THE BLOG

Bryan Sandilands for Edmonton Ward 1

10/18/2013 10:24 EDT | Updated 12/18/2013 05:12 EST

My Value Proposition to Edmontonians (Ward 1)

Since announcing my candidacy for City Council in Ward 1, I've heard two messages loudly and clearly:

1. "Bryan, you are, by far, the most qualified candidate;" and,

2. "It's unfortunate that Knack has had such a head-start."

A double-edged sword cuts both ways.

Full disclosure: I like Andrew Knack. He's an intelligent young man who has a passion for civic politics. At 29-years of age, he enters his third race for Edmonton City Council; he has spent the last seven years trying for a seat. In the run-up to this election, Andrew was very transparent about his goal, accepting funds from a real estate developer in order to beat the incumbent. On August 16, 2013, however, Councillor Sloan announced her retirement from politics.

Armed by a developer, more treasure than required, an open ward, and a well-oiled campaign machine, Knack has everything one needs to fulfill his dream of becoming a City Councillor - everything, except experience.

Mea culpa: I entered this race late in the game. I knew this. Our families and supporters knew this but alarmed by the lack of candidates' depth and experience, we seized the moment anyway. When asked about my reason for running I've said, "Sometimes it's easier to look around and wonder, 'why isn't somebody doing something?!' when sometimes that somebody is you." My career has never, by design, been about politics but it has been about helping people - usually the vulnerable and under-served. And so, armed with this, I jumped into the race.

In 1995, I earned a BSc in Psychology from the University of Alberta. Like most undergrads in Edmonton in the '90s, I was most qualified to wait tables at Earls Tin Palace. Eventually, I became manager and learned important business lessons like, "going beyond customers' expectations," maintaining low overhead, and making payroll through increased sales. At the same time, I was moonlighting as a community mental health outreach worker and eventually earned my Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Calgary in 1999. Upon graduating, I worked for the Alberta Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities before leaving to pursue work in the field of transplant medicine, providing psychosocial and research support to transplant patients, donor families, physicians and transplant surgeons.

In 2005, the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) in the United Kingdom accepted my application for graduate school. I earned my MSc (Econ) in Policy and Planning and returned home to Edmonton in 2006. Having studied people (i.e., psychology) and problems (i.e., social work), it was important to learn of potential solutions (i.e., economics). When it comes to public finances and planning, and through my experiences developing a national organ transplant network with Canadian Blood Services, I have developed some valuable tools.

On occasion, when Andrew and I meet along the campaign trail, we have compared notes on issues being raised in Ward 1: the revitalization of Edmonton's downtown; the redevelopment of Blatchford Field; and, the Valley Line (LRT) completion, of course, round out the major issues. The installation of bike lanes along 95 Ave - once a wide, well-controlled corridor easing traffic from both 87 Ave and Stony Plain Road - is widely reviled by almost everyone who now uses it. I have raised the lack of Fire Rescue Services in Ward 1 with the Fire Chief, his Deputy, the mayoral candidates and have facilitated substantive media coverage, providing briefs for all to review.

I have also heard how the city administration tends toward heavy-handedness, often dismissing or ignoring the voices of residents and stakeholders. Councillors need to be mindful that the city's administration, through council representation, works for Edmontonians, and not the other way around. You believe in a strong, experienced Council, and so do I. To that end, I ask for your support on October 21st. I will bring every piece of training and experience that I have to the table.

It has not been my lifelong ambition to run for public office but the campaign experience has been both inspiring and overwhelming. I am not running for a job; this would likely mean an exit from a career I have worked hard to establish. I am running to represent neighbours and strangers because I am so concerned about our city. We need knowledgeable, experienced councillors who understand the needs and wants of Edmontonians and who will account for every dime they entrust to us through their taxes. We need someone on City Council with the maturity to understand what it means to balance industry and administration. I kept waiting for that someone to show up until one day, I suppose, that someone became me.

On October 4th, Edmonton Journal columnist, David Staples, published his endorsement of my candidacy in Ward 1 due to my experience managing large capital projects and negotiating expertise within public administrations. I can still hear his penultimate question, "Having interviewed both you and Andrew, your issue assessments and visions for Edmonton are very similar. In fact, your platforms are virtually identical. What's the difference; why should anyone vote for you?"

"A master's degree in economics and fifteen more years of professional experience," was my response. And I stand by this assertion today.