Settled: Sohi is running to be Edmonton's mayor
EDMONTON -- Former city councillor and federal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi is throwing his hat into the race to be Edmonton’s next mayor.
“Edmonton holds a special place in my heart,” said Sohi in an announcement Monday morning. “It has given me so much and now I want to give back to Edmontonians.”
Sohi has lived in Edmonton for 40 years.
“I immigrated to this city with nothing but the love of my brother and sister-in-law,” the mayor hopeful added. “I learned to speak English in our public libraries.”
Sohi served as councillor for Ward 12 between 2007 and 2015, working with current mayor Don Iveson and former mayor Stephen Mandel.
He became a member of parliament in 2015 for Edmonton-Mill Woods but was not reelected in 2019. During his time in federal politics, he served as the minister of natural resources and minister of infrastructure and communities.
He had previously refused to confirm his intent to run in municipal politics, telling CTV News Edmonton even days earlier he was "really seriously considering" the move but still having conversations to "understand peoples’ aspirations, dreams, and anxieties."
He went so far as to say if he did run, his focus would be on creating a COVID-19 recovery strategy, the state of Edmonton’s economy, supporting local businesses, mental health, lack of affordable housing available, and racial equity and justice.
'WE NEED LEADERSHIP THAT CAN MOBILIZE': SOHI
Sohi was asked why he wanted to be mayor in a video conference following his announcement. He said Edmonton is at a "pivotal moment."
“We need leadership that can mobilize the entire community to tackle the challenges that we face,” said Sohi. “I believe that I have the skillset of collaboration, consensus building, equity building that is necessary for us.”
Not long before his official campaign launch, the former Liberal cabinet minister sent out a tweet inviting the public to his Facebook Live announcement, saying the challenges Edmonton is facing “may seem daunting,” adding “they are not insurmountable.”
When asked about the tweet, Sohi identified several issues facing Edmonton he felt were important to tackle, saying the state of the economy, climate change, and social issues like homelessness, like mental health and addiction.
He also emphasized the importance of supporting marginalized communities and expanding access to services for racialized Edmontonians, Indigenous Edmontonians, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ Edmontonians.
“We need to make sure that we are tackling that issue,” Sohi said, “that we are providing equitable opportunities for all Edmontonians.”
SOHI ON POLICING IN EDMONTON
During Sohi’s official announcement, he was asked by a Grade 6 class about his position on policing in Edmonton and how it should evolve.
“I am absolutely concerned about this situation,” said Sohi. “If we don’t tackle this issue the right way, it has the potential to polarize our communities. I have a great relationship with Edmonton Police Service. I know many police officers who give their best to make our communities safer.
“I also know that many of our racialized communities, Indigenous communities do not feel safe, and do not feel that their interactions with the police are a t a level that they would expect them to be.”
Just over a month ago a task force - that was assembled at the request of city council - recommended freezing an estimated $260 million in police funding over the next five years and funneling that money toward social programs.
When asked about that recommendation during his media conference, Sohi said police need to be funded properly for the function that the community wants them to fulfill.
“Which is keeping us safe,” he said. “But we also need to properly finance social services and programs that actually help reduce demand on policing… These are interconnected issues.”
“I will work constantly, If I am elected,” Sohi said, “to make sure that all the functions of the city are properly being funded.”
Sohi is the tenth candidate to enter the race to succeed Iveson who, after two terms in the city’s top job, announced last fall he would not seek re-election.
By entering the city’s mayoral race Sohi became the fourth candidate with previous Edmonton city council experience.
IVESON ON MAYORAL RACE
Iveson is not yet endorsing a candidate.
"As a citizen, I've got some thoughts, but as the mayor, it's really not appropriate for me to weigh in – at least at this stage of the race,” Iveson said. “I might have more to say about it later, but I think it's for Edmontonians to draw their own conclusions.”
Of the newest candidate and his former city council colleague, Iveson only said: “We were elected to council at the same time in 2007, so in that sense, we came up together and then I did a fair bit of work with him when he was minister," he said. “In that sense, we've known each other for a long time, but again, I think as mayor it's very important for me not to take a position on the race."
He called Sohi a friend, but said: "Don't read anything into that."
The exiting Edmonton mayor said he’s interested to hear where the candidates stand on several key issues.
“Where they stand on the city plan, where they stand on LRT expansion, where they stand on energy transition and climate, where they stand on community safety and wellbeing and homelessness and affordable housing."
'SOHI WILL BE THE FRONTRUNNER': POLITICAL ANALYST
Edmonton political analyst John Brennan told CTV News Edmonton he believes Sohi’s name recognition makes him the candidate to beat.
“In my view, Amarjeet Sohi will be the frontrunner,” Brennan said on Monday. “He is very well-known in the city, he was a city councillor for eight years… He was elected Liberal Member of Parliament in 2015, represented Millwoods for four years, and he had a very high profile role as a federal cabinet minister, first as Minister of Infrastructure, but especially as Minister of Natural Resources.”
“He's the biggest name who's a progressive in the race,” said Brennan.
Sohi lost his Edmonton/Millwoods parliament seat to Conservative Tim Uppal in the 2019 federal election.
Brennan says the mayoral race will likely come down to two candidates: Sohi and current city councillor Mike Nickel.
Nickel declared his intention to run for mayor of Edmonton in January.
Other notable names to enter the race include former councillors Kim Krushell and Michael Oshry.
“It'll be interesting to see if either Michael Oshry or Kim Krushell can light a fire in their campaign and get some of the attention away from Amarjeet Sohi and Mike Nickel," Brennan said.
The municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 18.