On Sept. 16, the Rat Creek Press hosted the Ward Métis electoral forum. Matthew Kleywegt moderated the online forum, which is available on youtube.com/watch?v=p7cpdZuBoCI.
Redevelopment of the Exhibition Lands and the Stadium
All candidates agreed the current redevelopment timeline of 20-35 years is too long. Steven Townsend said crime and assaults in this under-used and deserted space are an issue. Ashley Salvador would bring “missing middle” affordable housing. Abdulhakim Dalel agreed that the land should be used to create affordable housing, saying “Edmonton is sitting on gold” and that many people he talks to are “paying between 50 and 80 per cent of their income for rent.” Liz John-West stated that the City must work to create meaningful community connections and a beautiful space.
The City’s role in climate change
Salar Melli said his campaign is the only one to take a stand on waste and climate change, and that he has demonstrated his commitment by campaigning without signs or leaflets. Townsend stated, “The climate needs to be front and centre in all the decisions the City makes.” Salvador pointed out the high tax cost and unsustainability of urban sprawl.
Involvement with other political parties
John-West stated, “I think it’s appalling that political parties are involved in municipal elections.” The other candidates were adamant they did not belong to a political party. Cori Longo pointed to the importance of transparency when door knocking, responding to the question people ask: “who do you vote for?” Both Salvador and Longo have committed to disclosing their donations before the election.
Arts and culture
All candidates were enthusiastic about arts and culture and the various community festivals. James Kosowan said art is a good investment with a three- to 10-fold return. Daniel Kornak stated, “The finest artists I have seen in my life are walking the streets of Edmonton.” Melli committed to using 100 per cent Edmonton artists for any city projects. Dalel had the only contrarian point of view, stating that while he supports art, it has to fit within the budget.
Vacant commercial space
John-West noted that when businesses form an association, they are eligible for improvement grants. Melli noted the importance of increasing density, stating, “Businesses struggle to have enough customers.” Kosowan spoke to the City’s role in making sure business owners “do not run into a bureaucratic wall.” Townsend noted, “Property owners sit on vacant land and boarded up properties waiting for a payday” and said the City could deal with this by increasing taxes every year on vacant properties. Salvador echoed this by pointing to the tools cities can use in zoning to increase density for living and working.
Kosowan and Kornak support keeping the budget the same. Most of the candidates said it was important to use the right services in the right situations. Longo noted that the police commissioner admitted that 30 per cent of the police budget does not even go to policing. Dalel had the most impactful statement, noting that as a Black man, he has been stopped by the police 48 times, arrested twice, and because of these experiences in 2017 approached the police department to advocate for hiring more Black, Indigenous, and Muslim officers. He also calls for more community officers to become involved with youth to build trust.
Safe injection sites
All candidates unequivocally support safe injection sites. Candidates Dalel and Melli noted that it is important that other areas of the city share the social services that are currently concentrated in northside neighbourhoods.
Caroline Matthews, Rob Bernshaw, Jim Rickett, and Brian Kendrick were not present at the forum. Matthews was invited, originally committed to attend, but withdrew to attend a fundraising event. Bernshaw had a family emergency.
More about the candidates
Jim Rickett and Brian Kendrick do not have campaign pages, and bios from them are not available.
Abdulhakim Dalel wants to be the voice for workers and community members.
Ashley Salvador, an urban planner, brings an understanding of the complexity of running cities.
Caroline Matthews has worked as a police officer, in post-secondary education, and in small business.
Cori Longo, former nurse and postal worker, is running on a platform of supporting good jobs for Edmontonians.
Daniel Kornak, a surprise candidate who entered the ring at the last moment, spoke for those, who like himself, are unhoused.
James Kosowan has experience working for municipal and provincial governments.
Liz John-West made a career in social services and helping people from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances.
Rob Bernshaw currently works as a consultant. He believes in solutions and working together.
Salar Melli, a business owner, is committed to working with vulnerable youth and finding innovative solutions to the city’s issues.
Steven Townsend has experience on various business and policing boards. He was a small business owner, and he is very active in his community through taking on leadership roles. He wants to build strong communities.