Edmonton's incoming city council reflects voters' desire for change

·4 min read
Edmonton's newly elected mayor and councillors. Top row, left to right: Amarjeet Sohi, Erin Rutherford, Jo-Anne Wright, Keren Tang. Middle row, left to right: Sarah Hamilton, Andrew Knack, Michael Janz. Bottom row, left to right: Jennifer Rice, Tim Cartmell, Karen Principe, Ashley Salvador, Anne Stevenson, Aaron Paquette. (Photo collage by John Zazula/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton's newly elected mayor and councillors. Top row, left to right: Amarjeet Sohi, Erin Rutherford, Jo-Anne Wright, Keren Tang. Middle row, left to right: Sarah Hamilton, Andrew Knack, Michael Janz. Bottom row, left to right: Jennifer Rice, Tim Cartmell, Karen Principe, Ashley Salvador, Anne Stevenson, Aaron Paquette. (Photo collage by John Zazula/CBC - image credit)

Amarjeet Sohi, who will be Edmonton's first mayor of South Asian origin, will lead the most diverse city council in the city's history.

Eight of the 12 councillors elected Monday night are women, up from two on the previous council.

Four council members — Sohi, Keren Tang, Aaron Paquette and Jennifer Rice — are people of colour.

New faces are taking the places of four defeated incumbents — Tony Caterina, Jon Dziadyk, Moe Banga and Bev Esslinger.

A new gender parity

Robyn Henwood, an Alberta chair for Equal Voice, a national organization that works to elect and support woman at all levels of political office, said the night was a breakthrough win for female representation.

"This is an absolute win," Henwood said Tuesday. "These are wonderful candidates, regardless if they are female, but to see eight women on council really represents Edmonton.

"It is so good to see so many women stepping up and being acknowledged for their hard work and for what they can contribute."

With only four councillors from the previous council maintaining their seats, newcomers will outnumber veterans.

Competing visions

Sohi rolled to a commanding victory over Mike Nickel, his closest challenger.

Dave Cournoyer, host of Daveberta, a political podcast, said Sohi's race against Nickel set the stage for a battle between "two different visions of Edmonton."

Nickel, a vocal critic of LRT expansion and the city's spending decisions, had campaigned on tax cuts and enhancing safety and community policing.

Sohi campaigned on community investment, especially in social programs for homelessness, mental health and poverty, and vowed to support LRT expansion.

Cournoyer said Sohi's leadership style will likely echo that of his predecessor, Don Iveson.

Sohi's win shows Edmontonians were eager to maintain Iveson's legacy of "city building," and not looking for cuts, Cournoyer said.

CBC
CBC

Two of the tightest Edmonton races, too close to be called on election night, were called Tuesday morning.

In Ward Anirniq, Erin Rutherford defeated incumbent Bev Esslinger by 266 votes. Esslinger had been on council since 2013.

In Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, Jennifer Rice narrowly defeated Rhiannon Hoyle by 39 votes.

In Ward Sspomitapi, two-term councillor Moe Banga lost to Jo-Anne Wright, a rookie candidate with a background in financial services and human resources and labour relations.

In Ward O-day'min, incumbent Tony Caterina lost to Anne Stevenson, a former urban planner with the City of Edmonton. In Ward tastawiyiniwak, incumbent Jon Dziadyk lost to Karen Principe, a dental hygienist.

Stevenson and Principe will be joined on council by other newcomers Michael Janz in Ward papastew, Ashley Salvador in Ward Métis and Keren Tang in Ward Karhiio.

The new faces on council point to a further progressive shift — and a desire for change — among Edmonton voters, Cournoyer said.

"Anybody who pays attention to municipal politics in Alberta and in Edmonton will know that it's really hard to defeat incumbents, so to have four incumbents defeated in one municipal election, that's really a sea change.

"And considering you've had a number of city councillors retire and new councillors elected in open wards, it will be an entirely new face on city council … Edmontonians were in the mood for change."

'Fresh ideas and fresh faces'

Political analyst Najib Jutt said he was disappointed that there wasn't more racial diversity represented on council but feels the new recruits will help steer the city in the right direction.

"In terms of gender representation and overall representation of marginalized and racialized voices, we have a pretty good council that's more reflective of Edmonton," he said.

"I think it's good for Edmonton to have a new council — some old guard to come back and keep everyone in line. But overall, just to have some great new fresh ideas and fresh faces."

Incumbents Tim Cartmell in Ward pihêsiwin, Andrew Knack in Ward Nakota Isga, Sarah Hamilton in Ward sipiwiyiniwak and Aaron Paquette in Ward Dene all won re-election.

'Hit the road running'

Council works best when there is a lot of "push and pull" on major issues, Paquette said in an interview Tuesday. He said he expects this new council will have that healthy tension.

He said he looks forward to helping his new colleagues get their bearings.

"Getting on council, It's exciting initially, right out of the gate and then the firehose of information hits you," he said.

"There's a lot of adjustment to be made, and I hope that some of us grizzled veterans can help shorten the learning curve this time around because we've got a lot of work to do to hit the road running."

The new councillors will be sworn in Oct. 26. Council meetings will resume in early November.

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