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Edmonton Votes 2013 – ‘A Regular Contribution’

It’s the voters of course, or the 30% who do vote, who play the king-makers in civic politics. The path to voters in a civic election, free from party politics, is individual name recognition at the ballot. It’s evidenced in the near overwhelming deference given to incumbent civic candidates in Edmonton, and to those challengers whose past professional lives put their names out in the public domain on a regular basis.

Signs, small and large on lawns and public property, Canada Post mailouts, closets and trunks filled with printed materials, pens, pencils, re-usable bags and other swag – These are marketing tools of a campaign that drive recognition of a candidate. They cost thousands to produce and to get into the hands of voters.

Even those who have established name recognition on their side will spend $50,000 or more before October’s election.

The Journal’s Elise Stolte has done some great work (links below) breaking down the numbers from 2010, and some the early outreach efforts to campaigns by Edmonton’s development community.

Cash for campaigns: Winning a seat at City Hall requires lots of dollars from development-friendly donors

The data: Do developers play kingmaker in civic politics?

Fund raising at the civic level isn’t easy, I know, I’ve tried it. Municipal contributions, in large numbers, come from the development industry. Which in Edmonton is well represented by power-houses like the Urban Development Institute and the Edmonton Home Builders Association. As well as large-scale players such as Stantec, Qualico, Rohit and so on.

They build homes, multi-units, business spaces and towers and take a large part of the time and efforts of Council and Civic Adminsitration. From individual zoning bylaws, to land-use plans, visionary planning documents, municipal development plans and so on.

These are groups and industry representatives that have regular access and key stakeholder status with Council and Administration. That often outnumber other groups or community reps in a city boardroom. That are regular, and large dollar contributors to some municipal campaigns, and that can easily tilt a Council race in one direction through campaign contributions.

To candidates out there, I won’t say not to take a contribution if it’s offered. . It takes money to get elected, to advance a good platform, and that’s a personal decision that some individual campaigns and candidates will have to make.

I will say however, that those contributions do nothing to drive public debate or discussion. Nor do they help to create an equal field for each of a Ward’s candidates to put their materials and ideas in the hands of voters.

To voters, I’ll say that it really shouldn’t matter. The fact that a candidate can’t or won’t spend $50,000 or $100,000 isn’t at all a sign of their ability in or inabilities to serve in office. The fact that candidates trip over themselves to blitz the boulevard with signs coming into your neighbourhood, and your mailbox with the glossiest paper when you get home, isn’t terribly healthy for anyone; you, me, democracy or the environment.

To the Province and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the maximum allowable individual contribution should have been reduced. And the pre-nomination day registration and reporting requirments should have been applied to this election. It’s the 21st century, municipalities could have been ready in time.

To candidates; game on, good luck, and may the best ideas and the candidates willing to implement them, win in October.

On the way to the ballot box

If you’re reading this you’re probably either someone with an interest in local politics and civic involvement, or you sat down at a computer with the page open, or something. Anyway, if you are the former, then you’re likely a member of the minority of Edmontonians who vote in our civic elections and take an interest in civic policy and governance. This, the level of government closest to us. With which we interact every day of ours lives, and which is free from party politics, party leaders, whipped votes, and the lure of cabinet seats drawing the attention of individual elected members.

Members of Council are individuals whom are free to vote and influence the city as they see fit. And if they’re open, accessible, attentive and eager to seek input, there’s a large base of vibrant, intelligent community advocates and stakeholders with the local knowledge to positively analyse, and help build the policies and direction that are going to lead to a more vibrant city and a strong future vision.

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct”.

The quote may or may not have come from Thomas Jefferson, but regardless, it’s worth considering.

We’re now a year away from the 2013 civic election. With this election likely to see more vacating seats and new faces than the last, as someone whose volunteer interests revolve almost entirely around civic decision making, I’ve been giving thought to the sorts of candidates I’d like to not only see come forward, but be encouraged and supported to do so. Bear with me for a bit of rhetoric and perhaps some ranting, but hey, it wouldn’t be politics with them.

I’ve no interest in voting for someone who wants a career from elected office. I want my vote to help elect an advocate, a public servant with ideas and vision, who also knows when it’s time to go. I don’t want my vote going to a candidate who looks and speaks to the world through a lens of “will this get me elected? Will this build name recognition?”, an ‘all things to all people’ approach. I want to see candidates who are open to input and debate, but who, at the same time have opinions of their own, a determined drive, vision, and a clear sense of what they believe is right and wrong. I want to see candidates who have been active in their communities, in their civic circles, not because they see it as a resume or name-building exercise, but because of a desire to help and a clear vision they’ve tried to see implemented using the resources and channels available to them. Nor do I wish to support someone inexperienced with civic policy and City Council. As electors, we’re best served by an individual who’s able to jump in, from the very start and that first meeting and public hearing. A term goes quickly and a Councillor’s attention is drawn from many directions. The more experience they’ve gained before being seeking office, can only serve to lessen their learning curve and help them to tackle issues effectively from the outset.

