With 2 weeks to go, who are the bright lights in Edmonton's municipal election campaign?

In the first of two columns on the ward races in Edmonton's municipal election, John Brennan looks at wards 1 through 6 — who's running, and who he sees as having the best chances of winning.

Handicapping the city council races in wards 1 to 6 — separating the frontrunners from the longshots

Thinking about which council candidate deserves your vote? John Brennan shares his thoughts on the contenders. (John Robertson/CBC Edmonton )

This week's column focuses on the councillor races in wards 1 through 6 in Edmonton.

They range from likely shoo-ins for some incumbents to hard fought races in the open wards where no incumbent is running.

In some wards, only candidates I view as being serious contenders are mentioned.

Ward 1

The west-end ward is currently represented by incumbent Andrew Knack. He was elected in 2013 after failed attempts in 2007 and 2010. Knack has been a solid, hardworking councillor.

He has advocated for things like the west LRT leg to Lewis Farms and the proposed northwest Edmonton recreation centre.

He has also served as council's representative on the Edmonton NextGen volunteer organization that promotes "new and emerging ideas," and the City of Edmonton youth council. Knack faced no opposition until nomination day.

Local businessman Dave Olivier is challenging Knack, focusing on the issues of property tax increases, infill, policing and community safety.

Reuben Avellana is calling for a property tax freeze and more transparency and accountability.

I expect Knack to be easily re-elected.

Ward 2

The northwest ward is currently represented by incumbentBev Esslinger. She is seeking re-election after one term on council. Esslinger is the only woman on the current council.

She has been effective, advocating for things in northwest Edmonton like the revitalization of Yellowhead Trail, extension of the northwest LRT, the proposed Blatchford neighbourhood development, and safety for women on Edmonton's transit system.

Esslinger is facing off against Shelley Tupper and Ali Haymour.

This is Tupper's fourth run for a seat on council. A retired federal public servant and a long-time community volunteer in Kensington, Tupper would in other circumstances be a strong contender. However, I just don't see her knocking off Esslinger.
Three candidates are running in Ward 2. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Haymour is an Alberta sheriff running on a platform of freezing property taxes, fighting crime, promoting safety and abolishing photo radar.

I expect Esslinger to be re-elected by a comfortable margin in Ward 2.

Ward 3

This has the potential to be an interesting race.

The north Edmonton ward is currently represented by Dave Loken.

He is seeking re-election for a third term. Before being elected for the first time in 2010, Loken ran and failed to win in 2004 and 2007.

In both 2010 and 2013 Loken won by about 500 votes over his closest competitor. In this last term, Loken championed the city's traffic safety initiative along with incumbent Bev Esslinger. He chaired the Donate-a-Ride committee and has advocated for affordable housing in his ward.

This year he is being challenged by several strong candidates.

Jon Dziadyk is an urban planner and a military officer in the naval reserves. He is calling for lower property taxes, promoting crime prevention, and reducing the use of photo radar.

John Oplanich is running for council for the second time, having failed in his first attempt in 2010. A land developer, he is focusing his campaign on freezing property taxes, crime prevention, transparency and accountability.

Both Dziadyk and Oplanich say the north part of the city is being forgotten. Both say they would be stronger advocates for north Edmonton.

Karen Principe is a dental hygienist and a dedicated community volunteer. Sarmad Rasheed is an engineer and a businessman who is also a community volunteer.

One interesting development in this campaign occurred when Mayor Don Iveson showed up on Sept. 23 to help canvas with Loken.

It is unusual for a mayoral candidate to be seen supporting a councillor candidate.

I'm not sure if this signifies that Loken thinks he is in trouble, but it does indicate that he thinks that being seen campaigning with Iveson will help his campaign.

Ward 4

Ward 4 in northeast Edmonton is an open seat this election.

It has been ably represented by outgoing councillor Ed Gibbons for five terms from 2001 to 2017.

Twelve candidates are in the race. I will be watching four candidates who I believe have the best chances to win.

Rocco Caterina is the son of Ward 7 incumbent Tony Caterina. For the last 10 years he has served as his father's executive assistant at city hall.

