Amarjeet Sohi elected Edmonton's first mayor of South Asian origin
New city council will have 8 women; 4 incumbent councillors defeated
Former city councillor and federal Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi will become Edmonton's first mayor of South Asian origin.
Sohi, who was born in Punjab, India in 1964, rolled to a commanding victory in Monday's municipal election. With more than 98 per cent of voting stations reporting, Sohi had a lead of 45,273 votes over Mike Nickel, his closest challenger.
Sohi will lead a council with eight women, up from two on the previous council.
Four incumbents went down to defeat — Tony Caterina, Jon Dziadyk, Moe Banga and Bev Esslinger.
Sohi, 57, delivered his victory speech at the Matrix Hotel in downtown Edmonton with his wife, Sarbjeet, and their daughter, Seerat, by his side.
He spoke about immigrating to Canada at the age of 18 with little in the way of material possessions.
"I had a mission and dreams to build a better life in a new home, dreams that sometimes seemed impossible," he said.
"And today because of you, because of everyone in this room, we have made the impossible possible."
Sohi also acknowledged the challenges Edmontonians have been facing in the past few years and said he's committed to building a thriving city.
He vowed to tackle racism and discrimination "on our streets and in our institutions," and said vulnerable city residents won't be left behind.
"So let's get to work; let's build a city that's a place of opportunity for all."
Sohi had more than 45 per cent of the overall votes, compared to Nickel's 25 per cent.
Voter turnout was 36.6 per cent, Edmonton Elections said.
Sohi was up against 10 other candidates in the mayoral race.
Asks for help from province
He is set to become Edmonton's 36th mayor, replacing Don Iveson, who served two terms as mayor starting in 2013 and didn't run this time around.
Kim Krushell was in third place with more than 17 per cent of the vote. Michael Oshry was in fourth place with six per cent of the vote.
Like Sohi, Nickel, Krushell and Oshry are all former city councillors.
Sohi said the city will need help from the provincial government to continue fighting the fourth wave of COVID-19, to help end homelessness and to help support mental health.
Edmonton will also need help from the province "to fight a drug-poisoning epidemic that's claiming the lives of neighbours, friends and family members at a record and unconscionable rate," he said. "It must stop."
Council has a new look
Incumbent Tony Caterina lost to Anne Stevenson in Ward O-day'min, while incumbent Jon Dziadyk lost to Karen Principe in Ward tastawiyiniwak.
Incumbent Moe Banga lost to Jo-Anne Wright in Ward Sspomitapi.
Stevenson and Principe will be joined on council by other newcomers Michael Janz in Ward papastew, Ashley Salvador in Ward Métis and Keren Tang in Ward Karhiio.
Voters re-elected incumbents Aaron Paquette in Ward Dene, Tim Cartmell in Ward pihêsiwin, Andrew Knack in Ward Nakota Isga and Sarah Hamilton in Ward sipiwiyiniwak.
On Tuesday morning, with all polls reporting, results were in for two of the tightest races of the election — wards Anirniq and Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi.
Erin Rutherford has been named the winner In Ward Anirniq, defeating incumbent Bev Esslinger by 266 votes.
In Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, Jennifer Rice narrowly defeated Rhiannon Hoyle by 39 votes.
All results are unofficial. They are to be confirmed by noon on Oct. 22.
Former MP, bus driver
First elected to Edmonton city council in 2007, Sohi spent eight years as a councillor before making a run for federal politics as a Liberal in 2015.
He was elected Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Sohi to his first cabinet as minister of infrastructure and communities.
Sohi took over the natural resources portfolio in 2018. He has been an advocate for investment in Edmonton's LRT system.
A former bus driver for Edmonton Transit, Sohi has been teaching collaborative and inclusive leadership at MacEwan University since 2019.
Nickel concedes defeat
Nickel, a vocal critic of LRT expansion and the city's spending decisions, campaigned on tax cuts and enhancing safety and community policing.
He conceded defeat in a speech to his supporters, and said that he "and no one else" bears responsibility for the loss.
"We fought the good fight," said Nickel, 56.
"To all the volunteers and donors, let's be clear. This has not been a waste. You have given voice to thousands upon thousands of Edmontonians who wanted real change, who wanted real change in this city.
"This campaign was about freedom and opportunity for the ordinary Edmontonian. And this campaign gave voice to change."