Edmonton mayoral candidates square off in first city-sponsored forum

EDMONTON – Voters filled a high school gym Tuesday night for the first city-sponsored mayoral forum of the 2013 municipal election.

The six candidates had a chance to make their case as to why they should be the next mayor of Edmonton.

“I don’t understand why my two opponents are so fixated on keeping regressive property taxes as the primary source of revenue that we use to build our city,” Don Iveson told the crowd.

“The city must seize this historic opportunity by building a solid foundation needed for growth. Those foundations have been neglected for far too long,” said Kerry Diotte.

“We have huge potential that we are just about to realize, but we need to ensure that our momentum continues,” explained Karen Leibovici.

The questions varied inside of Harry Ainlay’s gymnasium. How would the candidates deal with cost overruns? What work has each done in their respective communities? How do the candidates see a future Edmonton of 1.8 million residents?

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“I feel like for 30 years this city has kind of stood and talked about the issues. So, I want someone who will continue to push forward with downtown development and public transit and such,” said Edmontonian, Nima Maham.

“I think, having looked at the issues, for me it’s about sprawl and being really concerned about sprawl, all of the implications that it has,” said Edmontonian, Tanya Ewashko

Perhaps the only issue all of the candidates agree on is the City of Edmonton has momentum. Although, one candidate adds he isn’t happy with the direction the city has gone the last ten years.

“For all the spending that we have done, you look at the fact that our roads are still a disaster. We can’t afford to fix the Yellowhead. We can’t afford to develop the airport right now, because that’s going to be expensive,” says Kerry Diotte.

“I respectfully disagree,” says Don Iveson. “I think the tragectory Edmonton is on is the right one. What I hear from people of all ages is they inspire for this to be a globally competitive city.”

“We’ve seen in the past where there has been divisive council. We’ve seen in the past where there has been factious councils, and at the end of the day, what ends up happening is that businesses and investment dollars decide to go elsewhere says,” Karen Leibovici.

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Leibovici, Iveson, and Diotte are all members of the current council and have received most of the attention during the mayoral campaign.

But, there are three other candidates: Kristine Acielo, Joshua Semotiuk, and Gordon Ward.

Semotiuk says he’s running for mayor to give voters a different option.

“I look at the three big ones there and there’s nothing particularly terrible about them. It’s just the same batch of politicians we see every year.”

Semotiuk says his focus is to “unify the city.”

“There’s big divisions between the people in this city, between the working people and the people that are into the art scene and the students. I think we need to bring the entire city together.”

Gordon told Tuesday’s audience one of the key issues he stands behind is balanced and sustainable growth.

“I stand for an immediate review of planned capital projects where the necessary infrastructure is not in place,” said Gordon. “Ignoring deteriorating and failing infrastructure while pursuing new projects is exactly how companies fail.”

Acielo admits she has no political experience but says she has been campaigning for three years with the backing of a strong group.

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“I figure the team that we have put together has a lot of qualities, a lot of certificates, a lot of degrees but together we put together as a society to make who our city is today,” says Acielo.

There will be two more city-sponsored mayoral forums: Monday, October 7 at the Shaw Conference Centre and Thursday, October 10 at the Italian Cultural Centre.

With files from Vinsh Pratap