Immigrant and former city bus driver Amarjeet Sohi is chosen as the city’s next mayor – .

Immigrant and former city bus driver Amarjeet Sohi is chosen as the city’s next mayor – .

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Former city councilor and bus driver Amarjeet Sohi, who learned English at local libraries, has become Edmonton’s new mayor.

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Winning Monday’s municipal elections is another major political achievement for the 57-year-old Sikh immigrant from India, who is the city’s first colored mayor. Sohi immigrated to Edmonton in 1982 at the age of 18 after being sponsored by his older brother.

Sohi had a solid lead in the Edmonton mayoral race over Mike Nickel at press time on Monday night. He previously served as an Edmonton city councilor in Southeast Ward 12 from 2007 to 2015, winning three elections before stepping down from his seat after being federally elected as Liberal MP for Edmonton Mill Woods. Sohi held this position from 2015 until his defeat in the 2019 election and held significant portfolios within the cabinet including infrastructure and communities as well as natural resources towards the end of his term, where he oversaw negotiations for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

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But before his political achievements, there was a time when Sohi was unsure whether he would return to Canada. In 1988, he was imprisoned in India for 21 months, accused of terrorism after having worked to organize a local demonstration advocating land reform in the state of Bihar. Recalling the events in a previous interview with Postmedia, Sohi said he was interrogated and tortured with threats made against his family.

It was not until 1990, after an election in Bihar led to a change of government, that Sohi was released and his case dismissed.

“I had no hope of ever being able to go out,” Sohi said. “I was quite upset when I got back. “

After returning to Edmonton, Sohi became a taxi driver and then bus driver for the Edmonton transit service before deciding to go into politics. During his tenure on council, Sohi served on the Edmonton Police Commission, was vice-president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and represented the city on the Canadian Urban Transit Association. In her neighborhood, Sohi advocated for the construction of recreation facilities, libraries, a senior center and a multicultural center in the Mill Woods area.

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In his campaign for mayor, Sohi said he would continue to champion the expansion of LRT if elected, especially the extension of the long-talked about LRT underground line to Castle Downs. Along with the federal government, Sohi advocated for infrastructure projects in Edmonton such as the Winspear Center, the renovation of the Citadel Theater and the Yellowhead Trail Highway conversion project. One of his first priorities will be to implement an anti-hate plan within 100 days of taking office to tackle racism and hate-motivated violence in the city.

The plan would include addressing issues in city bylaws to address symbols of hate, advocating for anti-racism and anti-violence initiatives with senior levels of government, and working with city partners like community leagues to support and amplify anti-racist initiatives.

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“When our communities are faced with hate motivated incidents, the city must not only respond with empathy, but also reach out to communities to help them muster the supports needed to grieve and heal and we must establish accountability. clear for tracking and analyzing trends to proactively identify and address emerging issues, instead of just reacting after great damage has been done, ”Sohi said in his platform. “We shouldn’t need to witness repeated incidents and attacks before we react. “

Other main priorities for Sohi include tackling climate change and creating a more equitable city by reducing public transport costs for vulnerable populations in need and re-evaluating the newly implemented new bus network. place to ensure that the system is accessible to those who need it most.

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Sohi has also received criticism during his political career, including accepting a $ 46,000 transition allowance from the city of Edmonton after leaving his council position to serve at the federal level. All outgoing advisers are entitled to three weeks’ salary for each year of service up to a maximum of 36 weeks. He had also been criticized in Ottawa for spending $ 835,000 on furniture and renovations for his office.

Returning from Ottawa after losing in the 2019 election, Sohi has continued to live in Mill Woods with his wife Sarabjeet Sohi for 28 years. Prior to running for mayor, Sohi taught collaborative and inclusive leadership courses at MacEwan University.

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