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Crowded race just got more crowded

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Robert-Falcon Ouellette outside of the newly constructed police headquarters.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette outside of the newly constructed police headquarters. Photo Store

A hiring freeze at city hall and regulations for campaign fundraising disclosures were on the minds of at least two mayoral hopefuls Friday -- and another candidate has joined the crowded race.

Hazem Aslan, a 31-year-old Handi Transit owner-operator, registered his campaign for mayor Friday afternoon.

Aslan said he's disappointed other mayoral candidates have not pledged to do more to prevent another frozen-pipe crisis, ensure bike paths are completed properly and prevent major projects from costing more than budgeted.

He also said more must be done to help Winnipeg's most vulnerable people.

"Every time you stop at a light, there are people running to wash the cars. We need to help these people," he said.

Aslan is originally from Iraq and is a member of the Yazidi ethnic group being persecuted by ISIS fighters. He spent seven years in a Syrian refugee camp before immigrating to Canada 15 years ago.

He graduated from Gordon Bell High School in 2002 before becoming a Handi Transit driver. He is married with two children.

He joins Brian Bowman, Michel Fillion, Paula Havixbeck, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, David Sanders, Gord Steeves, Michael Vogiatzakis and Judy Wasylycia-Leis.


Havixbeck proposes hiring freeze

Paula Havixbeck would impose a hiring freeze at city hall following the civic election.

Havixbeck said the move will be necessary to offset any costs resulting from the downgrading of the city's financial outlook by Moody's Investor Services earlier this week.

Havixbeck said the province should be responsible for covering any cost increases but said that's not likely to happen.

"Those costs... will have very serious implications for the City of Winnipeg," Havixbeck said while standing in front of the legislature Friday. "It's essential that we show leadership and do everything we can to try to not have another tax increase due to this mismanagement at (the provincial) level."

Moody's, a credit rating agency, downgraded the city's financial outlook to negative from stable, but not because of the city's financial management. Moody's had downgraded the province's outlook because of its burgeoning debt and the agency is concerned Winnipeg would be affected as a result.

City officials said they don't know the immediate financial impact of the downgrade but suggested it would result in increased borrowing costs for its capital infrastructure projects.

Havixbeck, the first-term councillor from Charleswood-Tuxedo, said if elected, her first task will be to ask the province to cover any resulting cost increases but added she anticipates it will not agree, making the hiring freeze necessary.

It was Havixbeck's fourth policy announcement in as many days. She began the week with a call to freeze all civic real estate deals until the completion of an RCMP review and followed it up with plans to overhaul the 311 system and support for a poverty-reduction project.


Ouellette big on disclosure

Robert-Falcon Ouellette proposed a package of mandatory disclosure rules to combat what he described as "scandal fatigue" among the citizens of Winnipeg.

The University of Manitoba administrator said Friday if he's elected mayor, he'd ensure all candidates in the mayoral and council races disclose their donors in real time and also state their occupation and whether they work for a firm that does business with the city.

He also said the city should publish an annual list of contracts awarded to campaign donors and create ethical guidelines for city contractors.

Ouellette has disclosed all of his donors to date, and said he rejected a donation from one city contractor, whom he would not name. He admonished other candidates who have promised to publish their donor lists later in the campaign.

"If you believe in openness and transparency, do (it) today, not tomorrow, not the day before the election," he said. "If you're running for public office, you should have nothing to hide."

Ouellette also pledged to expand disclosure rules to ensure the mayor and councillors disclose all assets, liabilities and real estate holdings, not just in Winnipeg but outside Manitoba as well. He said the family members of elected officials should be compelled to do the same.

Ouellette used the new downtown police headquarters as a backdrop for his announcement. Manitoba Justice has forwarded the July 2014 audit of the police HQ project to the RCMP, along with the July 2014 audit of major city real estate transactions and the October 2013 fire-paramedic station construction program review.


Wyatt won't retire after all

Coun. Russ Wyatt is going for a fourth term as the councillor for Transcona.

City council's finance chairman, who mused about retiring earlier this week, registered his re-election campaign Friday.

Wyatt was first elected in 2002.

He faces opposition from Ray Ulasy, who is being endorsed by the Winnipeg Labour Council.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2014 A4

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