On references versus endorsements


To be clear, I am not endorsing anyone in this civic election.

I am not comfortable telling voters where to place their X.

To my mind, an endorsement is a partisan pledge of support to a specific candidate, along with a plea for voters to follow suit.

Instead, I’ve been asked and I’ve provided some candidates with reference quotes, but only if I know them and their work.

Is this fair? Shouldn’t I just keep my mouth shut? Perhaps. But I keep getting asked for advice on the “best” candidate. So, as they say in 12-Step groups: Take what you need from the following and leave the rest.

I provided a reference to Anne Stevenson, who is running in O-Day’min.

Anne is someone I observed closely during her time as a city planner and when she moved to Right At Home Housing, the co-sponsor of the leading-edge supportive housing facility Ambrose Place. She’s been brilliant in both roles.

But again, I’m not asking you to vote for Stevenson. Consider my reference quote as one man’s experience and opinion. Voters need to look into Stevenson’s experience, philosophy, education, priorities … and use their own values to see if they match.

So what can I say about the other O-Day’min candidates? Sadly, less. It’s simply because I didn’t experience or witness their work in career or community at all, or as much. These are the best references I can give today:

Gabrielle Battiste was the executive director of the Edmonton Police Commission for part of my time as a police commissioner. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about that work, as commission dealings are often confidential. What I can say is that Gabrielle is bright, hardworking and tough as nails in her advocacy for voiceless folks.

Naima Haile is a staunch community advocate for the people of Central McDougall and especially the oft-forgotten African newcomer community. She is fearless in working to break down barriers between newcomers and old institutions to create new and diverse partnerships and communities.

I have talked to candidates Gino Akbari, Adrian Bruff and Joshua Wolchansky. Both Gino and Joshua reached out to me more than once for background on issues in the ward. Adrian, who volunteered for a time on my 2017 election campaign, chatted this summer while watching live music at Taste of Edmonton.

All three of these men come across as smart, affable and keenly interested in the issues of the ward. But to make the point again: I have not witnessed their past work first hand.

I would say, though, that I’d be comfortable if any of the folks listed above were to represent me — us — on city council.

But what about Tony Caterina? It’s true that Tony and I often voted differently on major issues. We’ve crossed swords occasionally in council. But so what? From the email I received these past four years it’s clear that some constituents were not on side with my votes either.

I don’t know Tony well outside of the political arena. What I do know is that he has fought hard in budget meetings for his ward and I’d expect him to do the same if he’s elected in O-Day’min. To be clear, if I haven’t been already, I’m not telling anyone to vote for or against Tony or any of the other candidates. I hope people go to the candidates’ websites and dig more into their platforms.

Please don’t expect them to have detailed answers to every possible civic issue. But I’d encourage you to email them to get a better sense of their values and early thoughts about issues.

Then, whatever you do, please vote.

One More Thing: I have also provided reference quotes to people in other races — people who I’d worked with in one fashion or another over the years.

That list includes Glynnis Lieb, Scott Johnston, Harman Kandola and Trisha Estabrooks.

By Scott McKeen, City Councillor Ward 6