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Mayor's Race

Brian Bowman wins mayoral battle

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2014 (945 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the end, it wasn’t even close.

A mayoral race that was supposed to be a head-to-head battle between privacy lawyer Brian Bowman and former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis turned into a rout on election night. Wasylycia-Leis, the experienced politician, had held what looked like an unassailable lead for months, but Bowman, the outsider who promised Winnipeggers a better, prosperous future, chipped doggedly away at it.

Brian Bowman has been declared Winnipeg's new mayor.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Brian Bowman has been declared Winnipeg's new mayor.

"I’m excited to tell you that positive change is coming to city hall," Bowman told roaring supporters at the Inn At The Forks after making his way into the small ballroom accompanied by his wife and two young sons.

He said he hadn’t expecting such a landslide victory, but had believed that the campaign was building momentum.

Bowman said his first goal upon taking office will be to hire a new CAO and to work with council to implement his agenda.

"Winnipeggers will want action and we’ve got a lot of work to do."

Wasylycia-Leis won't run again

Wasylycia-Leis’ vote collapsed Wednesday night, and the NDP’s vaunted get-out-the-vote machine failed. She said she didn’t sense the shift, and expected, like many, a vote split on the right. Instead, university administrator Robert-Falcon Ouellette was responsible for an unexpected vote split.

"Ouellette was a surprising victor in the end," said Wasylycia-Leis. "He made an amazing inroad in representing the indigenous population."

She said she won’t run for mayor again, but wouldn’t rule out another run elsewhere. She said she would volunteer locally and internationally.

"What’s next for me?" Wasylycia-Leis told supporters in the ballroom at Fort Garry Place. "I will continue to fight with every breath I’ve got to build a stronger city."

'Inspired thousands': Ouellette

Ouelette, whose charm and eloquence created the surprise of the mayoral race, told cheering supporters the biggest achievement of his campaign was getting previously indifferent residents out to polling stations.

"The biggest impact of my campaign would be that we inspired thousands of people who have never voted before to vote."

Any future campaign, he said, would need "more money and a better network. I was beaten by the amount of networking I was able to do.

"If he (Bowman) does well then I probably won’t run. If he doesn’t do very well expect a huge challenge from me."

Vow for overhaul woos voters

Winnipeggers had gone into the campaign demanding change at city hall. Sam Katz’s last term as mayor was wracked with allegations of severe administrative mismanagement, cronyism and hints of improper dealings between the development community and city hall.

The past year also saw Winnipeg plagued with infrastructure issues: Thousands of homes and businesses went without water when a frigid winter froze water lines. In the spring, potholes and water main breaks devastated city streets.

All the candidates promised they could restore integrity to city hall, but offered distinct alternatives to the infrastructure issues.

Wasylycia-Leis, the New Democrat, pitched a small "c" conservative campaign platform. Bowman dared Winnipeggers to dream about what their city could become and promised he would make that dream a reality.

On election day, Winnipeggers opted for the dream.

Also in contention were former councilllors Gord Steeves and Paula Havixbeck and outsider David Sanders. Steeves dropped by the Bowman reception briefly to offer his congratulations.

There was an anti-Judy/anti-NDP element to the campaign but with so many alternative candidates splitting that vote, it appeared Wasylycia-Leis would easily win.

Wasylycia-Leis was initially able to hold her core support, similar to what she received in her losing 2010 election bid.

She chose to challenge the anti-NDP bias with what she called her "meat and potatoes" platform, fixing city hall and fixing infrastructure with a modest cost and a modest tax increase. She presented herself as a career politician with 30 years experience who knew her way around the corridors of power

Bowman, the conservative, was promising a dramatic overhaul to propel the city into the future, with only vague assurances he knew how to pay for it all. His plans included cuts to civic departments, building six bus transitway corridors, help for community centres and new downtown amenities.

From 11% to mayor's chair

A red Tory once considered as a possible leader of the Manitoba PCs, Bowman presented his outsider status as an advantage, and portrayed Wasylycia-Leis as "more of the same old, same old," that had brought city hall to ruin.

Both Bowman and Wasylycia-Leis waged the campaign relying on efficient organizations. Hers was culled from the ranks of organized labour and the NDP; Bowman attracted dedicated, like-minded, enthusiastic individuals from the business community. His supporters include the NHL Jets’ Mark Chipman, Chamber of Commerce President Dave Angus, Winnipeg Art Gallery Director Stephen Borys, and Obby Khan, the still-popular former Blue Bomber and restaurateur.

Waslycia-Leis had appeared to learn from her wildly erratic, losing bid for mayor in 2010. This time, she made few modest promises but was often inarticulate, had difficulty explaining the financing behind the simplest of promises, and refused to criticize the governing provincial NDP – which pundits and rivals repeatedly used against her.

For most of the campaign, Wasylycia-Leis’ safe strategy appeared to be working. She commanded a comfortable lead in every poll until this week.

Bowman worked his way up from an underdog with 11 per cent suport among decided voters last December to climb into third place by August with 16 per cent. By Oct. 1, he had vaulted past Gord Steeves into second with 23 per cent and three days before polling day, the last survey had Bowman edging past Wasylycia-Leis into a narrow lead that culminated in an election night landslide.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Aldo Santin and Mary Agnes Welch.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 9:41 PM CDT: Updates with Judy Wasylycia-Leis quotes.

10:15 PM: Updates photo.

10:35 PM: Updated

10:46 PM: Adds videos

11:28 PM: Adds video, writes through.

11:38 PM: Updates videos

October 23, 2014 at 6:29 AM: Corrects typo

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