The game’s afoot! The time is now to demand candidates reveal their donors, not after the Oct. 16 municipal election

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PHOTOS: St. Albert’s renowned city hall, designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal, formally known as St. Albert Place. Below: The three candidates for mayor who are now now officially in the race, Cathy Heron, Cam MacKay and Malcolm Parker.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Is it just my imagination, or does the number of people seeking public office in municipal elections here in Alberta keep going up?

Yesterday was Nomination Day for municipal elections pretty well everywhere in the province, only summer villages excepted, and the number of people desperate for a real job on a city council is pretty astounding.

Here in St. Albert, a bedroom suburb 70,000 souls northwest of Edmonton with its own municipal government, there are now 29 candidates for council if you count the three running for mayor. There are six seats on council, filled by the top six vote getters in an at-large election.

There is only one mayor, of course, even if one of the candidates to fill the job occupied for the past decade by Nolan Crouse recently didn’t seem to have completely come to terms with the concept one has to win an election before filling the job. Mr. Crouse is not seeking re-election.

If you add in the candidates for public and Catholic school board trustees in St. Albert, the total rises to 42. But that’s nothing compared to Alberta’s big cities, of course.

A total of 105 optimistic souls signed up to run for city council, including nine running for mayor, in Calgary (pop. 1.2 million; 15 seats if you count the mayor). There are a mere 83 running for council, 13 of them for mayor, in the city of Edmonton (pop. 933,000; 13 council seats if you count the mayor.)

Calgary’s Returning Officer, Laura Kennedy, called this kind of turnout “an indicator of a strong democracy.” Could be, I guess, but it sounds more like damning commentary on the gig economy, if you ask me.

The Alberta municipal candidacy with the most potential for interesting questions at all-candidates’ meetings this go round is probably that of Mike Allen, the avid clarinetist and former Progressive Conservative MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. In 2013 on an official MLA visit to Minneapolis, Mr. Allen ignored the advice of a caucus colleague and skipped some excellent local museums to get caught up in a police prostitution sting instead.

Eventually, Mr. Allen pleaded guilty and paid a fine, but the incident pretty well put paid to his political career. Hope springs eternal, however, and the former music teacher, now 55, has thrown his hat in the ring for a return to Fort Mac’s city council. He told the CBC he thinks voters have put the scandal behind them. We shall see about that.

Meanwhile, back here in St. Albert, the town’s streets were already starting to look cluttered with election signs minutes after the noon deadline to submit nominations at City Hall.

Citizens will complain mightily about this mess, but if history is any guide, they’ll vote for the candidates with the most and biggest signs. Likewise, there will be plenty of talk about throwing all of the bums out, but history also shows incumbency is a powerful advantage, here as elsewhere.

A more serious problem, since big signs cost big money, is the financing of municipal candidates – which makes incumbent Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s challenge to his competitors yesterday an interesting one.

“I will not just encourage, but challenge every other candidate for every office to reveal the names of their donors before the election,” Mr. Nenshi said. “It is fundamental to democracy. Quite frankly, if you have not revealed the names of your donors, no one should vote for you.”

Mr. Nenshi knows quite well, of course, that his best funded challengers will not want to reveal their connections to the “Sprawl Cabal,” the group of well-heeled developers working through the far-right Manning Centre to unseat him and other progressive municipal politicians in the city to the south.

I think we should ask all our candidates here in St. Albert the same strongly worded question, and take note if they refuse to answer.

This, it is said here, would have a highly salutary effect on the ability of residents to decide for whom they should vote – and the responses are likely to tell us far more about what candidates are likely to do in office than the anodyne bromides typically delivered up in campaign literature and on election signs.

Another helpful guide to future performance in office in the Age of Facebook may be the past social media posts of various candidates. Since sensible candidates scrub their social media pages in advance of each election, one can only hope that public-spirited citizens have taken measures to ensure a few such historical artifacts have been preserved.

As the Bard had Harry, King of England, say: “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot!”

The election will take place on Oct. 16, 2017. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

2017 St. Albert Municipal Election Candidates

For Mayor

Cathy Heron, Cam MacKay, Malcolm Parker

For City Councillor (six positions)

Sandyne Beach-McCutcheon, Allan Bohachyk, Wes Brodhead, Jan Butler, Craig Cameron, Gilbert Cantin, Mark Cassidy, Jacy Eberlein, Jacquie Hansen, Sheena Hughes, Charlene (Berard) Jelinski, Natalie Joly, Shayne Kawalilak, Mark Kay, Ken MacKay, Pamela McIntosh, Ufuoma Odebala-Fregene, Nestor Andrew Petriw, Hannes Rudolph, Bob Russell, Steve Stone, Tash Taylor, Jaye Walter, Ray Watkins, Leonard Wilkins, Barry Zukewich

For Public School Trustee

Kim Armstrong, Cheryl Dumont, Glenys Edwards, Stanley Haroun, Marcus Hoople, Calli Stromner, Sherri Wright

For Catholic School Trustee (Ward 1, St. Albert City)

Joe Becigneul, Brigitte Cecelia, Joan Crockett, Austin Gerein, Greg Schell, Serena Shaw

NOTE: The lists above are not yet official. Candidates have 24 hours to to withdraw their candidacy. The city of St. Albert will post an official list some time today. The numbers for Edmonton and Calgary had to be revised slightly, to account for last-minute dropouts.

 

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