Dave Thiele’s announcement that he won’t seek another term means that there will be at least one new face on Edmonton City Council this year. Thiele, as the story notes, is the first Councillor to announce his retirement. Council’s longest-serving member, Ron Hayter, has yet to formally announce his intentions. The Mayor and the remaining 10 Councillors have all announced their intentions to seek re-election, though not all Councillors have indicated which Ward they intend to run in (Edmonton is switching from 6 two-rep wards to 12 single-rep wards).
A personal digression: I enjoyed a very good working relationship with Councillor Thiele, both during my year as Vice President External of the University of Alberta Students’ Union (where we worked on the Universal Bus Pass issue), and during my time working at City Hall (his Executive Assistant, Marilyn, is also one of the sweetest people alive). In spite of the many criticisms that have been leveled at Councillor Thiele’s performance over the years, he should be recognized for a few things. First, for being committed to his community. Second, for being a long-term advocate for better public transit. Third, for being an early, active supporter of a Universal Bus Pass for post-secondary students. In 2004, he sponsored a motion during budget deliberations to fund the U-Pass as a pilot project for University of Alberta students. Though that motion failed, a subsequent motion for further study the issue and bring it back to Council was passed at the same meeting, an early and important step in moving the U-Pass forward (it was introduced in 2007). Councillor Thiele’s efforts helped keep it moving at a time when it could have easily stalled.
With Thiele’s retirement, and Sohi’s confirmation that he will run in Ward 12, Ward 11 will be an open seat this fall. For my money, I think it will be one 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 Ward 11.
1. It’s Almost All Mature Neighbourhoods
The ward, which runs from Gateway Boulevard to 50th St (West to East) and Whyte Avenue to 12th Avenue (North to South), with a few industrial areas east of 50th thrown in, is almost entirely post-war to 70s-80s oil boom-era communities. This means issues such as neighbourhood infrastructure and school closures could be important here. New infrastructure projects won’t be much of a consideration, with the exception of the Southeast LRT, which will run through the Ward.
2. The 2007 Vote Totals Make for Interesting Scenarios
Most of Ward 11 is part of current Ward 6, though it takes in 4 communities from current Ward 4 as well.
Here are the 2007 results from the polls that make up Ward 11. Individual candidates who earned less than 10% overall are counted under ‘other’.
Ward 6 Vote Share Ward 4 Vote Share
Dave Thiele 22.35% Other 23.51%
Chinwe Okelu 18.99% Debbie Yeung 18.39%
Chuck McKenna 18.47% Lewis Cardinal 17.97%
Amarjeet Sohi 15.34% Ben Henderson 16.51%
Lori Heaney 12.22% Jane Batty 15.70%
Other 2.40% Undervote 7.93%
Councillor Thiele did his best here, but so did eventual Ward 6 runners-up Chinwe Okelu and Chuck McKenna. Additionally, the four Ward 4 polls were good ones for fiscally conservative Debbie Yeung, which might bode well for a candidate pitching that message.
3. This Year’s Race Will Be Wide Open
It’s unknown whether Okelu, McKenna, or 5th place finisher Lori Heaney will run again, in Ward 11 or elsewhere (though Heaney’s website makes reference to running in 2010). Okelu would be making his 5th try at Council, and though he came close (0.5% behind Sohi, 3% behind Thiele), wouldn’t figure to be a shoo-in here, given his repeated failure to get elected. McKenna would also have his work cut out for him, after finishing 2.5% behind Sohi and 5% behind Thiele in his first try. If he were to get out campaigning early, and find a couple of messages that connected with voters, he could very well find himself on Council.
There is one confirmed candidate: Shane Bergdahl, a former president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. I believe he’s a first time candidate, but he has deep roots in the Ward, and a strong community background – two qualities that most successful candidates have.
I expect there will be other candidates stepping forward in Ward 11, and this will be one of the most hard-fought races of the 2010 Edmonton Civic Election. I encourage you to start learning about your ward and candidates, and what you want to see out of your representatives.
The Edmonton Civic Election, where the Mayor, City Council, and School Trustees will be elected to three year terms, will be held on Monday, October 18th.