Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Has it really been only 10 months or so?

Better than a kick to the head

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In an ideal world, Winnipeg's mayoral race would have seen Sam Katz and Judy Wasylycia-Leis do nothing other than exchange ideas about the best ways to run the city.

But that didn't happen. Winnipeg's front-runners seemed to have other things on their minds as they stumbled their way through a competition that was light on policy and heavy on distractions such as robo-calls, party politics and one well-placed kick to the head.


JAN. 20, 2010: Over the phone from an NDP gathering in Quebec, Winnipeg North MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis confirms she's thinking about running for mayor.

"A lot of people have been raising it with me and asking me to consider running. I'm certainly going to give it some thought," she said.


Sam Katz vs. the World

JAN. 26: During his annual state of the city speech, Katz again pledges to prevent the NDP from "taking control of council" and lambastes unnamed provincial politicians for being in cahoots with his critics on council.

"It's funny how, as mayor, you're accused of having friends who own businesses and invest in our city. But if you hold membership in a political party, it's OK to make deals with your friends, all under the guise of party politics," he tells a Winnipeg Convention Centre crowd.


So long, Ottawa

APRIL 27: Surprising nobody, Wasylycia-Leis resigns her seat in Ottawa, but holds off until May 3 to say she's running for mayor.


And so it begins

MAY 4: On the first real day of the mayoral campaign, Katz and Wasylycia-Leis trade character assassinations instead of debating policy -- beginning a pattern that would repeat itself over the next 51/2 months.

"All Winnipeggers have a stake in the business of city hall, but city hall shouldn't just be open for business," Wasylycia-Leis says at a campaign launch.

"I guess after 13 years in Ottawa, she's been away far too long and she's out of touch," Katz snipes back.


Or maybe it didn't begin

JUNE 22: After a sleepy, six-week lull, the mayoral race lurches back to life when Katz files his registration papers and calls Wasylycia-Leis "the leader of the NDP civic party."

And then both candidates disappear once more. Canada Day comes and goes without a single pledge or policy announcement by either Katz or Wasylycia-Leis.


'What I'm really here to discuss... '

JULY 19: At her first campaign announcement, Wasylycia-Leis tries to talk about rapid transit, but reporters focus instead on an offhand comment she makes about instituting a "buy-local" policy.

"We can send our money to a streetcar manufacturer with its headquarters in Quebec, or we can keep the money here at home," she said, referring to buses made by New Flyer here in Winnipeg.


Just a spoonful of crime-prevention

AUG. 17: Wasylycia-Leis promises to enlist city workers to help fight crime and expand a North Point Douglas community watch program to other Winnipeg neighbourhoods. She also says there won't be any criminal background checks on people who man the crime-watch phone lines.

Katz seizes on this announcement -- as well as a subsequent pledge to find work for former gang members -- to suggest his opponent is soft on crime.

The Winnipeg Police Association later endorses Katz and calls Wasylycia-Leis "Mary Poppins" when it comes to crime policy.

"Mary Poppins got things done," she quips.


Boot to the head!

AUG. 23: Katz does some campaign-trail stumbling during a soccer match against a group of refugee kids.

While attempting to boot the ball, Katz accidentally kicks one of the kids in the face.

The teen crumples on the ground. Katz turns to run before he realizes what happened. St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves laughs. The incident is caught on tape.

The Global TV news clip becomes a mock attack ad sponsored by the mythical People Against the Kicking of Kids in the Face. The YouTube clip eventually appears on both a New York Times blog and NBC's Today Show.


Holy Veolia

AUG. 29: Wasylycia-Leis holds the first of 57,000 press conferences to denounce the city's wastewater-management contract with Veolia Canada. OK, so it was only three. But it felt like 57,000.


Send more police

SEPT. 7: Borrowing a page from his 2006 re-election playbook, Katz promises to hire more police. He also scoops a city report about 911 response times -- a clear abuse of the power of incumbency -- but Wasylycia-Leis doesn't even cry foul.


A tax on all your houses

SEPT. 17: Wasylycia-Leis says she would implement four annual two per cent tax hikes. "Vote for me and I'll raise taxes" becomes a campaign slogan.


And then there were four

SEPT. 21: Half of Winnipeg's eight registered mayoral candidates fail to submit the proper nomination papers, leaving Katz, Wasylycia-Leis, Rav Gill and Brad Gross on the ballot.


And in other news...

SEPT. 24: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers blow another fourth-quarter lead and lose at home to the Montreal Alouettes. This has nothing to do with the election, except for the sense of foreboding and disappointment.


Hike it! Bike it! Hate it!

SEPT. 27: Katz puts the brakes on the Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway, sparking several rounds of blame-storming about Winnipeg's $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade.

Katz blames councillors for poor oversight. Councillors blame city staff for poor public consultation. City staff blame the public for lack of engagement.


Not-so-great debates

OCT. 6: After a pair of somnolent mayoral forums, Katz and Wasylycia-Leis square off in a CJOB radio debate. Neither answers many questions, but Katz gets the quote of the day, responding to some chiding over Veolia with his now-infamous "Thanks, Mom" comment.


Halloween comes early

OCT. 8: Winnipeggers settle down for the Thanksgiving weekend to the sound of geese honking, leaves rustling and an urgent-sounding Katz barking about property tax hikes. "Taxing like this will affect those on fixed incomes -- seniors and homeowners on the poverty bubble -- the most," Katz says in a recorded telephone message. "People should not have to lose their homes when there are other avenues to consider first."


More robo-calls

OCT. 15: The second round of Katz-campaign robo-calls features firefighter union president Alex Forrest and police union boss Mike Sutherland. Days later, Wasylycia-Leis launches her own robo-calls, featuring the voice of Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs.


Meanwhile, in Alberta

OCT. 18: Voters in Calgary elect Naheed Nenshi, a young, tech-savvy and progressive mayor with a raft of promising new ideas. Voters in Winnipeg envy Calgary for the first time since the start of the recession.


And so it went.

OCT. 27: The polls close at 8 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2010 B1

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