Can­di­dates should be al­lowed to crit­i­cize Ive­son on his record

Mod­er­a­tor’s in­ter­rup­tion of Shewchuk was wrong — and the au­di­ence knew it

Edmonton Journal - - CITY+REGION - DAVID STA­PLES dsta­ples@post­

At the fi­nal Ed­mon­ton may­oral fo­rum this week, mod­er­a­tor Dave Robertson tried to shut down can­di­date Steve Shewchuk af­ter Shewchuk crit­i­cized in­cum­bent Don Ive­son’s han­dling of the NAIT LRT traf­fic fi­asco.

It was one of the strangest things I’ve wit­nessed in cov­er­ing the news in Al­berta for more than 30 years. A can­di­date not per­mit­ted to ques­tion and crit­i­cize the in­cum­bent on his record at a pub­lic fo­rum in a civic elec­tion? That makes no sense.

The odd turn of events started with a be­hind-the-scenes meet­ing be­tween Robertson and the 13 may­oral can­di­dates be­fore the event. Shewchuk said Robertson told can­di­dates not to use foul lan­guage, to be re­spect­ful and to stay away from per­sonal at­tacks. Shewchuk took this to mean he couldn’t call an­other can­di­date an id­iot or a liar, but that he could crit­i­cize their ideas and their record.

As the fo­rum un­folded, a cit­i­zen asked the can­di­dates when they would fix the Metro LRT line to NAIT from block­ing traf­fic. Var­i­ous can­di­dates then piled on with com­plaints.

“I one day spent 22 min­utes wait­ing at that in­ter­sec­tion and watch­ing these prim­i­tive trol­ley cars crawl across,” said can­di­date Ron Cousineau, a busi­ness­man. “Horses could have pulled them faster.”

Justin Thomas, a po­lice of­fi­cer, said “The new one, the Val­ley Line LRT (to Mill­woods), they say it’s gonna to be done in 2020. But I think it will be done in 2030. We have to fig­ure out the sig­nals and what­not.”

Bus rapid tran­sit is far cheaper and is the way to go, Thomas said.

“That LRT is an ab­so­lute mess,” said Taz Bouch­ier, a so­cial worker. “I’ve sat on the bus wait­ing nine min­utes for the light to change, then when the light changed, the arm goes down and the train is com­ing by and you’re wait­ing again.”

City coun­cil should have gone un­der­ground or over top on the Metro line, Bouch­ier said.

“Per­haps it needs to be taken down. It re­ally is caus­ing a mess. It’s not re­ally help­ing us get to where we need to go faster.”

Ive­son said: “So no doubt we’ve had some chal­lenges and learned a lot from our ex­pe­ri­ence with the Metro line,” then re­minded the au­di­ence the project came in $90 mil­lion un­der bud­get.

Not enough de­sign work was done on the front end of the project and it was rushed for var­i­ous rea­sons, Ive­son said.

“They weren’t my call at the time. It was be­fore I was mayor. I’m pick­ing up the pieces, not just by try­ing to find a fix for all of the in­ter­sec­tions and all of the old train sig­nallers/con­trollers that we have, but for do­ing more de­sign work on the front end. And the projects we’re do­ing now will re­flect that im­prove­ment.” Shewchuk then blasted Ive­son. “I love it when the cap­tain of the ship aban­dons it and blames it on the pre­vi­ous per­son, say­ing, ‘This is the prob­lem be­cause ...’”

At once, the mod­er­a­tor in­ter­rupted.

“Can­di­date Shewchuk, please. I’ll ask you to re­phrase.”

“Well, I mean, he is the mayor at this time,” Shewchuk said. “And he was on coun­cil prior, so he has to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity. I re­spect­fully dis­agree with you.”

And that’s when the au­di­ence — which had been told to with­hold all out­bursts and ap­plause — erupted into its long­est and most heart­felt ova­tion of the night.

I felt like giv­ing a stand­ing ova­tion my­self, but to the au­di­ence. It was heartening they rec­og­nized the wrong­ness of the mod­er­a­tor’s stance.

Let me get this straight. Ive­son is al­lowed to sug­gest the pre­vi­ous mayor and city ad­min­is­tra­tion rushed ahead on the NAIT line with­out proper plan­ning, but no other can­di­date is al­lowed to chal­lenge him on that, even though Ive­son has been on coun­cil since 2007?

When did we get so shy about de­bate?

As for who is to blame for the NAIT line fi­asco, nei­ther for­mer mayor Stephen Man­del, nor Ive­son, nor any­one on coun­cil is re­spon­si­ble for the pri­vate con­trac­tor’s is­sues with the sig­nalling sys­tem, but they are re­spon­si­ble for push­ing for­ward an­other LRT line that causes ma­jor traf­fic de­lays. They could have pri­or­i­tized, spend­ing the money to go un­der­ground or over­ground at key in­ter­sec­tions.

Ive­son has done good work as mayor. He’s pushed hard on nu­mer­ous big is­sues, such as LRT ex­pan­sion, First Na­tions rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, so­cial hous­ing, bike lanes and photo radar. A few of these is­sues, like LRT, have had ma­jor tech­ni­cal and pub­lic re­la­tions sna­fus. Ive­son will none­the­less win this elec­tion hand­ily.

That said, if you’re un­happy with his lead­er­ship and look­ing for a place to park a protest vote, go­ing with the rea­son­able but de­fi­ant Shewchuk is a good spot.


The third and fi­nal may­oral fo­rum Wed­nes­day fea­tured an odd moment be­tween the mod­er­a­tor and Steve Shewchuk, eighth from the left.


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