Edmonton’s 12 Ward System: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Starting with next year’s election, Edmonton is switching from a system of 6 Wards with 2 representatives each on City Council to one with 12 Wards and a single rep. Earlier this month, Scott McKeen wrote a piece in the Edmonton Journal on the impending switch, and some of the challenges it portends for Councillors. Within that piece, he makes some assumptions about what certain incumbents might be facing. Reading it, I started thinking, ‘what might the 2007 results tell us about the 2010 election’? So, while I’m not a wizard with numbers, I had an inkling that the past election results might tell us something about 2010. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a few hours going through the poll-by-poll results from 2007. I have since sorted them into the relevant ward under the 12 ward system. In undertaking this, I hoped to find if the 2007 vote pointed us towards any trend, and in particular if it gave us any indication how the incumbents and challengers might fare next time around.

A few things to know:
1. The percentages listed in the spreadsheets and this post are percentages of eligible votes, not votes cast. I count undervotes to get a better idea of what percentage of voters actually supported a given candidate. I think it’s important to count undervotes since they come from people who took the time to vote, but didn’t see fit to vote for a second (or in some cases a first) candidate for Council. Abstaining here while voting for Mayor and/or School Trustee could indicate a level of dissatisfaction with the candidates from last election.
2. Anything written here is not meant as an endorsement of (or against) anyone. I’m simply relaying the numbers and what I interpret them to mean. Consider it a public service, and free advice for anyone considering a run in 2010.
3. An obvious limitation is the absence of preferential balloting. Without it, you can’t say whether, for example, someone who voted for Krushell and Hayter in Ward 2 would rank them 1-2 or vice-versa. The best we can do is look at who got the larger share of votes overall.
4. Any candidate(s) who earned less than 10% of the vote were put into the category of other (with the number of candidates in the category in brackets), for sake of tallying vote shares. This was done largely to make the numbers easier to follow, and I stuck with the 10% rule for consistency’s sake even when only one candidate in a ward fell into that category.

You can see the breakdowns sorted in two formats. The polls are sorted by which ward they are a part of in the 6 ward system here, and by which ward they’ll be a part of in the 12 ward system here.

When I have more time, I would like to try to go more in-depth with the numbers, and try to account for things like an ‘incumbent bump’ from first to subsequent election wins, and how voter turnout affects things, but for the time being lets look at the results from 2007. Going ward-by-ward, let’s see what they tell us.

A map of the new 12 Ward System

A map of the new 12 Ward System

Current Ward 1
This ward will be split into new wards 1 and 5. Ward 1 encompasses the most of the area north of the Whitemud, and 5 encompasses the area south, with a few communities north of the Whitemud included.

Ward 1
Karen Leibovici 35.75%
Linda Sloan 29.38%
Andrew Knack 12.89%
Betty Kennedy 11.54%
Undervote 10.45%

Wherever she runs, Karen Leibovici is a good bet to be re-elected. In Ward 1, Leibovici beats out her wardmate Linda Sloan, earning 35.75% of eligible votes compared to 29.38% for Sloan. In Ward 5, where Leibovici lives and is likely to run, she enjoys a similar lead, earning 36.87% to 30.31%. Sloan performed well enough to give her confidence that as long as she’s not running head-to-head against Leibovici, she starts the election in a strong position to win.

Ward 5
Karen Leibovici 36.87%
Linda Sloan 30.31%
Andrew Knack 12.56%
Betty Kennedy 9.64%
Undervote 10.65%

2007’s third-place finisher Andrew Knack doesn’t have an easy decision about where to run next year. His vote share is nearly identical in the two new wards, 12.89% in Ward 1 and 12.56% in Ward 5.

Current Ward 2
In 2004, veteran Councillor Ron Hayter bested the 2nd place finisher, newly-elected Kim Krushell, earning just over 40% more votes than her. In 2007, Krushell wiped out that margin and then some, finishing ahead of Hayter by 4% across the board.

Ward 2
Kim Krushell 28.93%
Ron Hayter 24.02%
Dave Loken 16.89%
Shelly Tupper 11.54%
Other (2) 9.56%
Undervote 9.06%

Krushell lives in the new Ward 2 and is almost certain to run there if she seeks another term. If Hayter chooses to challenge her there, he’ll have to make up the nearly 5% in the returns that he lagged by.

