Downtown Edmonton has a lot riding on this municipal election.
As October 16 draws near, remember that we’re approaching the moment when we’ll choose a voice for the core. Even for people who don’t live in Ward 6, a strong vision for downtown has never been more important.
Four men have their sights set on Edmonton’s Ward 6, thinking longingly of what could be if they win.
But I worry some candidates don’t see the forest for the trees.
My mailbox is full of literature boasting of candidates who are “Humble Philanthropists,” like B&B Demolition Founder Bill Knight. Or Tish Prouse, the former president of the Eastwood community league, who describes himself as “well educated,” which, he argues, “allows (him) to anticipate problems before they occur.”
OK great, but what does this mean for downtown?
Knight, according to his campaign literature, envisions a city where the councillor is out door knocking constantly, while Prouse is focused on the preservation of historical buildings downtown.
Everyone has thoughts on infill, of course, and mentions development and urban sprawl.
But for the most part promises are vague, pushing for “respectful infill,” and pointing the finger at developers for causing property damage or building places no one wants to live.
Accountant Abdil Pirbhai has an interesting proposal to link construction in the suburbs to redevelopment in the downtown core, and wants one dollar of every ten spent on new buildings to be directed to revitalization.
McKeen shines strongest on his reflection of infill and his clear desire to rejuvenate communities and help bring families into the core.
He argues, correctly, that one of the best ways to deal with urban sprawl is to create affordable high and middle density. Families need to live in places that they can afford, and right now that’s the suburbs.
Not to mention our taxes go up when urban sprawl goes unchecked.
The candidates are a bit stronger on their plans for social services.
Edmonton has an estimated 1,752 people living on the streets, according to a 2016 count by Homeward Trust.
Knight, who has experienced homelessness himself, is advocating for comprehensive wellness centres, including, according to his website “safe injection sites” similar to those currently being debated in McCauley.
Prouse clucks his tongue at Council’s tendency to provide “jejune quodlibets instead of progressive measures.” (That is a pretentious way of saying they chew the fat on the same topics a lot.)
He does offer a very long plan on his website, the crux of which is that Edmonton shouldn’t have said they were going to end homelessness in 10 years, and he will get the province to commit to funding to hire 400 support workers.
One area where candidates are lacking is reconciliation.
McKeen does argue that Edmonton must become, “Canada’s great indigenous city, through reconciliation, promise-keeping and partnerships,” but otherwise the issue doesn’t seem to be on the radar.
Now is the time when we get to choose the person who will be a major player in the development of downtown over the next four years.
Get out on Monday and vote for your vision of downtown.
The downtown Edmonton skyline.