Voters delivered a clear verdict Monday night, saying they want Don Iveson’s vision for Edmonton for the next four years.
It is fitting that the mayor’s chain of office is passing to the next generation of leadership. Edmonton is, after all, a young, growing city by most measures. The 2011 federal census showed more than a third of the population is in their working prime in their twenties, thirties and forties.
At 34, our new mayor is slightly younger than the city’s median age of 36, which already is four years younger than the Canadian average. Iveson is, in many ways, a reflection of today’s Edmonton.
The decision reflects a forward-looking city that is feeling sure-footed and confident about its future.
This vote hinged on leadership style and vision. No single issue dominated discussions on the doorsteps. Not even the perennial pothole problem or controversial new arena deal picked up the traction of past election key issues such as the fate of the City Centre Airport.
Voters who did not buy into Kerry Diotte’s back to basics message had to pick between Iveson and four-term councillor Karen Leibovici. Both Iveson and Leibovici staked out similar ground early in the campaign, but perceived leadership style and tone distinguished them. Leibovici talked a lot about her experience but didn’t generate the excitement she needed to show she should lead for the next four years.
More Edmontonians embraced the idea of a strong communicator, which is not something to be sneered at. Edmonton’s story is a great evolving northern adventure that ought to be heard and appreciated.
With three civic election campaigns now under his belt, Iveson is a top-notch campaigner who knows how to deliver a message and get out the vote.
The next four years will be a different kind of challenge. The first test will come quickly as council — at least half of them rookies — head into the hard work of annual budget deliberations. This election highlighted how many competing demands there are for the city’s limited financial resources.
After two terms as a key member of the 13-member council team, Iveson will have to quickly adjust to the role of leader and coach.
Returning veterans, including Ward 4’s Ed Gibbons, Ward 9’s Bryan Anderson, Ward 12’s Amarjeet Sohi and Ward 7’s Tony Caterina, will play a critical role keeping projects approved in recent years such as LRT expansion, airport land redevelopment and the downtown arena district on track.
The biggest cloud of doubt hanging over Iveson now is whether he can successfully cement the regional relationships he promised he could best deliver. That means neighbours like St. Albert, Strathcona County and Leduc County — where Edmonton has made a bid to annex 15,600 hectares of land including the international airport — all need to be persuaded to support Edmonton’s needs and to speak with a unified voice when negotiating with the province.
Iveson also will have work with other municipal leaders like Calgary’s re-elected mayor Naheed Nenshi to go toe to toe with the federal and provincial level of government to try to finally craft a much-needed new deal for big cities and their very real infrastructure needs.
Surprisingly, voter turnout was only 34.5 per cent, about a percent more than the last civic election. But those who did take the time to cast a ballot clearly want Iveson to write the next chapter.
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