Keith Gerein – Young, determined and savvy about development – Edmonton’s new council is ready to remodel City Hall

It takes time before the tricks and tricks of this new 13-headed creature are fully revealed, but there are already a handful of attributes that stand out.

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The end of October is a traditional time when people take on a different look and personality, transforming into something unrecognizable, at least for one night.


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So it is perhaps appropriate that Edmonton voters also recently gave the city council a massive makeover overnight, even though the new wardrobe and makeup have not been removed for at least four years.

Much has already been made of the diversity inherent in the council’s new look, which features many more women and people of color. However, there are also a number of alterations behind the surface, in skill sets, attitudes and approaches to governing, all of which have the potential to produce advice that behaves very differently than what we have seen in the past. .

It takes time before the tricks and treats of this new 13-headed creature are fully revealed, but there are already a handful of attributes that stand out. The effect is exciting and perhaps a little scary, at least for developers who fail to improve their performance.


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It’s young advice

Whether by voter choice or on their own, people like Ben Henderson, Tony Caterina, Moe Banga, and others from older generations have left the council, replaced by many who are at least 20 to 30 years younger.

The Edmonton City Hall Fountain, Thursday, Aug.12, 2021.
The Edmonton City Hall Fountain, Thursday, Aug.12, 2021. Photo by David Bloom. /Postmedia

It is not an exaggeration to think that this generational change will produce some change in attention. Affordability, for example, may have a greater presence in discussions, while the council is also likely to delve into quality-of-life issues important to youth: investments in culture and recreation, a variety of housing options, and options for transportation (yes, that means bike lanes).

“And the same when it comes to action on climate change,” said the new Ward Métis. Coun. Ashley Salvador. “Many of us are really worried about our future and what we are leaving behind.”


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I feel very determined among this group to move quickly on their respective agendas, and many are well prepared for the council’s protocols and rhythms.

Salvador, Ward O-day’min Coun. Anne Stevenson and Ward Anirniq Coun. Erin rutherford they already know the processes well through their work as planners or managers, while Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz he is intimately familiar with government throughout his years as a school administrator.

It is advice with many young parents.

Four of the new counselors have young children, while Coun returns. Sarah Hamilton had her first child just a couple of months ago, prompting jokes that council offices should have a daycare facility.

This is a big change and should produce a sharper focus on vital programs, services and infrastructure for young families.


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At the same time, it can also lead to adjustments in the functioning of the council, so that councilors can balance the responsibilities they have to their own families and the tens of thousands of voters they represent.

“We have a group of people who come in with different priorities and are not married to a particular way of doing things,” said Hamilton.

A possible adjustment could be to continue the practice of hybrid meetings, so that councilors have the option to participate remotely when necessary, such as certain evening sessions.

Edmonton City Councilor Jennifer Rice was sworn in at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.
Edmonton City Councilor Jennifer Rice was sworn in at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo by Larry Wong /POSTMEDIA NETWORK

It is expert advice on development.

“Our tolerance for trash is now zero,” was an iconic phrase uttered by then-Mayor Stephen Mandel in 2005, but it may find a new resonance in the early 2020s.


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Armed with extensive experience in urban planning (Salvador and Stevenson), community participation (Rutherford), and infrastructure financing ( Coun. Jennifer Rice ), the ingredients are present for advice that could be particularly harsh on developers who fail to present quality designs, neglect consultation with communities, or produce numbers that just don’t add up.

The same is true for civic infrastructure projects.

In particular, much of this council will want to ensure that development stays true to the vision of the City Plan, which calls for reduced sprawl, 15-minute communities, high-density housing around traffic, and reduced emissions.

“For me, I treat (developers) like I would any other stakeholder,” Salvador said. “I listen to them, but of course I listen to facts, evidence, data and the people who reside in my neighborhood and in our city.”


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Could be more partisan or ideological advice

An unexpected trend of the election was the participation of the provincial NDP, an effort that saw at least three people with partisan connections elected to the council.

On the other hand, Ward tastawiyiniwak Coun. Karen prince You recently applied for the UCP. And, of course, Sohi was a liberal federal cabinet minister not long ago, though he steadfastly avoided those connections during his career.

As Salvador pointed out, “the campaign mode is very different from the council mode,” and we must expect councilors to fulfill their promise to act independently.

Still, observers like me will be on the lookout for signs of voting blocks, shared messages, and partisan behavior, such as any motion or vote specifically aimed at “taking on Jason Kenney.”

For what it’s worth, Hamilton isn’t particularly concerned, believing that any councilman who tries to act partisan will eventually find it collides with the personal responsibility of the civic office.

“At the end of the day, you have to live with your decisions,” he said. “You have to assimilate the information and listen to the arguments and do the research … and you have to personally respond to voters who may not be happy.”

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