As promised, here’s the EDGE slate for Monday’s double elections. The editorial team arrived at these choices through a process of deliberation and observation. After watching debates, writing about the candidates and the issues and reading and listening to other media, we each came in with our favourite picks. Then, the horse-trading began. For mayor we were all in agreement. For council, there were only three or four choices we had in common. The rest were arrived at partially through a process of elimination, partially through an attempt to pick a hypothetical council where different political stances were balanced against each other to give council the most well-rounded vision. In the end, we couldn’t agree to settle on the eighth position, as we explain below.
Before you cry bias, here is our rationale. EDGE aims to be a place people go for news, but also informed opinion and analysis. As a team, we’ve been following the elections closely and have been watching City Hall and writing about it for some time. We’re not telling you this is who you ought to vote for, or that this is who is going to win. This is who our team has assembled after much discussion, as the most balanced and potentially functional council that can be put together from those citizens who are running.
A number of solid candidates did not make our list, as our aim wasn’t to pick the best candidates per se, but to find a balance between right and left wing candidates – something necessary if city council is to represent the spectrum of political opinions in Yellowknife. You’ll also note two IserveU candidates made our list. As a team we’re largely unsure about the value of the system and a couple of us doubt whether it will be around in a year’s time. But in its current form, it appears to pose little risk. As such we’ve considered the IserveU candidates on their own merits.*
Before voting, we strongly suggest you check out all the candidate profiles we’ve done at EDGE and stories written and broadcast by other media.
We’re glad that John Himmelman tossed his hat in the ring; a politician winning by acclamation is rarely a good thing. But Heyck, though not perfect, is clearly a man who understands how City Hall and municipalities work, and who has a defined vision for Yellowknife’s future that we are broadly, very broadly, in agreement with.
In alphabetical order (with the exception of the eighth seat):
Articulate and experienced, Rebecca Alty would be a solid, if not spectacular member of our hypothetical council. She hasn’t always been the most impressive councillor; her remarks are often short and she doesn’t tend to wade into the thick of debates. Instead she uses much of her speaking time asking questions of administration and getting them to explain complicated motions and their associated costs. That, however, isn’t a bad thing. Having an experienced person who knows what questions to ask makes her a valuable addition to council.
On any given issue before council, Adrian Bell tends to be the best-prepared person in the room. He does his homework and comes to council with well-thought-out opinions and questions to administration. Though leaning to the right on a majority of issues, he tends to be open to compromise with the left-leaning aspects of council. And of all the incumbents, Bell is the biggest champion of downtown revitalization, something we believe in strongly here at EDGE.
A council without Niels Konge? Now wouldn’t that be dull. Beyond the fact that Konge is consistently the most entertaining councillor to watch, as a builder, he’s an important pro-development voice on council. Yes, his small-government, anti-tax line of thinking can veer towards dogmatism, and sometimes he appears to oppose ideas simply to be contrarian. But City Hall needs people like him as a counterpoint to administration’s (understandable) desire to funnel more taxpayer money towards pet projects.
We believe Shauna Morgan would fill the important space on council left by Dan Wong; solidly left-leaning, anti-sprawl and environmentally minded. We can’t say Morgan stood out during the debates, but in interviews with media she’s championed innovative ideas like the energy retrofits program (she did, after all, write the City’s strategy for energy retrofits while working for Pembina). Morgan seems like a good representative for Yellowknife’s progressive, Old Town, constituency. And with experience as a negotiator, she will hopefully be able to find common ground with the more pro-business elements on council.
Julian Morse’s campaign has been full of big ideas and big rhetoric: vision, vision, vision. Sometimes it veers towards the improbable, as with his championing of a local university. But his advocacy for a housing-first strategy to end homelessness and promotion of the energy retrofits program are on point. He stood out during the debates, offering well-researched and well-articulated points of view on a range of topics. And having someone who dreams big on council is never a bad thing.
Initially considered to be off our radar, Dane Mason made this list after several strong performances during the debates. He seems to be intelligent and articulate, and he’s been airing some interesting new ideas, like moving the library to the empty Bellanca building to provide a street level facility without the cost of building a new structure. His promise to donate his councillor’s salary is admirable, if grandiloquent. And his ability to stay poised and level-headed in the face of pointed opposition to IserveU during public debates bodes well for his performance during heated council debates. While we think his no tax increase promises are wrongheaded before the budget is tabled, the fact he’s running for IserveU suggests he’s open to having his mind changed.
Rommel Silverio is a bit of a wild card. After watching his debates and media appearances, it’s still not totally clear where Silverio sits on the political spectrum. However he represents a voice which needs to be heard at City Hall: Yellowknife’s large and growing Filipino community specifically, and new Canadians more broadly. As he said at Wednesday’s forum, the Filipino community “have never been contacted for municipal things that they want to be part of.” Silverio, we hope, can be that bridge. Like Mason, his zero-tax pledge at the Chamber of Commerce debate is dubious, especially when combined with his populist remarks about giving people a library if they want. But like Mason, we expect he will be open to compromise.
Thom Jarvis / Linda Bussey
As a team we couldn’t reach a consensus on this final place on the slate. Linda Bussey was suggested as vocal supporter of social justice issues. Furthermore, we agreed that it was important to have francophone representation and more female voices on council. However, members of the team felt she’d been a generally ineffective councillor during the last term.
Thom Jarvis was suggested as an alternative. He’s articulate and well cued into Yellowknife’s business community – something important for navigating the sometimes-turbulent relationship between City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce. However we couldn’t choose him without qualification, as his addition would tip the balance of our hypothetical council too far to the right. Plus we weren’t impressed that he skipped the Alternatives North debate and did not (unlike the other pro-business newcomer Jugjit More-Curran) send in written responses.
For a more detailed exegesis on why we’ve chosen the incumbent, check out our colleague Jack Danylchuk’s piece. Not all of us agree with all of what Jack has to say, but it’s close enough.
* Full disclosure: Paige Saunders, founder of IserveU, is a partner in Verge Communications, which owns EDGE, and EDGE publisher Brent Reaney is a communications advisor to the project. However, EDGE’s coverage of IserveU has remained editorially independent.