Mayoral frontrunners face off in another debate, Nickel declines again

Three former city councillors and a local business leader met to debate for the mayor's chair Thursday - five weeks ahead of Edmontonians casting ballots.

Amarjeet Sohi, Kim Krushell, Michael Oshry and Cheryll Watson all attended. Six other mayoral candidates were either not invited or declined to attend.

Oshry took aim at Sohi for his record as a member of parliament.

“I think we all remember he was a willing participant in the Liberal-led Alberta recession before the pandemic,” Oshry snapped.

Sohi denied Oshry’s accusation, and promoted his ability to work with other orders of government.

“I am a bridge builder, I deeply believe in collaboration... I worked well with council all the time. I was known on council as someone who can build a consensus, to get big things done,” Sohi said.

Sohi’s platform on the economy suggests a new innovation fund and faster permitting.

Candidate Mike Nickel declined an invitation to attend, because he doesn’t get along with the moderator.

Nickel also declined a forum on Wednesday because he didn’t want to be part of a “paid for access” event.

Krushell - once a city councillor, now working in the tech field - has focused much of her campaign on growing local jobs in technology.

“I don’t know how many of you’ve been paying attention to e-sports, but it’s worth billions, and in 2017 the World League of Legends surpassed the super bowl for viewership,” she said.

Her platform includes attracting e-sports events, encouraging the city to shop local and developing a tech strategy with the province.

A pair of large city developments have also been hot topics in recent debates - with Oshry and Watson both saying they’d like city leaders to give up dreams of developing Blatchford and the Exhibition Lands on their own.

“Those right now are vacant holes in neighbourhoods and communities and it is time for us as a city to get out of the land ownership and land development business,” Watson said.

Watson’s platform includes free wifi and charging stations in some public spaces, free bus service in the city core and suspending some business licenses for a year.

Oshry, meanwhile, pitched a proposal to build 1,000 supportive housing units.

“On the other side of that issue, and you can do both, is the safety for the public. There’s not enough policing, there’s not enough safety downtown and we have to make sure that we support the police,” he said.

Oshry also wants to speed up permit approval, create a new local business policy, and make COVID-19 vaccines or rapid tests mandatory for city workers and citizens in city buildings.

The city is not holding any official debates this campaign, so individual groups are hosting a patchwork of forums and deciding whom to invite.

Thursday's debate was hosted by the Building Owners and Managers Association.

Nickel has yet to participate in a debate - but said he will attend at least two upcoming forums.

Diana Steele, Rick Comrie, Brian Gregg, Abdul Malik Chukwudi and Augustine Marah are also running for mayor but were not at either recent forum.

Edmontonians will vote on Oct. 18.