On Sept. 15, Rat Creek Press hosted an online forum for the city councillor candidates in Ward O-day’min. Incumbent Ward 7 councillor Tony Caterina declined to attend, and there was no response from Adil Pirbhai. Ibrahim Wado and Mohammed Migdaddy entered the councillor race after the forum.

The forum, moderated by Matthew Kleywegt, set out to answer community questions and concerns. 

Homelessness was an important topic. 

Naima Haile says, “Canada is a rich country, and we should not even be having this conversation about homelessness.” She suggests following a similar model that Finland used to eliminate homelessness and providing a greater emphasis on addiction and mental health supports. 

Gino Akbari’s first step in addressing homelessness would be to visit a homeless camp with councillors to better understand the issue. He would also provide more support for homeless youth. “If we can provide services and involve [youth] in [the] community, then we have cut this at the root.” 

The candidates also discussed affordable housing, and their plans for creating it in Edmonton. 

“Housing is a human right… there are people right now in our city, first of all, who don’t have homes at all, [and] others where housing is costing them 70, 80, 90, and in some cases, 100 per cent of their income, and they aren’t able to meet their other basic needs,” says Anne Stevenson. Stevenson would invest in neighbourhoods so they are compact and walkable, and provide a range of housing options at different price points. 

Adrian Bruff says affordable housing is being able to pay the property tax, mortgage, insurance, and “not being priced out of my community because of expensive developments next door.” It is also about being able to afford transportation, groceries, and contribute to the local economy. “I want to create a city where every single Edmontonian has a real chance at home ownership and being able to take care of their own homes.”

Property tax is another hot topic issue. 

“Stopping the sprawl is step one,” says Joshua Wolchansky, explaining he wants to bring “investment back into the heart of our city.” He believes we need to stop proposals for privatization and change the fundamental governance of our city. Wolchansky says the Municipal Government Act requires the City to ask the provincial government for approval on almost everything. “Let’s redefine the relationship [between city and province] and let’s take the training wheels off our city. It’s time for Edmonton to stand on our own two feet and to realize the power of our own voice… and create an Edmonton that lasts and that’s respectful with investments of taxpayer dollars.” 

Gabrielle Battiste says, “We need to live within our means… we’ve spent, over the last 10 years, an awful lot of money on building a city that ideologically we wanted, and unfortunately in doing that, we have missed the boat on actually giving people what they need.” She says the transit system is an example of this, especially since it has taken away transit from every seniors’ residence in the ward. Battiste notes that we have to say yes to economic growth and stop pet projects “that want to turn us into Vancouver and Toronto [instead of building] an Edmonton for Edmontonians.” 

Some information about the candidates: 

Ibrahim Wado, Adil Pirbhai, and Mohammed Migdaddy have no candidate pages and no bios.

Adrian Bruff is a community activist with a 10-year career in social work. His priorities include building a thriving economy, creating an affordable and inclusive city, addressing homelessness, and supporting small businesses.

Anne Stevenson has a background in urban planning. “Affordable housing and addressing our homeless crisis is a top priority for me,” she says. 

Gabrielle Battiste lives in Rossdale, where her businesses and family are also based. Her priorities include creating a safe space for families, the elderly, and children, supporting small and local businesses, and encouraging healthy living. 

Gino Akbari has been active in Edmonton’s art and small business community, and he has worked as a civilian in the Department of National Defence. His priorities include affordable housing, addressing homelessness, and supporting local businesses.

Joshua Wolchansky has worked in environmental protection, economic development, and international relations. His priorities include supporting the arts, working on the social and housing crisis, reigniting the downtown core, and stopping urban sprawl.

Naima Haile came to Canada 30 years ago as a refugee from Somalia and she has worked with refugees since then. Her priorities include creating an inclusive, integrated, and safe city, with equal opportunities for everyone. 

Tony Caterina is the current city councillor of Ward 7. He has a background in business.

Watch the entire forum on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=lIkD248F7Fw.

The civic election will take place on Oct. 18.