Mayor Don Iveson on the province, photo radar, and LRT delays
Don Iveson is still getting used the title he won in October 2013. Sometimes he forgets to respond when people call him the mayor. And definitely don’t call him “Your Worship.”
“Your worship is really awkward,” Iveson said in a year-end interview with CBC News. “No one has taken to calling me the Lord Mayor of Edmonton, to my great disappointment.”
It's one of many things he plans to work on in the new year, Iveson joked.
In the interview with the CBC’s Mark Connolly, the mayor also spoke about more serious issues including frustrations over the constant turmoil at the Alberta legislature. He also discussed some of the year’s biggest stories at city hall, including the great photo radar debate and the delayed opening of the Metro LRT line.
On the greatest frustrations of the job
Mayor Don Iveson: Well, there’s no doubt that the province has been difficult to work with throughout the last year and a bit since I got elected because we’ve had three premiers, three different ministers of municipal affairs, a lot of turmoil. Though I’ll be honest that seems to be shifting now.
There’s stability at the legislature, at least as far as our relationship with government is concerned. The premier hasn't changed, and the key ministers we work with like the minister of municipal affairs, Diana McQueen — she's been phenomenal to work with. As a former mayor herself, she really understands it. It's been very tumultuous, we've lost some ground on things like the city charter because of the turmoil but we've started to make it back up again...things are good with the provincial government in a way that they weren’t for the first part of my time as mayor.
On the photo radar controversy
In October, an anti-photo radar petition made headlines for weeks, as critics spoke out about the flaws of the program. The outcry eventually led council to change the way it spends photo radar revenue, but not before Iveson shot back.
Mark Connolly CBC: One of my favourite quotes of the year was “I’m a lawmaker. I make laws. Not to be casually obeyed as it suits you.”
Mayor Don Iveson: Well, and there was some dispute about that.
Mark Connolly CBC: Was that an accurate quote?
Mayor Don Iveson: It is. And what I meant by that, was that city council assembles and we make legislation. We pass bylaws that establish speed limits, and we do them for reasons of public safety...
When people travel faster than those speed limits they put themselves and others at risk. And that can cause accidents, which causes delays in the system for everybody and causes costs to our city, costs to that individual, costs to our insurance system, and ultimately costs to health care and disruption to families when people are ill or worse yet, if they die in accidents.
Unfortunately, we’re still seeing too much speeding in our city and I’m passionate about this because I think, you know, all of this is preventable. All of this is preventable if people obey the rules of the road and we put them there for everybody's safety.
On the delays to the Metro LRT line
People waiting for a train to NAIT and the Royal Alexandra Hospital were put off three times this year. The line, which was originally supposed to open in in the spring of 2014, was delayed because of problems with the signally system. The contractor, Thales Group, has given the city no firm idea of when the line will be ready for passengers.
Mark Connolly CBC: Do you get on the phone and yell at people about this sort of thing?
Mayor Don Iveson: No, I asked them to come to my office so I can do it to their face. And I flew to Ottawa actually, for some other business, but did speak to the president of the company there. And we had a forthright conversation about my frustration with this and my expectations for completion of the job in a timely fashion.
Mark Connolly CBC: We’re spending billions on one that’s going to go all over the city, and if these guys can’t do this part, are they going to be delivering on contracts for those other parts?
Mayor Don Iveson: That’s not for me to say at this point, but the way we’re going to procure the southeast line using the P3, is going to potentially prevent this kind of thing from happening again. But I don’t want to speculate about that. At this point, our key objective is to complete this project. But to complete it, it has to work safely and they haven’t been able to pass all of the safety tests yet.
But they continue to test, they continue to refine it, and everybody’s objective from the city side is to work with them in order to facilitate completion of their project and the system that they have agreed to provide to us.
In the meantime, I've asked our city auditor to go in and review what happened and see what, from a city side, we can learn about enhancing our approach to managing projects like this and understand who needs to be held accountable internally for anything that went wrong.