Candidates take digs at Iveson over infrastructure woes at Edmonton mayoral forum

The rule at a mayoral forum Tuesday night was no debating, but a couple of candidates took aim at incumbent Don Iveson and told the crowd why they should be Edmonton’s next mayor.

'We discourage personal attacks in the forum,' says moderator. 'Would you like to rephrase your remarks?'

Incumbent Don Iveson next to mayoral candidate Carla Frost, who exchanged heated remarks with another candidate at a forum last week. (CBC)

No debating. That was the rule at a mayoral forum Tuesday night, where 13 candidates were invited to tell the public why they should be Edmonton's next mayor.

Ten candidates and one candidate agent showed up at the forum and were expected to be civil and "respectful" while answering questions from the audience, moderator Dave Robertson told the participants.

But at least two candidates took digs at incumbent mayor Don Iveson.

About halfway through the three-hour question-and-answer marathon, Robertson cut off Neil Stephens who was taking aim at Iveson on how the city has dealt with infrastructure projects.

"Don's been on council for 10 years, some of the things he wants you to think he's going to fix tomorrow, he should have fixed yesterday," Stephens said.

"We discourage personal attacks in the forum," Robertson said. "Would you like to rephrase your remarks?"

"No, leave it as it is," Stephens responded.

Several recent projects in Edmonton, such as the Metro LRT and the Walterdale Bridge, were delayed by years.

"No one's more frustrated than us at city hall," Iveson told the crowd of about 300 people.

He said attempts to hold contractors accountable were not effective until council made changes with staff and contractors five years ago.

"I'm fully confident that projects coming online two, three, four years from now that we started will be better," Iveson insisted. "We are fixing it."

"Mr. Mayor, haven't you been on council for the last 12 years? I don't understand why you haven't fixed it earlier," responded candidate Mike Butler. 
Candidate and businessman Neil Stephens says the city is doing a poor job at handling taxpayers' money. (CBC)

Bouchier and Koziak no-shows

Accountability and transparency were raised by several candidates, with many vowing to have Edmontonians more involved in the city's decision-making process.

"City projects will be on time and on budget. Details of these situations will be made public," Steven Shewchuk said.

Fahad Mughal, a former employee at the city, said he knows where inefficiencies are and wants the city to be more accountable.

Absent were Taz Bouchier and Don Koziak.

Koziak made headlines last week when he suggested the city revisit the smoking ban in public buildings.

Tuesday's forum, the second ahead of the Oct. 16 election, was much more civil than the first on Sept. 26.

That forum started with a clash between Carla Frost and Rob Ligertwood, when Frost was caught on tape saying, "If you don't apologize to me, I'm going to knock you out," in response to Ligertwood allegedly calling her "sweetie."

No threats were heard this time, but Frost — the only woman at the forum and one of only two women running for mayor — joked in her opening statement that she's worked with many men over the years.

"They know me, they love me," she said. "My heart is open, so go ahead — call me sweetie." 

Infill an issue

Frost threw a fair amount of colour into the discussions with comments on issues like infill housing.

"I call it the sardine house," she said in reference to infill housing. "I don't approve of sardines."

The majority of candidates said they would put a moratorium on lot splitting and infill. 
Mike Butler, who's run for council in the past, says Don Iveson should have fixed infrastructure problems earlier. (CBC)

"When an infill home is so expensive that most of the people can't afford it, why do we have infill?" Mughal said.

Instead of suggesting specific policies on ways to improve the city, the candidates spent most of their brief responses complaining about past decisions. 

Bike lanes and transportation

Candidates were asked what they would do about the environment, what they think about racism in Edmonton, building a high-speed train from Edmonton to Calgary and the much-debated downtown bike lanes.

Many candidates said the bike lanes were a waste in a winter city.

"It doesn't make sense," Butler said "Let's make separate corridors."

Butler has run for council, provincial and federal politics before. He's campaigning on freezing property taxes and encouraging responsible building in the city.
10 candidates and one agent for a mayoral candidate spoke to an audience of about 300 people at Harry Ainlay High School Tuesday night. (CBC)

Iveson defended the lanes, saying similar approaches are used in other winter cities like Winnipeg.

"They are business-friendly," he said. "[The system] decongests our roads overall downtown."

Iveson said since the lanes opened in the summer, the city has seen a fourfold increase in people cycling from 1,000 to 4,000 cyclists.

"That is several thousand people who are not driving," he said.

Iveson's closing comments focused on the future of the city.

"The momentum is undeniable," he said. "We have to build like a city of a million people, cause that's just around the corner."

There will be a third mayoral forum on Wednesday, Oct. 11 ahead of voting on October 16.