This is where our responsibility as voters, and as people who care about our city comes into play. Over the next 12 months we’ll no doubt have many discussions about the election, about policy, about issues and talking points. But dialog aside, along with telling everyone who will listen to us to get out and vote next fall, we need to be recruiters for our city. To go out and recognize the people who clearly care for Edmonton, for their businesses, neighbourhoods and communities. Folks who may not even have any political ambition in their veins, and encourage them to step forward to serve our city. To put their names and ideas out there for the voter’s consideration. Let’s not wait and see what our choices are after nomination day, lets get out there and reach out to the folks who we believe would be strong candidates, strong representatives, and encourage them to put their names forward. Then follow that up by hitting the pavement, hitting the doors, and helping them out along the way.

Mining Disclosure Statements – Part 1

Featuring everything short of crayon, perhaps the messiest paperwork ever to be filed are the campaign disclosure statements from civic elections. The statements from Edmonton’s 2010 election were made public in late April, and while there are more enjoyable things to do than read through bad handwriting and a lack of alphabetical sorting, here’s a rummage through them, starting with the Councillors for Wards 1-4.

I’ve broken it down by “top 5 donors” (a number of donors contributed to a campaign more than once, and while I’ve tried to catch each instance, the forms were scanned, and are not well sorted or searchable so I may have missed a few), “Out of Province Contributions” (as they would have to be returned under provincial rules), “Katz Group of Companies” (Donations from a company belonging to the Katz Group), and “Donations Returned”.

 

Ward 1 – Linda Sloan

Top 5 donors:

1.  Rex & Florence Dales – $5000

2.  Tim Shipton – $5000

3.  Union #52 Benevolent Society – $3410 + $590 Total=$4000

4.  Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30 – $3800

5.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $1000 + $ 590 + $590 Total=$2180

Out of Province Contributors:

D&S Gill Investments – Mississauga, ON – $1000

Dundee Realty Corp – Saskatoon, SK – $295 + $295 Total=$590

Katz Group of Companies

Medicine Shoppe Canada – $250

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 2 – Kim Krushell

Top 5 donors:

1.  Joann & Doug Goss – $5000

2.  Brian Heatherington – $5000

3.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $1000 + $1000 Total=$2000

4.  Alldritt Development – $1600

5.  Jatec Ltd. – $1590

Out of Province Contributors

$0

Katz Group of Companies

$0

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 3 – Dave Loken

Top 5 Donors:

1.  Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 – $2500

2.  Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30 – $1500

3.  Union #52 Benevolent Society – $1500

4.  Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions – $1200

5.  UFCW – $1200

Out of Province Contributions

$0

Katz Group of Companies

$0

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 4 – Ed Gibbons

Top 5 Donors:

1.  Brian Heatherington – $5000

2.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $2000

3.  Amalgamated Transit Union #569 – $2000

4.  Aurum Industrial Development Partnership – $2000

5.  Alldritt Land Corporation LP – $1600

Out of Province Contributions

Clareview Properties Partnership – Toronto, ON – $1180

Dr. Lee Busse/Eleanor Adcock – Burnaby, BC – $590

Dundee Realty Corp – Saskatoon, SK – $590

1510837 Alberta Ltd. – (address in) Toronto, ON – $200

Katz Group of Companies

The Medicine Shop – $295

Contributions Returned

$0

Elect Jamie Post, Ward 1 – Community Survey

During the campaign, I ran surveys on my campaign site for both community residents and business owners.  The statistics from the community survey are available below.  “Accessibility of transit to, and parking at local businesses”,  “Community Policing”, “Public Transit”, and “Fiscal Accountability” were the top issues/concerns for respondents.

Elect Jamie Post, Ward 1 – Community Survey Statistics

Who Said What

The Internet Archive is an excellent project, dedicated to building a digital library covering everything from texts, video and software, to archived web pages.  I’ve spent some time lately using it to take a look back at candidates webpages from elections past.  Here are some links to current Councillors pages from 2004 and 2007.

Linda Sloan – 2004 2007

Tony Caterina – 2007

Amarjeet Sohi – 2007

Jane Batty – 2007

Ed Gibbons – 2001 2004

Stephen Mandel – 2004