naima Haile.

She said she’s running to help the city’s most vulnerable.

“I came to Edmonton 30-some years ago as a refugee from Somalia. I have been working with marginalized communities, particularly newcomers and refugees.”

Haile said she’s been advocating for the impoverished in the inner city for years through consultations with the city, but even though reports are filed, action hasn’t been taken to address the issues.

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“So I have decided to run, so I can advocate on a higher level, on a policy level,” she said.

“Even if he wins and I lose, I’m going to hold him accountable on these issues. He’s going to hear from me.”

The race even has further complications, by an endorsement from Mayor Don Iveson, who is backing Anne Stevenson in her run — instead of his long-time council colleague.

Caterina said he’s disappointed the mayor decided to weigh in.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton election: How will mayoral candidates support downtown?' Edmonton election: How will mayoral candidates support downtown?
Edmonton election: How will mayoral candidates support downtown? – Oct 12, 2021

Opponents, see it differently.

“What we’re seeing… is a concerted effort at city hall to maintain the status quo. But the conversations I’m having with folks on their doorsteps is, they want to see change,” said O-Day’min candidate Adrian Bruff.

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He said he grew up in poverty, living in a single parent household and education helped him succeed in life.

“Ten-year career in social work, been living in Oliver for the past 14 years, went to Grant MacEwan, volunteer on numerous community initiatives to help make my community a better place to live,” he said, outlining his qualifications for the job.

Given his firsthand experience with poverty, he wants to re-purpose empty buildings to help the homeless.

“Converting them into wellness centres, where there’s wrap-around supports downstairs, like mental health support, addictions counselling, 24/7 access to food, and then permanent housing upstairs,” Bruff added.

Read more: Edmonton election 2021: Who’s running in O-day’min?

Caterina said he’d use existing bylaws to clamp down on encampments in O-Day’min and make the ward safer by focusing on the needs of the people who aren’t causing social disorder downtown.

“Whether I live here or not, I understand the core of the city.”

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