How To: Run For City Council
If you've always dreamed of running for office, here are a few things to know.
April 3, 2017
illustration by Andrew Benson
Looking for a career change? Do the thoughts of sitting through meetings, rifling through hundreds of pages of reports and cutting ribbons at community halls appeal to you? Do you like to do media interviews? Knock on the doors of complete strangers?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above, civic politics could be for you. But, before you can dream about rallying the grassroots thanks to your savvy election campaign, you have to jump through several bureaucratic hoops.
Throwing Your Hat in the Ring
First, you have to let the City of Edmonton know that you want to run in the Oct. 16 election. You need to file your intent to run. Just go to the City’s website (edmonton.ca) and head to the Edmonton Elections tab under “City Government.” You’ll find the intent-to-run form there. So far, 10 of 12 current city councillors have already filed their notices of intent.
Mayor Don Iveson has also filed his notice to run for re-election, so if you want to go for the big chair, you’re going against an incumbent.
Remember this: In every 2013 city-council race where an incumbent was involved, the incumbent won. So, if you’re running against a sitting councillor, you’re going to need to bring your A-game, and then some.
Several Top 40 Under 40 alumni have already filed their intents to run — Kris Andreychuk, Svetlana Pavlenko and Miranda Jimmy.
Raise those Funds
Once your notice of intent is filed, you can begin raising funds for your campaign.
Getting elected isn’t cheap. Those lawn signs cost money to make. Maybe you want to buy some advertising, or get a professional photographer to take photos of you. You can try to self-fund your campaign (more on why this is a really, really bad idea a little later), but most successful candidates need to fundraise.
It is going to be expensive. According to Mayor Don Iveson’s campaign-funding disclosure, he raised more than $610,000 for his successful 2013 mayoral campaign. Of that, more than $590,000 came from donors who each gave more than $100 a shot. So, be prepared to ask for money. A lot of money.
In Ward 12, Amarjeet Sohi, who has moved on to federal politics, raised close to $125,000 in funds for his 2013 campaign. To win Ward 6, which had 16 candidates in 2013, Scott McKeen raised a little more than $95,000.
Nomination day is Sept. 18. That’s the day you need to get to City Hall and file your official nomination papers. This is not a deadline. You can’t bring in your papers, say, a week before. No, you have to bring them in on the 18th, between 9 a.m. and noon. So, if you need to take time off work for that — you’ve been warned.
Laura Kennedy, the city’s director of elections and corporate information, broke down what you’ll need on nomination day:
• A mayoral candidate requires 100 signatures from eligible Edmonton electors and a $500 deposit.
• A councillor candidate requires 25 signatures from eligible ward-based electors and a $100 deposit
• A trustee candidate (both Edmonton Public School District and Edmonton Catholic School District) require 25 signatures from eligible ward-based electors and a $100 deposit
So, pound the pavement in your ward and seek out the needed number of people who are 18 or over, and have lived in Alberta for six months or more.
Now, if you’re going to be fundraising what’s needed to run an election campaign, the deposits likely won’t make you bat an eyelash. If you’re going to need more than 100 grand to run a campaign, what’s $100? But, if you want to get your deposit money back after the election, you need to:
• Win. You get on council, you get your money back;
• Get at least half the number of votes of the person that won in your riding. So, if Joe Average wins Ward 1 and gets 5,000 votes, you get your deposit back if you got 2,500 votes or more. If you earned 2,498 votes, kiss the
Win or lose, when it’s over, you need to disclose your expenditures and the money you raised. You can’t be as elusive as U.S. President Donald Trump has been with his tax declarations (or lack of them). If you self-funded your election and spent less than $10,000, that’s all that you need to declare. But, chances are you’ll also be a loser. Why? Of all the candidates who self-funded in 2013, none of them came close to winning. So, what does this tell you? By raising money, you raise your profile. By just taking some money out of your own account and printing up signs, well, I guess it’s your money and you can do what you want with it.
Otherwise, you need to disclose how much you raised, and where you got it. You’ll also need to show your expenditures. Your documents will be publicly available — financial statements from past candidates can easily be found on the City’s website.
So, good luck. And please do something to get the LRT to NAIT running a little quicker and get some potholes fixed, would you?
This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.