Iveson is gone, what should we remember him by?

On October 18, Edmontonians elected a new mayor and said goodbye to our longtime leader Don Iveson.

“It was a difficult decision not to run again,” Mayor Don Iveson told city council on September 7 while attending his last meeting.

Iveson announced back in November 2020 that he would not be running for a third term as mayor, leaving us with a 14-year legacy. Over the last decade and a half, Iveson has made a great impact on our city, though whether Edmonton will continue to follow the path Iveson has set remains to be seen. Let’s take a look over the highlights of his career.

Don Iveson initially ran for council back in 2007. He ran in Ward 5 against incumbents Bryan Anderson and Mike Nickel. Despite the advantage the incumbents had, Iveson won the second seat available for Ward 5, beating out Nickel by nearly 2,000 votes. Early into his time as councillor, Iveson started working on Edmonton’s environmental portfolio; this later carried on into his work as mayor. During his time as councillor, Iveson attended climate change conferences and consistently showed concern for making Edmonton a greener city.

However, in my experience I have found that even after 14 years in politics, Iveson’s push for environmentalism has gotten lost among the other policies he has implemented and Edmontonians often forget that environmentalism was a big part of Iveson’s platform to begin with.  

In 2013, Steven Mandel announced that he would not be running for mayor again. Iveson seized his opportunity to make an even bigger difference and ran for office. In October that year, Iveson won with 62 per cent of the vote.

Iveson’s mayoral platform was based on sustainability of the city and ending homelessness. But in fall last year, he expressed concern over the city’s struggle to achieve the 10 year plan to end homelessness — citing struggles with other levels of government as part of the issue.

Iveson’s mission to end homelessness was really put to the test in 2020 with the appearance of Camp Pekiwewin in Edmonton’s Rossdale neighbourhood. The camp’s population was dispersed among homeless shelters throughout the city and Iveson vowed to find permanent housing for Edmonton’s homeless population. That being said, the forcible abolition of the camp has made me question Iveson’s sincerity on his promise to end homelessness and likely has many other young Edmontonians feeling the same way.

Though his career has been long, Iveson has impressively had only one notable controversy over the last 14 years. Back in 2015, in a tweet, Iveson speculated the shooting and death of EPS officer Daniel Woodhall may be connected to the abolition of the federal gun registry. Iveson later took the tweet down, issuing an apology.

Iveson’s work to curb gun violence continued into 2021 when Justin Trudeau’s government introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to ban guns within their borders rather than having a national law put in place by the federal government. Iveson voiced his concerns, maintaining the belief that municipal bans on handguns would simply not be effective unless municipalities worked together. This was also linked to his belief that a systematic approach needs to be taken in order to control drug use and organized crime, rather than each municipality dealing with it on their own

While in office, Iveson had to face the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children at residential schools. In response, Iveson pushed for the renaming of Grandin station. There were concerns raised about the murals in the station in 2014, which displays Vital-Justin Grandin, the stations’ namesake who helped administer and design Canada’s residential school system. At the time, art honouring Indigenous culture was added on either side. This was proven unsatisfactory and, for the sake of reconciliation, Iveson rightly advocated for the station renaming and painting over the mural and was successful on both counts — the station is now known as the Government Centre station.

The Valley Line LRT has been a defining feature of Don Iveson’s career. It will be completed in two stages — Valley Line Southeast and Valley Line West.

Construction for the Valley Line Southeast started in 2016 and was originally projected to be completed in 2020 but was pushed multiple times and is now set to finish in the first quarter of 2022. The construction of the Valley Line West is still projected to start in 2021. The project will ultimately make transit more efficient for transit riders, but there has been a cutback of transit routes across the city to make the buses faster. Buses avoid going through neighbourhoods and make the routes longer to ensure transit access for Edmontonians that live further away from Edmonton’s core. Though these cuts enabled access to transit even in the suburb communities of Edmonton, the combination of lost bus routes and the delayed LRT opening has been a source of frustration for Edmontonians which has undoubtedly cast a shadow on Iveson’s time in office. 

During Iveson’s re-election campaign in 2017, his agenda was questioned; David Staples of the Edmonton Journal stated that “Iveson has never been more popular in the city of Edmonton. But his agenda for progressive change? There’s far more doubt on that count.” Concerns were voiced regarding his push for the LRT, bike accessibility, photo radar speed traps, and affordable housing. These were initiatives Iveson took in order to improve Edmonton’s sustainability, however, Edmontonians did not necessarily always appreciate the services that higher taxes provided. 

Iveson has also been known for being a proponent of Edmonton’s LGBTQ2S+ community. In 2014, he attended the Mayoral Pride Brunch and in 2019 moved to ban conversion therapy, calling the practice “psychological abuse.” MLA Janis Irwin and MP Randy Boissonnault worked with city council to put the ban through and then went on to push the movements in their own respective levels of government. 

Don Iveson’s 14 years in office in municipal government have certainly been notable and he has left his mark on this city. Despite a rise in support for more populist politicians, Edmonton has elected a progressive mayor and council that look promising. It is clear that Iveson’s influence will certainly not be easily erased.

Thank you for your service, Don.

Anna Bajwa-Zschocke

Anna is in her third year of an education degree. Usually she can be found amongst colour coded sticky notes, nerding out about European history, bad reality TV, or some new book.

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