Ward 3
Kim Krushell 30.52%
Ron Hayter 24.61%
Dave Loken 15.44%
Shelly Tupper 7.64%
Other (2) 11.68%
Undervote 10.12%

In the new Ward 3, both Krushell and Hayter have a slightly higher percentage, and third-place finisher Dave Loken loses about 1.5% compared to Ward 2. New Ward 3 also takes in part of old Ward 3, making it a possibility for incumbents and past candidates from that ward as well.

There are also about 3 polls that move over to the new Ward 7. Krushell and Hayter are in a virtual tie there, but it’s doubtful either one would run there.

Current Ward 3
This ward splits into three. As mentioned, some of the north-central ridings go to new Ward 3. The Northeast part goes to new Ward 4, and the southern polls go to new Ward 7.

Ward 3
Ed Gibbons 26.36%
Tony Caterina 23.18%
Harvey Voogd 17.64%
Other (5) 20.40%
Undervote 12.41%

First-term Councillor Tony Caterina does his best in new Ward 3, coming in just 3% behind incumbent Councillor Ed Gibbons. The vote for Harvey Voogd, the third-place finisher, falls back here compared to other polls. This could be Caterina’s best shot, though he’d be in tough if he faced Hayter or Dave Loken, who will run again and would be a contender in the new Ward 3.

Ward 4
Ed Gibbons 27.24%
Tony Caterina 21.56%
Harvey Voogd 18.19%
Other (5) 21.99%
Undervote 11.01%

Gibbons and Caterina both live here. Gibbons does a bit better and Caterina does a bit worse compared to Ward 3. This would be Gibbons’ best place to run. From what I understand, Caterina is out in the community a lot (especially in this part), which might help him close the gap some. This would be one of those instances where knowing the first place preference of voters would be helpful. My gut says Gibbons, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If he runs here, Caterina could at the very least make it closer than many pundits would think. This or new Ward 3 look like his best chances to retain a seat on Council.

Ward 7
Ed Gibbons 23.75%
Harvey Voogd 20.91%
Tony Caterina 19.71%
Other (5) 24.88%
Undervote 10.75%

New Ward 7 is the most interesting of the three. Scott McKeen surmises that Caterina would be in tough here, and he’s correct. Caterina earns just under 20% of the vote in new Ward 7, slightly down from the other new Wards. I think the broader point is that, no matter where he runs, Councillor Caterina has his work cut out for him.

Ed Gibbons likely won’t run here, which is good since his vote drops compared to that in new Wards 3 and 4. He earns less than 24% of the vote, just ahead of Voogd, and behind the cumulative total of the 5 other candidates. This is not a strong performance for an incumbent. With the high share of votes going to candidates besides the incumbent and overall second place finisher, I think the indication is that Ward 7 could be wide open, regardless of who’s on the ballot.

Current Ward 4
This ward largely splits into two – new Wards 6 and 8, though 4 of the 41 polls (from the southeast part) move to new Ward 11.

Ward 6
Jane Batty 20.50%
Ben Henderson 17.90%
Lewis Cardinal 17.87%
Debbie Yeung 14.30%
Other (11) 21.34%
Undervote 8.10%

Both incumbent Councillors live in the new Ward 6. If they choose to go head-to-head, it will be an interesting battle. Batty came in first, besting Henderson by 2.6%, a small margin and certainly one that could be made up with the advantage of also being an incumbent. But, there are two other factors worth considering.

First, Batty was a two-term incumbent entering this election. Despite this advantage, she only got 20.5% of eligible votes, meaning that 59 of every 100 voters in these polls did not cast a vote for her. For reasons I can’t understand, since she is a good Councillor, Batty hasn’t really grown her vote since first getting elected in 2001. She would be vulnerable, particularly against a strong opponent.

The second thing is that Ward 4 was a close three-way race. Lewis Cardinal came close to besting Henderson. In the polls moving to new Ward 6, Cardinal finished a mere 7 votes behind Henderson. Both earned close to 18% of the vote. Both are fairly close in terms of policy. Their strong performances indicate a strong block of votes for progressive/left-wing candidates.

