With all due respect to Mike Nickel, the mayoral runner-up got it wrong, especially when he lamented in his concession speech Monday night that Edmontons were voting for “the status quo” rather than “real change. “.
He probably meant that Mayor-elect Amarjeet Sohi is a kindred spirit with outgoing Mayor Don Iveson, as they share the same progressive outlook and center-left political leanings. That’s fair enough, but in most other respects Edmonton did not support the status quo; they tore it apart.
Let’s start with Sohi. The 57-year-old Sikh immigrant from India is the city’s first mayor of color. In a city where four out of 10 residents now identify as a visible minority, that’s a historic milestone. It doesn’t end there; Sohi will lead a council that is the most diverse in Edmonton history, with four people of color and eight women. Edmonton now has a council that reflects the community like never before.
Cynics may scoff that diversity is a buzzword, but true representation is important to effective government. It brings to the table different ways of looking at an issue that a council dominated by only one race or gender simply cannot. A diverse council helps promote innovation, fosters more equitable politics, and provides inspiration for other members of marginalized groups to bring their issues to the forefront and may even inspire them to get involved in politics themselves, thereby broadening the field of candidates.
Edmontonians’ appetite for change was also exemplified by the removal of four sitting councilors, unprecedented in a city that has voted for just two sitting councilors in the past 20 years. Those who couldn’t win their seats were Jon Dziadyk, Tony Caterina and Moe Banga.
One has to wonder if it’s a coincidence that those three councilors voted against the sanctions three times after Nickel was found in separate instances to have violated the council’s code of conduct for decorum and ethical behavior with disrespectful posts on social media. . It may have been a message that Edmontons were unhappy with the divisive politicking in the previous council.
But the results of Monday’s election also sent a message to the newly elected council. Nickel and other fiscally conservative mayoral candidates who ran on platforms that offered various forms of tax relief, focused on basic services and supported businesses collectively garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.
That’s a clear indication that while Edmontons can support progressive social policies, economic issues must remain a top priority at City Hall.
Local editorials are the consensus opinion of the Journal’s editorial board, which includes Colin McGarrigle, Dave Breakenridge, Sarah Bugden and Bill Mah.