NDP denies running Edmonton city council 'slate,' defends endorsements

Alberta’s NDP leader is defending her MLAs endorsements of city council candidates - and denying a suggestion that they are trying to get a “slate” of like-minded people elected to City Hall.

Cori Longo, a candidate in the new Metis ward, has received personal endorsements from three current MLAs - including Janis Irwin.

“With the UCP in the Legislature, progressive voters in Ward Métis desperately need to unite behind someone who shares our values, to ensure that we don’t elect a conservative who will hurt our city and the services families rely on,” Irwin wrote in an endorsement posted to Longo’s website.

“What I tell folks is it shows an indication of values, and doesn’t show influence,” Longo explained in an interview with CTV News Edmonton.

“People are really trying to determine where people’s values are, and it’s just because there’s so many candidates out there.”

But not everyone on the ballot is happy about the trend, including mayoral candidate Kim Krushell.

She was once a board member with the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, but said she will not be endorsing anyone because she thinks it can amount to political pressure for councillors to vote along party lines.

“The issue here is we’ve got slates running, or an attempt at it, on both sides. Party politics in our city means we’re not going to get things done at a time when we are in tough, and we need leadership and we need accountability and we need transparency,” Krushell argued.

Provincial connections bleeding into council races is not new - but NDP MLAs tweeting messages of support and videos with candidates - was rarely seen, if ever, before 2021.

Conservative support for candidates has been less blatant, but not invisible.

Current UCP Press Secretary Tricia Velthuizen is running in Dene with tory blue signs, for example.

A former Alberta Party president is on the ballot in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi.

In addition to sign colours, website statements, and door-knocking help, endorsements have gone robotic as well.

O’day-min candidate Gino Akbari’s campaign manager worked with the NDP in the past and sent text messages to voters touting Akbari’s “NDP values.”

“The first step to conversation and consensus building is me being transparent with you,” Akbari said, defending the practice.

CITY COUNCIL RACES 'NOT A PRIORITY': NOTLEY

“There is no slate, and it’s not a priority for us. We want to have a good working relationship with all levels of government,” Notley said when questioned by reporters Tuesday.

Notley acknowledged several of her MLAs were endorsing candidates around Alberta, but she said her focus was on the COVID-19 crisis and not on council races.

The New Democratic Party is not officially endorsing candidates, but individual MLAs are free to, Notley said.

“When you're a strong constituency MLA you develop relationships with people who are activists in your community on issues that often overlap between municipal and provincial and federal and so it’s not uncommon.”

But for one retiring city councillor, the endorsement issue is being overblown.

“‘Don’t tell me how to vote’ is, I think, the attitude of Edmontonians. So that endorsement may be a blessing or a curse,” outgoing Ward 6 councillor Scott McKeen said.

The Edmonton municipal election is Monday, Oct. 18.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson