Edmonton – A slogan by Edmonton mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte has caused controversy on social media.
The slogan “Diotte or Detroit” has been a hot topic on Twitter this week, with the overwhelming majority expressing their disapproval.
— Calan Hobbs (@CalHobbsJr) September 11, 2013
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The City of Detroit is $18 billion in debt and filed for bankruptcy this summer. Edmonton’s debt will be nearly $3 billion by the end of 2014, but then there’s expected to be a downward trend. By 2021, Edmonton’s debt is projected to be around $2.4 billion.
Diotte says “Diotte or Detroit” is simply a talking point.
“While my mayoral opponents and others downplay Edmonton’s burgeoning debt, I’m hearing from scores of Edmontonians who are deeply concerned about it.”
The mayoral candidate adds Edmonton still doesn’t “have enough money to build the south east LRT or fix drainage problems or our deplorable streets.”
“Are we Detroit? Of course not. But Detroit’s situation should be a wakeup call to any city or government that becomes complacent about out-of-control spending and borrowing,” says Diotte.
Diotte’s full statement is posted below.
But some Edmontonians aren’t buying Diotte’s explanation, calling “Diotte or Detroit” “fear mongering” and “garbage politics.”
Global News asked current city councillors who are also running for mayor about the slogan on Thursday.
“I think it’s wrong,” said Don Iveson. “It’s a completely false comparion. Detroit is contracting, Edmonton is growing ambitiously, Detroit didn’t have a plan to pay back their borrowing, we have a plan to pay back every scrap of borrowing that we’ve done. Detroit was using debt to fund their operations – to buy the groceries, if you will – and we only use it buy assets.”
“Well, I think that’s irresponsible, quite frankly,” added Karen Leibovici. “The reality is, is that we’re not like Detroit, we could never be like Detroit. And again, our debt is being handled responsibly. The question then becomes, what would the ‘Diotte for Detroit’ campaign suggest that we not do. Should we stop building recreation centres? Should we not fix the Walterdale Bridge? What would they do?”
“As mayor, I would start going through a list of our $7 billion worth of planned projects – everything from bridges to nowhere in the River Valley to… various projects to buy land, etcetera, etcetera, and go through them and say ‘what is a want and what is a need?'” explains Kerry Diotte.
When it comes to the slogan itself, Diotte says it came from a supporter.
“It came to us from a clever email that said ‘I’ve got a new slogan for you: ‘Diotte or Detroit,’ and we kind of looked at it and thought, ‘that’s kind of cheeky.’ It’s a talking point, and it’s obviously gotten people talking and if people are talking about the debt because of that Diotte or Detroit slogan, so be it, that’s great.”
Not only does Iveson think the slogan is inaccurate, he also believes Edmonton voters won’t buy it.
“I think citizens know well enough that Edmonton’s future is much brighter than Detroit’s, and that the comparison is just a distraction from the real priorities of this election which is how do we continue to grow this spectacular city?”
Kerry Diotte’s response to the ‘Diotte or Detroit’ reaction:
“The Diotte or Detroit T-shirt is a talking point.
And it has a lot of people talking about a very important concern.
The slogan came to us from a supporter and then someone kindly donated a few T-shirts to us.
While my mayoral opponents and others downplay Edmonton’s burgeoning debt, I’m hearing from scores of Edmontonians who are deeply concerned about it.
They’re especially concerned because it has risen from about $400 million 10 years ago to the point where we’re headed to $3 billion or so.
They’re also concerned because we, as a city will borrow $542 million to finance a bad arena deal for a billionaire.
Despite that debt, we still don’t have enough money to build SE LRT or fix drainage problems or our deplorable streets. We don’t have money to make vital improvements to Yellowhead Trail, one of our key transportation routes.
Are we Detroit? Of course not.
But Detroit’s situation should be a wakeup call to any city or government that becomes complacent about out-of-control spending and borrowing.”