Running in Edmonton’s ward papastew, Susan Field says while out door knocking, she’s often getting asked a question she didn’t expect – ‘What party are you with?’
Traditionally, political analyst John Brennan says Edmonton doesn’t have party politics at the local government level — unlike Vancouver.
Field ended up re-printing her campaign materials to note her non-partisan status for voters.
“They ask me which way I lean, politically, socially, fiscally and it’s really interesting because they’re quite angry about the party politics coming into the city election.”
Field says she feels strongly about being an independent voice.
“I’m not to report to the mayor, I’m not to report to a party. I’m supposed to report to the citizens of my ward and they’re very concerned the engagement hasn’t been genuine and authentic to begin with,” she explained.
But a number of candidates have been connected to various parties, either in past experience, with endorsements, or other support.
For example, in the Mayoral campaign, three of the top-runners have been involved with other political parties.
Amarjeet Sohi was a Cabinet Minister in Ottawa, holding some key positions for the Liberals under Justin Trudeau.
Sohi declined an interview, but in a statement wrote “I was proud to represent Edmontonians in Ottawa, but I prefer being back in non-partisan politics.”
Kim Krushell was a director on the board for Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives as recently as 2017.
She was also unavailable for an interview, but wrote “I currently do not have any party affiliations and would not allow any previous party affiliation to impact my mayoral campaign.”
Mike Nickel ran for nomination with the UCP government just two years ago, in 2019.
“This is not about left versus right. This is about people who want to get this city back on its feet and that’s all it is. Anyone who reads more into that is just making a mistake,” Nickel said.
And the party ties don’t stop with the mayor’s race.
Running for council in ward Dene, Tricia Velthuizen is the current press secretary for UCP MLA Nate Glubish. That fact though is missing from the ‘About Me’ page on her campaign website.
Velthuizen also declined an interview.
In ward Metis, Cori Longo is taking a different approach, vowing to be transparent about her ties to the NDP party.
She intentionally designed her campaign signage to look like the provincial party’s.
“It was an informed choice by my campaign and by me to make sure we were really clear with my values and where my politics lie. So it’s not something I’ve been shy about. In fact I’m the only candidate in the riding who’s been endorsed by the NDP, and we wanted to be really visible about that.”
Longo said that doesn’t mean her votes will be determined by someone else, saying she’s running an independent campaign.
But she stresses she plans to stand up to Jason Kenney’s UCP if elected to city council.
And back in papastew, long-time public school board trustee Michael Janz has Lou Arab, union leader and Rachel Notley’s husband, as his campaign manager.
Janz has also been endorsed by some high-profile NDP MLAs.
Janz, too, declined an interview, but in a statement wrote: “My views are progressive. I always put my constituents needs first.”
Brennan explained while the idea of partisan politics on council isn’t common in Edmonton today, it was once – with slates, or teams of people working towards a common goal.
“People knew who they were and that they were running as part of a slate and that they had a particular point of view. This time it’s more ad hoc, and unless you’re really following a campaign, I think most voters wouldn’t even be aware of it.”
Brennan added there’s no shame in candidates having these ties, as long as they’re transparent about them.
“People who are involved in politics, are involved at all levels. They’re interested in municipal, provincial and federal politics. I think people should just be up front about it. Don’t be secretive about it.”
Edmontonians will decide with their votes what representation they want on October 18th.
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