Judy Wasylycia-Leis ended months of speculation about her political future this afternoon, when she formally registered her mayoral campaign.
The former NDP MP and MLA said she learned from her loss to Sam Katz in the 2010 campaign, and is ready to show Winnipeggers she’s capable of becoming the city’s next mayor.
"The people I’ve talked to… right across the city want change and I believe I’m the right person to work together with Winnipeggers to effect the kind of positive change so desperately needed in this city," Wasylycia-Leis told reporters on her way into the City Clerk’s office.
In the 2010 campaign, Wasylycia-Leis attracted 43 per cent of the ballots, second to Katz’s 55 per cent.
Wasylycia-Leis is the perceived front-runner for the 2014 campaign – two polls indicate she is the most popular candidate for mayor – even though her support remains about the same as it was four years ago.
The polls indicate several candidates would split the centre-right vote and allow Wasylycia-Leis to claim the top spot.
However, she dismissed the "front-runner" label, describing the polls as out of date and, without naming anyone, said there are several "great" candidates who also want to be mayor.
Katz hasn’t said whether he’ll run for re-election but Wasylycia-Leis said she doesn’t care whether he does, or doesn’t.
"Whether Sam runs or not, we all have to present our case, we all have to convince people of our vision."
The other candidates in the race include Coun. Paula Havixbeck, lawyer and former councillor Gord Steeves, lawyer Brian Bowman, funeral home operator Mike Vogiatzakis, university administrator Robert-Falcon Ouellette, and Michel Fillion, a booking agent for exotic dancers.
She’ll be officially launching her campaign over the lunch hour Tuesday at a small park – Wightman Green – in St. James, where she said she’ll release the first of her campaign policies.
Wasylycia-Leis said Winnipeggers have become increasingly frustrated in the past four years with the appearance of favouritism and privilege at city hall.
"Certain people have access to city hall and others don’t," she said. "Some developers have access and others don’t.
"There is a sense that ordinary voices and real people’s concerns are not being heard."
Wasylycia-Leis said her top two priorities going into the campaign will be repairing the city’s crumbling infrastructure, and "fixing what’s wrong at city hall."
Repeating a claim made often in 2010, Wasylycia-Leis said she will represent Winnipeggers of all political stripes.
"I’m not going to hide the fact I’m a New Democrat – I’ve been one for over 30 years," she said. "Running for mayor means representing all Winnipeggers and having a big tent.
"The kind of challenges ahead of us are going to require us to work together to cross all political parties and all interest groups to effect the change that is necessary."
Wasylycia-Leis ran in 2010 with a promise of annual two per cent property tax increases. She pointed out that Katz, who campaigned on a tax-freeze, actually increased taxes more during the past three years than she would have done.
"I guess I was the fiscal conservative in the last election," she quipped. "My commitment then, to have an affordable, predictable plan in terms of taxation, is one I will follow again this time."
She made reference to the most recent scandals of the fire hall replacement program and the construction of the new police headquarters, and said she’s thoroughly canvassed people from across the city.
"Over and over again, people have said they want a mayor who is honest, forthright, (and) keeps her promise."