Alberta premier says he will work with new mayors of Calgary and Edmonton

Premier Jason Kenney says municipal politics shouldn’t be partisan so he plans to work with the newly elected mayors of Calgary and Edmonton regardless of their ideologies. 

Outgoing mayors Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson spoke of lack of cooperation from UCP government

Jyoti Gondek, left, and Amarjeet Sohi, are the newly elected mayors of Calgary and Edmonton. (Barbara Blakey, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Premier Jason Kenney says municipal politics shouldn't be partisan and he plans to work with the newly elected mayors of Calgary and Edmonton regardless of their ideologies. 

"I respect the choices that voters make," Kenney said at a news conference on Tuesday. "Our government will work with all of the mayors and councillors elected to try to move in the same direction, obviously in addressing the COVID crisis, but in economic growth and recovery emerging from it."

Jyoti Gondek in Calgary and Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton defeated high-profile candidates Jeromy Farkas and Mike Nickel who were more aligned with Kenney's conservative ideology. 

Sohi is a former Liberal MP and cabinet minister. Gondek, who was first elected to Calgary city council in 2017, has been critical of the Alberta government's policies to contain COVID-19. 

The election of new mayors and council allows Kenney a chance to reset the relationship between his government and the province's two largest cities. 

The outgoing mayors of Calgary and Edmonton have found their progressive agendas put them in conflict with Kenney and his UCP government. 

Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson said their councils needed to step up last summer to take action as COVID-19 cases started surging. Both men said the provincial government was missing in action. 

Kenney has frequently criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since he entered Alberta provincial politics in 2016 with this campaign to lead the former Progressive Conservative party and unite it with the Wildrose Party. 

Sohi's stint in Trudeau's cabinet briefly overlapped with Kenney's time in the premier's office. 

From Sohi's account of Kenney's phone call late Monday night, the Alberta premier appears to be taking a more conciliatory tone. Sohi said Kenney talked about his work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and orphan well cleanup. 

"He acknowledges that when I was in Ottawa I always tried to do my best to defend the interest of Albertans," Sohi said at a news conference Tuesday. "We haven't always agreed on some policy proposals but I have always been very respectful.

"I have never engaged in partisanship politics or have not engaged in personal attacks. And that is what I will absolutely continue to practice. So I look forward to working with the premier and his government."

Child care

Gondek told CBC Power and Politics on Tuesday that she is interested in building a strong relationship with Kenney and his government and believes the city has similar interests to the province. 

She wants the government to focus on housing affordability and giving cities a greater share of tax revenue. 

She also wants Alberta to sign the affordable child-care deal with the federal government as a way to get women back into the workforce. Gondek said if the province can't reach a deal, she's interested in reaching out to Ottawa on behalf of the city of Calgary. 

"Absolutely, and I would be interested in working with other mayors across the province to see if that's a model that we can all leverage to ensure that our families in our cities are being taken care of," she said. 

Gondek said cities used to be cut out of discussions on housing with Ottawa but that changed with the Rapid Housing Funding model launched by the federal government last year. 


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