Municipal Election 2021. From Old Power to New.

Elections can generally go two ways. There will be change or there won’t be. Municipal elections are not famous for change. Incumbents usually get elected. Turnover is often minimal. If turnover does occur it doesn’t usually reflect much actual change beyond the nameplate on the councillors door.

I think we can safely say this year’s City of Edmonton election resulted in real change

While Amarjeet Sohi was the front runner for Mayor from start to finish and no one is surprised by his victory, he is the biggest change of all. 

He made no secret of his commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion as his primary policy objectives. All former Mayors and any of their good efforts aside, Mayor Sohi believes in these policy goals with his whole self. His whole life is a story of struggle and success in overcoming barriers that most non-BIPOC leaders never face. This work will be the centre of City Hall’s identity. It will no longer be “later on the agenda” stuff. 

The new Mayor is complemented by eight women whose life experiences and perspectives will be far different than the council I was elected to in 2013.

Some have described Mayor elect Sohi as an extension of the “Iveson years”. I don’t think it’s that linear.

While a lot was also made in advance of the election about the role party politics played in the campaign I don’t believe these will be the power dynamics that play out in the next four years. 

This election reflects more of an old power vs new power dynamic. Traditional municipal issues and how they are viewed and managed will now reflect voices in our city that have been traditionally marginalized or at least rarely given a pedestal. 

Leaders in more traditional and established organizations might need to relate to this Mayor and Council differently…

They will need to commit to a new level of allyship with communities on the rise. 

There will be a lot we learn from this new group of city governors. There will be a lot they learn from each other and about who they are as a collective.

Businesses and organizations that have usual business with the City of Edmonton may very likely find themselves rethinking their usual alliances and approaches in the coming months. 

It will also be important for the new Council to be mindful of the long standing relationships many traditional groups have with the City as a corporate entity. The numbers tell us that, unlike in 2013, none of the new Mayor and Councillors elected won a majority of votes cast in their wards. So while the majority of those elected represent real change, they were not elected by the majority of voters.

In the end though I believe this is a council that Edmontonians can be hopeful about. It is a group that will require people to think creatively about their approach to municipal government. 

What Berlin is thinking through with our clients is what this new approach could look like and how their organizations are positioned to leverage this change to achieve their goals and to improve our communities in Edmonton.