Who would win a matchup between Batty and Henderson? My money is on the latter. He would have momentum behind him as the newer councillor, and has strong ties in areas like the arts community. But the numbers tell us it could be close either way.

Ward 8
Ben Henderson 19.14%
Jane Batty 18.29%
Lewis Cardinal 16.88%
Debbie Yeung 14.85%
Other (11) 23.27%
Undervote 7.56%

In new Ward 8, Henderson comes in first, Batty a close second, and Cardinal third, the vote share for the latter two less than in new Ward 6.

As McKeen mentioned, Henderson could run here, but there’s also a good chance that rookie Ward 5 Councillor Don Iveson will run here. Not only are the two closely aligned in terms of policy, but it would be a tough matchup for Henderson to win.

Current Ward 5
Three polls from current Ward 5 move to new Ward 8. One of them happens to be the community where Iveson now lives.

Ward 8
Don Iveson 37.91%
Bryan Anderson 27.00%
Mike Nickel 14.53%
Other (1) 6.42%
Undervote 14.26%

He performed very well in these there polls in 2007, and would likely do very well across new Ward 8, as much of the riding is similar in character to the areas that gave him the best returns in ’07. If it’s not Iveson (or Henderson) on the ballot in Ward 8, someone like them is in a good position to do well. Iveson could also run in Ward 10, but we’ll come back to that in a second.

Ward 9
Bryan Anderson 30.36%
Mike Nickel 28.10%
Don Iveson 25.15%
Other (1) 5.80%
Undervote 10.70%

New Ward 9 is likely to be an open seat. Neither of the current Ward 5 incumbent live here. Anderson did the best here of any candidate on the ballot in ’07, but his home base is in the new Ward 10. Mike Nickel, who was bested by Iveson, did his best here. What this tells us is that a candidate selling a more fiscal conservative agenda might do well here. Nickel does nearly 5% better here than in Ward 10, and doubles his support compared to the northernmost polls in current Ward 5 (those headed to new Ward 8). Iveson’s vote is down a similar amount here compared to Ward 10, meaning that it might be tough going for a candidate pushing a message like his. Keep in mind that Iveson ran a superb campaign, and though Nickel was more popular here than elsewhere, he still had his share of critics in this area. A candidate like, say, Lewis Cardinal (who lives in Ward 10) won’t have the latter conditions, and if 2007 is an indication, will probably run a good, but not great campaign. In terms of other candidates, Brent Michalyk, who ran in 2007, lives in the southern part of this ward, but he earned less than 6% of the vote. Donna Finucane has run a couple of times, most recently in 2004. She may run again, but given the turnover in this area, 6 years is a long time, and she’s not guaranteed to begin the campaign with the name recognition one might expect.

Because of these factors, I would say that the Ward 9 seat is the most wide-open one by far heading into the election.

Ward 10
Bryan Anderson 30.17%
Don Iveson 29.92%
Mike Nickel 23.16%
Other (1) 6.16%
Undervote 10.60%

Ward 10 is where Anderson lives, and Iveson lived as well at the time of the ’07 election. This is likely where Anderson will run if he seeks another term, and most would expect him to be in a strong position to hold off any challengers. And they might be right, but if Iveson also wants this seat, he’s well-poised to win.

As the numbers show, Iveson battled Anderson to a near draw, trailing him by 66 votes out of a possible 27,306. This is a riding where knowing the voters’ first place preference would be helpful. But in the absence of that, all we can do is speculate. If the two were on the ballot, my guess is that voters would go for the younger incumbent, rationalizing that Anderson has served them for four terms, but Iveson is the one likely to serve them for four more. Iveson’s campaign volunteers would likely be more motivated as well. But if only one of them is on the ballot in Ward 10, that one is likely to win big; both earned 30% of votes here.

Current Ward 6
Aside from a few polls that go to new Ward 8, the polls here split into new Wards 11 and 12.

The Ward 8 polls are interesting. Lori Heaney, the overall 5th place finisher, actually comes in first here, nearly 4% ahead of Thiele. I’m assuming she lives in this area, and should she wish to run in the future this might be her best spot.

