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Orlikow considering bid to become mayor

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Winnipeg’s crowded race for mayor now has seven potential candidates, as Coun. John Orlikow is mulling a run for the city’s highest office.

The four-year River Heights-Fort Garry councillor said he’s considering a run for mayor in 2014 after being asked to do so by constituents and other residents.

"With the lack of leadership at city hall and the way things are going, people are agreeing with what I have said and with my voting record," Orlikow said Wednesday in an interview. "So they want somebody they think has enough experience and enough integrity to lead it into the future."

Orlikow, a former school trustee, was first elected to council during a 2009 byelection in River Heights-Fort Garry. A left-of-centre Liberal, he soon became a critic of Mayor Sam Katz, spurred on in part by what he believed to be the mayor’s support of rival River Heights candidate Michael Kowalson in the 2010 general election.

In recent weeks, Orlikow has signalled a potential run by issuing more press releases critical of the mayor. He also wound up on the receiving end of a Katz counter-attack at Tuesday’s council debate over the 2014 budget.

After Orlikow criticized the coming round of city tax and fee hikes, Katz noted the city kept taxes frozen while the Winnipeg School Division hiked taxes during Orlikow’s time as a school trustee.

"It’s nice to blame everyone else all the time, but I haven’t seen any solutions," Orlikow said Wednesday of Katz’s administration, which he accused of concentrating too much power in the mayor’s hands and pursuing a privatization agenda based on ideology instead of a sound business plan.

Orlikow said he is all but certain Katz will seek a fourth term in office next year. An Orlikow mayoral candidacy, however, may pose less of a threat to Katz than it would to the only other left-of-centre candidate mulling a mayoral run, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the former NDP MP and MLA who finished second to Katz in the 2010 mayoral race.

The field of potential candidates for mayor in 2014 includes five right-of-centre contestants: Katz, Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck, St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, lawyer Brian Bowman and former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves. The latter is the only declared candidate in the 2014 race.

Thus far on the left, it’s only Orlikow and Wasylycia-Leis, who said in an interview she won’t base her decision to run on anything Orlikow does.

"I’ve looked at this for several years now, since the close call with Sam Katz," she said, referring to her 25,000-vote loss in 2010. "I feel more encouraged than ever to run."

Wasylycia-Leis said she’s not likely to declare before the registration period opens in May, mainly because she does not want to run afoul of city campaign-spending rules the way Steeves did by holding a campaign launch and incurring expenses.

"Given what happened to Gord Steeves, none of us are prepared to declare or feel you can declare until May 1," she said, noting she will weigh her options until then.

Orlikow said if he does not run for mayor, he will seek a third term in River Heights-Fort Garry. He said he definitely won’t seek the federal Liberal nomination in Winnipeg South Centre, where several high-profile Grits are said to be eyeing a 2015 run against Conservative incumbent Joyce Bateman.

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