Donald L. Iveson, university student advocate, journalist, mayor of Edmonton (born 30 May 1979 in St. Albert, AB).
Donald L. Iveson, university student advocate, journalist, mayor of Edmonton (born 30 May 1979 in St. Albert, AB). After entering Edmonton politics in 2007, Iveson became Edmonton’s 35th mayor in 2013, winning nearly 62 per cent of the vote.
Don Iveson, the only child of Margaret Iveson, an education professor at the University of Alberta, and of Bob Iveson, a sculptor, was born in St. Albert, Alberta, on 30 May 1979. Iveson grew up in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Parkallen, a community with quick access to the university. He was active in sailing, debating and Scouts, and was a lover of literature. While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at the university, Iveson worked for the student newspaper the Gateway.
After graduation, Iveson moved to Toronto to become president and later chairman of Canadian University Press, a student press co-operative. After two years in Toronto, he returned to Edmonton to manage the Gateway’s business operations. He later became an advocacy director with the University of Alberta Students’ Union, leading negotiations with city officials to create a universal transit pass for post-secondary students.
It was at the university that Iveson met his future wife, Sarah, who also worked as a journalist at the Gateway. They have two children, Dexter and Alice.
In 2007, Iveson, then 28, ran for a city council seat in Ward 5. Campaigning against two long-time incumbents, Iveson vowed to increase affordable housing, transit services and densification of housing. He used YouTube and other social media to spread his message to voters. On 14 October, Iveson earned nearly 32 per cent of the votes in Ward 5, ousting incumbent Mike Nickel — a result that surprised political pundits and even Iveson himself.
Iveson vowed to work with other elected councillors to improve city transit. Mayor Stephen Mandel also gave Iveson the city’s environmental portfolio. As part of that, he attended the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, and pushed for cost savings in Edmonton through the use of LED lighting. He also supported Edmonton’s neighbourhood reconstruction program, a plan to revitalize and repair aging roads and sidewalks in older neighbourhoods, in order to curb urban sprawl.
In 2013, after Mandel announced he wouldn't seek re-election for a fourth term, Iveson added his name to an election race that included two other councillors. Iveson campaigned on promises to find efficiencies in city spending and to boost road repair and maintenance spending. On 21 October 2013, 62 per cent of voters chose Iveson, who became mayor at age 34. “There is a new sense of optimism in our city,” he told supporters at a post-election party. “This is the best place to take a risk and to innovate.”
As mayor, Iveson built closer relations with neighbouring towns and cities to boost regional transit plans and to improve economic opportunities, and he pushed for expanding the city’s light rapid transit (LRT) services to neighbourhoods in Edmonton southeast. He also made efforts to end homelessness, along with honouring the city’s Indigenous and Métis communities.
Iveson also faced challenges. He sparked controversy on 9 June 2015 by linking the cancellation of Canada’s gun registry to the fatal shooting of Edmonton police officer Daniel Woodall. During a news conference, an emotional Iveson suggested the “loss of the gun registry may be related” to the officer’s death. He later apologized on Twitter about the remarks. Iveson also faced heat from his critics on long delays to the completion of LRT and bridge projects.
Although best known as a proponent for city transit, Iveson has a diverse resume, particularly when it comes to developing communities. He served as an alumni volunteer for the University of Alberta, and volunteered for Canada25, a now-defunct group that engaged young Canadian adults on public policy issues. He also volunteered for the Alberta Debate and Speech Association and the Alberta Sailing Association, and served as vice-president of the Malmo Plains Community League.