Ward 11
Dave Thiele 22.35%
Chinwe Okelu 18.99%
Chuck McKenna 18.47%
Amarjeet Sohi 15.34%
Lori Heaney 12.22%
Other (1) 2.40%
Undervote 10.23%

If Amarjeet Sohi runs in Ward 11, he might face an uphill battle to stay on Council. Sohi, who finished 2nd overall, finished 4th in these polls. Thiele does his best here, but still only earns the vote of about 45% of those who showed up. Third place finisher Chinwe Okelu’s vote is pretty consistent across the board, good but far enough off the leader’s pace to show that he has work to do if he plans to run again. Chuck McKenna does his best here. Of note, Debbie Yeung also did the best in the 4 polls from current Ward 4 that move to new Ward 11, indicating a potential fiscal conservative streak amongst voters here. This would, of course, be bad news for Councillor Thiele, widely perceived as one of the most liberal spenders on Council. Between that and his relatively low vote share, Thiele is vulnerable here. And this ward is probably his best shot at a win; Ward 12 would be a tougher battle.

Ward 12
Dave Thiele 20.86%
Amarjeet Sohi 20.78%
Chinwe Okelu 18.80%
Chuck McKenna 16.10%
Lori Heaney 8.98%
Other (1) 2.79%
Undervote 11.70%

Thiele did finish first here, a mere 15 votes ahead of Sohi in polls that cast 19,920 votes. It would stand to reason that with a term of experience and exposure under his belt, Sohi would be ready to surpass his elder on Council. Except that he probably already did in ’07.

This is the one instance where advance polls are informative. Sohi got his vote out and then some. In the other wards, the advance poll results deviated little from the overall result. Here, Sohi takes 32% of votes, almost double that of Thiele. It’s safe to project that the bulk of those votes came from Ward 12 polls, meaning Sohi almost certainly got more votes from people who live in the Ward 12 polls. His advance poll vote is a sign of a well-organized campaign. With a term of experience behind him, Sohi is likely to cruise to victory in Ward 12 – with or without Thiele on the ballot.

The numbers do tell a story. It shows us that some incumbents look to be in good shape, others might have a fight on their hands regardless of where they run, which is what we might have expected to find.

Of course, a lot can still change. If Mayor Mandel decides not to seek another term, one or more Councillors could step up and run for his job (Leibovici and Sloan thought to be the most likely, Iveson and Krushell the next most, anyone else on Council would be a surprise), thus opening up any number of seats. Similarly, I think at least one or two incumbents will end up retiring; they may not be tipping their hand yet, but why do so and risk becoming a lame duck when you still have 1/3 of your term remaining?

In any case, I think before anyone makes assumptions or plans for 2010, it’s important to look at what the numbers are telling us. I hope this is informative for anyone interested in or engaged in Edmonton civic politics.


4 Responses

  1. Since all the incumbents were quite far from getting a majority, I think vote-splitting with minor candidates could be a real issue. Who those candidates are could affect whose votes are siphoned off and who ends up winning.

    – Mustafa Hirji

  2. Mustafa, I agree. I think one of the most, if not the most overlooked factor in the incumbency rate is that the challengers tend to split votes between each other. Use of a preferential ballot would certainly increase the frequency with which incumbents were defeated. Related to this, to take nothing away from Don Iveson’s campaign, I was surprised how few made mention of the fact that he was the only serious challenger to Nickel and Anderson in ’07. Had there been another strong challenger or two, enough of the anti-incumbent votes likely could have split to allow Nickel to hang on.

  3. Two details: Lewis Cardinal isn’t running again municipally, he’s the nominated candidate in Edmonton Centre for the Federal NDP.
    Hana Razga is also running agin in the new Ward 8 and is already out knocking on doors apparently. She received a sizable share of votes considering that she ran against Henderson and Cardinal and was relatively unknown until just before the election got going. I’m sure she’ll do even better this time. On top of this, a lot of folks I talk to in Ward 8 where I live are angry at Iveson for his behaviour around the Epcor sale, so it might not be as easy a run as some think for him if he decides to go for Ward 8.

  4. […] of two – Councillor Hayter will retire, leaving Ward 3 as an open race as well. In September, I did an analysis of the poll-by-poll numbers from 2007, and what they indicated for the 2010 election. There were a few things of note about […]

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