This has given him a lot of political experience working on his father's campaigns. It has given him a good grasp of how city hall works, and has allowed him to develop an understanding of the issues in northeast Edmonton.

The name recognition that comes from being a Caterina in northeast Edmonton can be both a help and a hindrance. But he will be a strong contender in this election.

Another formidable candidate is Aaron Paquette. He has political experience as the NDP candidate in Edmonton Manning in the 2015 federal election campaign. He goes into the campaign with name recognition and a base of support in a big chunk of the ward.

Paquette is well known to many Edmontonians as an Indigenous artist, author and educator. He is focusing his campaign on the need for "a strong voice for northeast Edmonton."
The impact of bike lanes in the downtown is a Ward 4 issue. (David Thurton/CBC)

Alison Poste is another candidate I am watching in this campaign.

She is an experienced public servant concentrating her campaign on an economic development plan for northeast Edmonton, better transit service, traffic safety and reducing the use of photo radar.

Tricia Velthuizen made waves last week with her call for a complete re-evaluation of the use of photo radar in the city.

Criticizing photo radar is a smart political tactic because taking that position resonates with a segment of the electorate. Velthuizen also has political experience. She is currently on leave from her job as a research analyst with the United Conservative Party.

Ward 5

This southwest Edmonton ward was represented by Michael Oshry this last term.

He is not seeking re-election. This ward promises to be a closely fought race between three very capable women, with a former Progressive Conservative MLA also in the mix.

Sarah Hamilton is a small business owner and communications professional who has political experience. She served as Stephen Mandel's press secretary when he was the health minister in Jim Prentice's PC government. Mandel was at Hamilton's campaign kickoff and has publicly endorsed her candidacy.

Dawn Newton also has business experience as senior manager of community affairs with Telus. She has also been an active member of the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE).

Miranda Jimmy is the program manager of the Edmonton Heritage Council. She is an Indigenous woman who has been door knocking in the ward for at least a year.

David Xiao is a wild card in this race.

Xiao is the former Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton McClung (2008-2015) in the western part of the ward. He has name recognition and campaign experience. We will see if that translates for him at the municipal level.

Several of these candidates have raised concerns about traffic impact from the west LRT, the possible use of bus rapid transit (BRT) rather than LRT; and the desire for more community input on the lot splitting that is happening for infill development.

Ward 6

Located in the core of the city, this ward is currently represented by Scott McKeen.

Ward 6 faces a broad range of issues, including poverty and homelessness in Boyle McCauley, concerns about development, the Imagine Jasper Avenue development between 109th and 124th streets, the new 102nd Avenue bike lane in Oliver, and concerns about infill in the western part of the ward.

McKeen benefits from strong name recognition, as a councillor and as a former columnist with the Edmonton Journal. He was elected to council in 2013 after losing to Tony Caterina in Ward 7 in 2010.

McKeen has been a strong advocate for the downtown and Oliver but may face a challenge in Boyle McCauley and the western part of the ward.
Each of 12 wards in Edmonton will be represented by one councillor and the mayor. (Supplied: City of Edmonton)

He has faced a strong backlash from the business community in Chinatown over his support for the proposed safe injection sites in Boyle McCauley.

In the western part of the ward there is a lot of concern about lot splitting for the building of skinny homes in places like Westmount and Glenora.

Tish Prouse is a small business owner who ran unsuccessfully for council in Ward 7 in 2013.

He has been door-knocking in the ward since the spring. Prouse is focusing his campaign on homelessness — a big issue in Boyle McCauley — and on property tax increases, "the destructive approach to infill," and accountability at city hall.

Local businessman and philanthropist Bill Knight is running on a platform that is critical of the city's approach to infill, road and alley maintenance, and crime and safety.

Next week I will look at the councillor races in Wards 7 to 12.

About the Author

John Brennan


John Brennan is a political scientist who has served as a strategic adviser/executive assistant to two Edmonton mayors, Don Iveson and Jan Reimer, and as a senior special assistant/deputy chief of staff to a federal cabinet minister. A participant and observer of politics in Edmonton for more than 30 years, Brennan will provide insight about the Edmonton municipal election throughout the campaign.