North Edmonton 'ignored' and 'forgotten' by city hall, new councillors say
There was a time when the Evergreen trailer park was on the remote fringes of Edmonton.
Today, brand new houses are filling once-empty fields, butting up against 153rd Avenue. Traffic whips by on the northeast section of Anthony Henday Drive.
As Ward 4 candidate Aaron Paquette goes door-to-door in this quiet neighbourhood, residents are telling him about the problems that have resulted from all that growth.
Keith Vongrad says the nearby intersection of 18th Street and 153rd Avenue is dangerous because trees and bushes make it hard to see traffic exiting the Henday.
"We have had a couple of serious accidents there so from a safety perspective, that's huge," he said.
In terms of the numbers of candidates who have stepped forward, Ward 4 is probably the most competitive in the Oct. 16 municipal election.
Long-time councillor Ed Gibbons is retiring and Paquette, 43, is one of 12 candidates looking to succeed him.
Paquette's message is that he wants residents to get their fair share of city services.
"I don't know if you've noticed that but up here in the northeast we seem to be last on council's list," he tells Evergreen resident Arie Schoep. "Sometimes not even on the list. And I'd like to make sure that changes."
This is not Paquette's first time on the campaign trail. The well-known artist and writer was the NDP candidate for Edmonton Manning in the 2015 federal election.
Paquette says it's important to canvass the community to learn what the issues are.
"I always maintain that a councillor may think that they know everything but if they just go out and knock on some doors, they're going to learn a thing or two, that's for sure," he said.
Ward 4 covers the northeast corner of Edmonton. It includes neighbourhoods like Belvedere, Fraser and Clareview as well as the future Horse Hill development and the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park. The latter two developments are controversial as they are being built on what many consider prime agricultural land.
The pressure caused by growth is a key issue in this ward, as is the feeling the area is neglected by city hall.
For example, the Manning Town Centre, at the corner of 153rd Avenue and Manning Drive, has become a hub for this burgeoning area with a multiplex, restaurants and retail outlets.
But there are concerns the area may not have the roads required to handle the increased traffic.
While door-knocking in the York neighbourhood, Tricia Velthuizen, who is also running in Ward 4, brings up the roads around the Manning Town Centre.
She suspects the city may have another 23rd Avenue scenario on its hands.
"My concern is that we are creating a situation there like we had at South Edmonton Common, where we put in all the commercial, we put in all the residential and we don't realize until after the fact the traffic that comes with it," she told one resident.
Velthuizen, 35, works as a research analyst for the United Conservative Party. She says she is running to stop what she calls short-sighted city planning.
Like Paquette, she feels the northeast is frequently overlooked when it comes to road maintenance, snow-clearing and recreation centres. She wants to make sure the city is spending money appropriately.
Velthuizen grew up in the northeast and still lives there. As a transit user, she is concerned about the recent system overhaul that cut bus routes in the northeast.
One of the key ideas in Velthuizen's platform is to use the land currently occupied by the Northlands Coliseum for a new transit hub where VIA Rail and Greyhound could locate their stations. (The Northlands site is in Ward 7.)
Velthuizen notes that Yellowhead Trail is nearby and Edmonton already has the Coliseum transit centre at that site.
"If we can get LRT going to the airport, or a shuttle service, I think it's perfectly situated," she said.
In addition to Paquette and Velthuizen, Rocco Caterina, son of current Ward 7 Coun. Tony Caterina is also in the race. The younger Caterina is his father's executive assistant.
Another candidate is Alison Poste, who most recently worked with Alberta Emergency Management Agency, and was a member of the emergency response team for the Fort McMurray wildfires.
Other candidates include engineer Felix Amenaghawon, program and project planner Justin Draper, accountant Beatrice Ghettuba, realtor Sam Hachem, power engineer Hassan Haymour, Wade Izzard, Emerson Mayers, and drilling contractor Martin Narsing.
2016 municipal census statistics
Eligible voters: 54,540
Owns home: 55.5%
Rents home: 24.5%
Lives there five years or more: 36.9%
Mainly drives to work: 73.1%
Takes transit to work: 15.3%
Main language other than English: French (2.4%)
Income under $30,000: 7.2%
Income $60,000 to $100,000: 14.5%
Children in preschool: 5.2%
Children from kindergarten to Grade 6: 6.5%
Interesting statistic: In the 2016 census, only 54 residents of Ward 4 said a bicycle was their main mode of transportation between home and work.
Neighbourhoods: Belvedere, York, McLeod, Matt Berry, Hollick-Kenyon, Brintnell, Cy Becker, Miller, Casselman, Miller, Ebbers, Kirkness, Fraser, Clareview, Hairsine, Bannerman, Kernohan, Belmont, Sifton Park, Homesteader, Overlanders, Hermitage, Horse Hill, Edmonton Energy and Technology Park
Incumbent councillor: Ed Gibbons (not running for re-election)
Candidates: Felix Amenaghawon, Rocco Caterina, Justin Draper, Beatrice Ghettuba, Sam Hachem, Hassan Haymour, Wade Izzard, Emerson Mayers, Martin Narsing, Aaron Paquette, Alison Poste, Tricia Velthuizen
Candidates forum: Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at John D. Bracco Junior High School, 3150 139th Ave. and Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at McLeod Hall, 14715 59th St.
Ward 4 Issues