Many of you will be shocked to hear me say this, but Keith Gerein is right!
If you don’t know Keith, he is a columnist at the Edmonton Journal, and he wrote a piece entitled “Secret mayoral debate the latest blow to transparency in Edmonton’s election” which you can read here: link.
Let’s look at what Keith had to say. He wrote:
…the debate was an entirely private, invite-only event held Thursday evening in a swanky Downtown hotel ballroom. Transparency to the public was clearly not one of the priorities, adding to a disturbing trend in this election that I’ll elaborate on shortly.
Kim Krushell, Amarjeet Sohi, Cheryll Watson and Michael Oshry were the guests of honour for the exclusive shindig, which featured an hour-long discussion followed by up to two and half hours of schmoozing.
If you know me well, you will know I’m not a very good politician. I don’t like schmoozing. I like meeting people for lunch or coffee and I love door knocking.
Keith goes on to write:
Part of me understands the candidates’ motivation to take part. A gathering of wealthy movers and shakers like this can provide both donations and influence.
But the cost in optics also has to be considered. This is the kind of thing that leads people to become cynical about politics and politicians, because it comes into the vicinity of paid access to power.
He is spot on here. Now, I’m going to be completely honest. I am not the candidate of choice of most in the old boys club that brought Mandel and Iveson to power. I consider many of them (not all) to be elitist and it is one of the main reasons I am running. For too many years special interest groups have gamed the system at City Hall. Need proof? How about this recent article discussing the $23 million in free grants giving to wealthy downtown developers. I voted against this, because I am tired of City Hall using taxes from struggling small and medium companies and handing it over to their wealthier competitors.
It is wrong and no, I won’t bend the knee.
Keith almost gives me a compliment…. almost! He writes:
By the way, Mike Nickel was the no-show at Thursday’s debate. I was inclined to applaud him for steering clear of it, but then I remembered that Nickel hasn’t made himself available lately in any other public format to answer questions from the media or voters, or have direct discussions with his opponents.
When CTV, CBC, Global, etc. call I most certainly give an interview. In fact, I have conducted virtually every interview request I have been asked, including independent community publications. Keith to be fair, you are an opinion columnist, and in two terms I haven’t seen you reach out to create an equitable relationship with myself.
Maybe our relationship will change, but it takes two to tango. I also host weekly and public podcasts where people can ask questions of me in real time. Most days I return hundreds of calls and emails to constituents and voters. I really try to be very accessible. I even hosted a public BBQ a few weeks ago where over 250 people showed up.
For the reasons Keith stated above, I did not attend the event. Mayoral forums must be independent and must be hosted by a journalist or moderator with a strong track record.
I feel this debate was put on for one candidate in particular, Michael Oshry. In my opinion he is the candidate of choice for the backroom boys and ol’ Clan Mandel. I find it an odd choice that so many smooth operators would go this route, because internal polling is clear that Oshry is not a serious candidate. You would think the power players would pick someone with a bit more charisma and positivity like Krushell… all well.
Here is an excerpt from Dustin Cook’s article on the debate:
The evening got off to a combative start as Oshry left his seat during the opening remarks to address the audience at a podium across the stage.
This is how I thought this forum would go… another circus act from Oshry to try and enter the race and take his campaign off of life support. Oshry found himself some willing participants, but it was a no from me.
I’m looking forward to a great mayoral debate this fall. As many of the journalists have said (article 1 and article 2), this is a race between myself and Sohi (although Krushell is right on his heels). Let’s give the people what they want to see. Stay tuned.