There have been a number of endorsements in the news cycle this week. And of course, endorsements of political candidates are nothing new.
But as I’ve watched the rollout of the recent endorsements by our current Mayor, the responses, and the possible related contraventions of our Council Code of Conduct―specifically, Part G: 6―I’ve taken some time to reflect on my own position on the matter.
And here’s what it boils down to for me: democracy, at its core, is about the unimpeded will of the people. And this is particularly true at the municipal level―a non-partisan, one-person, one-vote governance model, by design. To make an endorsement while in a position of power is an attempt―either implied or explicit―at influencing the outcome of an election. Sure, you could argue it’s nothing but a strong recommendation from someone on his way out, who knows a thing or two about the role in question. But for me, it’s the duty of a leader to stay out of the fray when it comes to “grey areas.” After all, perception is reality. And one of my guiding principles is a simple one, and it’s always served me well: if in doubt, just don’t do it.
So today, I’m extending my no-slate pledge to include endorsements, if elected as your next Mayor. If I’m elected, I commit to you, Edmonton’s voters, that I will not endorse any political candidates at any level while I hold that office. I will let the voice of the people be heard without my intervention.
And once in office, I’ll work with all of my Council colleagues, and invite all viewpoints and perspectives, with only one objective in mind: getting the very best for our city. Because I believe that having diverse, and sometimes opposing, views at the Council table is an asset, not a liability. I’m not afraid of people who don’t agree with me―a value I lived by as a Councillor and as a business owner. I welcome those challenges.
These endorsements, like candidate slates themselves, stand in direct opposition to the often-touted declarations of dedication to diversity. At the end of the day, to champion a select group of hand-picked candidates, in the very nature of the act, is to work against any organically-occurring diversity – through votes cast by Edmontonians – around the Council table. I believe that Edmontonians are a diverse group of people and should be represented according to their choices, not a governing body falsely orchestrated by individuals currently holding, or exiting, seats of power.
With the talk of real or potential candidate slates, the threat of groupthink in our next Council already looms. In my view, to reinforce that outcome in service of a personal or ideological agenda is just plain wrong. I made transparency and accountability one of my core leadership commitments for a reason: I think it’s essential for a functional and solution-oriented government, and essential to good leadership. I will always put the democratic choice of the people above any political or partisan maneuvering. At best, to do otherwise is disingenuous and suspect. At worst, it’s an overt manipulation of the system.
I also call on the Integrity Commissioner to make a ruling on the possible violation of our Council Code of Conduct. Edmontonians deserve clarity.
Regardless of the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling (or not), one thing is clear to me: in our City’s highest office, it would be my duty to uphold the spirit of the Code in every way possible, and the core principles of free and fair democracy.
Because that’s leadership. A vote for me is a vote for transparent leadership in the Mayor’s Office.