Edmonton

Economic recovery and the Edmonton election: Compare the mayoral platforms 

Plans to revitalize Edmonton’s economy and boost local businesses form major parts of many mayoral candidates’ platforms.

Reducing red tape, supporting local business are common themes

Startup Edmonton kicked off on Monday virtually. (David Bajer/CBC)

Edmonton's mayoral candidates have been busy promoting their plans to reduce red tape and support local businesses.

Their desire to fire up economic recovery in the city will likely resonate with many voters in the Oct. 18 municipal election, based on the feedback from focus group discussions facilitated by CBC Edmonton and pollster Janet Brown.

But generating such a recovery requires big thinking and not just "quicker wins" of efforts like streamlining the permit process, says Shauna Brail, an economic geographer and associate professor at the Institute for Management & Innovation at the University of Toronto.

Aspiring leaders focused on economic development should be thinking about improving Edmonton's ability to attract residents, companies and investment, she said. These will pay off in the long run by strengthening relationships with other levels of government and building Edmonton's reputation.

"This kind of change can take a lot longer but you have to continue to build on it," she said.

CBC Edmonton examined all the mayoral candidates' platform commitments related to economic recovery, as well as some of their comments in public debates, campaign materials and interviews. Though not exhaustive, these summaries provide a snapshot of how the candidates approach these issues.

Rick Comrie

In his platform, Comrie suggests reducing or eliminating paid parking in some areas as a way of encouraging Edmontonians to visit local businesses.

Comrie has also promised to streamline licensing requirements for entrepreneurs, and eliminate Vision Zero — a city goal of preventing traffic fatalities and injuries. He believes Vision Zero "compounds economic hardship" and said during a candidate forum that people who spend money use vehicles, not bicycles or scooters.

Brian (Breezy) Gregg

Gregg's platform is called "Building a Caring Economy."

He has proposed developing a commercial greenhouse district around the city and promoting local businesses.

Kim Krushell

In a recent candidate forum on economic growth, Krushell called economic recovery a core pillar of her platform.

She has committed to zero per cent tax increases for two years, arguing that Edmonton is at risk of losing businesses and residents to surrounding areas with different tax rates.

Krushell's approach to innovation and technology focuses on collaboration. She has promised to work to attract more tech competitions and Esports events to the city, develop a tech strategy with provincial partners and help connect tech companies with investors. 

Krushell has also promised to partner with arts and culture organizations to build or renovate permanent performance spaces in five city parks, remove barriers for cannabis tourism and make it easier for festivals to obtain space and licences.

Augustine Marah

In a campaign YouTube video, Marah said that economic revitalization and diversification are among his biggest priorities. 

He is suggesting working with other branches of government to build rapid-rail between Edmonton and Calgary — an infrastructure project he said "will create a natural flow of economic activity."

Mike Nickel

Nickel's platform lists "restoring Edmonton as Canada's economic engine" as one of his top priorities.

He has promised to reduce taxes for businesses and homeowners by 3.3 per cent, in part by reducing the amount of money the city spends on consultants and middle managers. 

Nickel has campaigned on making the permit process for businesses more efficient, with clear timelines, improved customer service and a permit checklist.

Nickel is looking to create "cultural economic zones" that are exempt from property taxes to support the city's film and music industries. He said he would work with Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis to allow bars, pubs and lounges with live music to be open until 3:30 a.m. He has also said public art contracts should go to artists who have lived or worked in the city for at least a decade.

Nickel's platform also includes using low-cost online advertising to expand festivals and boost tourism.

Michael Oshry

One of Oshry's campaign flyers says he would lead Edmonton — "once a centre of growth" — back "to a place of confidence and certainty."

Like Nickel, Oshry has said he would create a business-friendly city by guaranteeing timelines for permits and business licences. His platform also includes automatic approvals for downtown applications. 

Oshry's social procurement plan calls for creating a day labour social enterprise, which would match work-seekers with contract work, and requiring companies bidding on government contracts to include apprenticeships and training for lower-skilled workers. This plan would also require employers to hire a certain percentage of people with barriers to employment.

Oshry has promised to establish an innovation investment fund, expand a program that supports small business owners, create a clean technology investors alliance, redevelop west Rossdale (with "minimal" city spending) and expand the city's event strategy.

He has also committed to producing an annual economic competitiveness report that compares Edmonton to other cities.

Edmonton's municipal election is on Oct. 18. (David Bajer/CBC)

Amarjeet Sohi

Sohi's platform says being a champion for Edmonton's businesses is one of a mayor's "most important responsibilities."

Sohi has promised to create a business advocate office to help small and medium businesses (including those run by people in marginalized groups) succeed. Some of the office's duties would include supporting business owners with permit and licence questions, encouraging businesses to bid on local contracts, providing translation services and facilitating training and mentorship programs.

Sohi has promised to create an innovation fund, with money going to companies that create jobs in Edmonton or to local companies, start-ups and social enterprises. 

Sohi has also said he would establish a permanent mayor's council on business growth and work to remove permit delays with the goal of providing the fastest average permit delivery time among big Canadian cities.

Diana Steele

In an interview with the Business and Professional Women's Club of Edmonton, Steele said saving small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic was one of her top two priorities.

She has promised to offer "enticing" tax rates for business retention and attraction and "promote and support local business like we never have before."

Cheryll Watson 

Watson has promised to formalize a partnership with Calgary to support innovation organizations, collaborate on economic development, participate in economic events and support a privately developed high-speed transportation system between the two cities.

Her platform says within her first 100 days as mayor, she would arrange discussions with business and economic leaders from Edmonton and Calgary.

Her platform calls for "co-ordinated, equitable investment" to help local businesses succeed. 

She has also committed to designate downtown as a central business neighbourhood, put a one-year moratorium on business licence fees for small- and medium-sized businesses, and invest in an alternative energy carbon neutral accelerator program and an energy alternatives centre.


Two candidates' names will appear on the mayoral ballot but are not included in this list.

Vanessa Denman does not appear to have a campaign website and did not respond to a request for her platform last week and Malik Chukwudi has endorsed Mike Nickel for mayor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Cummings joined CBC Edmonton in 2018. You can reach her at madeleine.cummings@cbc.ca

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