After months of securing support and gathering a team of volunteers, queer activist Brendan Van Alstine announced that he would be running for Edmonton city council in the 2010 municipal election.
Van Alstine, a social worker and transit activist, is getting an early start for an election that is less than a year a way.
He made the announcement during his campaign launch party in early November, in the heart of Ward 7 where he will be running. His progressive platform focuses on four areas: community, urban form, transportation and safety. He is best known in Edmonton as the founder of the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton and a co-founder of the Queer Allied Network.
After the 2007 Edmonton civic election, friends and colleagues encouraged him to run in the next election. “People see me as a community leader — I am flattered to be seen that way,” says Van Alstine.
He works as a youth program coordinator at the Pride Centre of Edmonton, where he sees his job as connecting people with services, listening and being an advocate when it is needed. “I realized that it (being a city councillor) is not a big jump from what I am doing right now,” he suggests.
This summer city council voted to move from a six-ward system with two councilors each to a 12-ward system with one councillor each. As council debated the change, Van Alstine was already meeting his neighbours, raising money and increasing his profile with the help of “great people.”
Ward 7 is located in an area that is a provincial NDP stronghold, represented by Brian Mason, leader of the Alberta NDP. At the federal level, Conservative Peter Goldring represents the area. During the 2008 federal election, NDP candidate Ray Martin came in second with 31.8 percent of the vote compared to Goldring’s 51.3 percent.
The area is currently represented on city council by former Alberta Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons and conservative Tony Caterina.
In preparing his campaign, Van Alstine sought advice from councillor Don Iveson, a young politician who scored an upset against conservative incumbent Mike Nickel in the 2007 civic election.
Van Alstine also looks to Michael Phair, Alberta’s first openly gay politician who served on Edmonton city council from 1992 to 2007.
“In the 18 years since Michael Phair was first elected, we as a city have come along way,” says Van Alstine. “My sexuality is not a reason to vote for me, or to not vote for me. My candidacy is not based on whom I sleep with.”