Those who would be mayor face the public

Mayor forum Edmonton GigCityIf would be fun to pull out some of the best lines from Monday’s Mayor Candidate Forum held at the Shaw Conference Centre – they’re only slightly funnier out of context – so let’s do it:

“We have to fish where the fish are.” – Kerry Diotte on inspiring the youth vote and social media’s importance therein.

“Soft infrastructure, which is the people.” – Gordon Ward, leaving it unsaid that hard infrastructure is what the people build.

“I learned more than most people want to about sewers.” Don Iveson on his time on a committee dealing with drainage, and the benefits of curiosity.

“(Multiculturalism should be) more than just Heritage Days.” – Karen Leibovici, on the question of what the future mayor will do to address gender and racial inequality in Edmonton.

“Don’t see a problem.” – Kristine Acielo on the same question

“I don’t think anyone up here is going to suggest that we should pay more taxes – that’s ridiculous.” – Joshua Semotiuk, the only candidate who called bullshit on the question of whether the future mayor would raise taxes. As if.

Had enough? OK, they’re not that funny.

No offense to the seniors who turned up in droves to the lunchtime event, but some of these questions were flat out stupid. The skill of a true politician is giving smart answers in response, of course. To the taxes question, NOT ONE of the six candidates actually said the words “Read my lips: No new taxes.”

Joshua Semotiuk GigCity Edmonton

‘Get out and vote!’

Some of the questions were infuriatingly general, like asking the candidates what they value more: “maintaining existing municipal infrastructure or building new neighbourhoods.” Most said the best thing is a “balance,” or words to that effect. All the candidates agreed that the Southeast leg of the LRT should be completed, and all agreed that “innovation” is swell. Acielo, taking a page from Edmonton’s most fanciful council member, the late Tooker Gomberg, floated the idea of a skytrain running on top and all around the Anthony Henday Drive. Only if it’s a monorail.

There were smart questions, too, and a lot from a senior perspective – “what will you do for seniors today?” being one of them. Answers varied from suggestions for free snow removal only for those who need it to citywide sidewalk shoveling. On the issue of inaccessible polling stations – made worse by unshoveled sidewalks, probably – Ward got a bit dramatic, “We should be ashamed that we have denied democracy to the people who built this country.”

That got some applause.

One elderly lady, who complained for some time about reckless cyclists before getting prompted to state her question, drew a divided response. Diotte is not a fan of the new bike lanes, Iveson favours “peaceful coexistence” and Semotiuk agreed with others that enforcement of existing laws is probably the best answer to curb reckless cyclists.

On it went (I missed the first half; one hour was plenty): What are your three best qualities? Why do you want to be mayor? If you are mayor, are you willing to serve for two terms?

Just a little mud was slung. Diotte concluded by saying that a vote for candidates other than himself will only result in “four more years of what we’ve had for the last 10 years.” Iveson talked of “coalition building,” while Karen Leibovici said that this is a “pivotal” and also “critical” time in Edmonton’s history and it needs a proven leader, such as herself, to see us through. Acielo – whose campaign has a “zero budget” – asked voters to “think of me” in a list of good things that will come in conjunction with her being mayor. Ward, a businessman whose campaign is self-financed, seeks to lead by example, saying, “A city starts at the grassroots.” And Semotiuk urged everyone, “Get out and vote!”

Could totally see this guy being mayor in 10 or 20 years.

The third and final mayoral forum happens Thursday, Oct. 10 from 7-9 p.m. at the Italian Cultural Centre. Edmonton goes to the polls Oct. 21.