Four more years.
Brian Bowman won his second term as Winnipeg’s mayor Wednesday night, pushing back a strong challenge from Jenny Motkaluk.
"Well we did it. We did it again. Winnipeg has decided to keep building for the future," Bowman told the crowd of enthusiastic supporters gathered at the downtown Metropolitan Theatre.
Bowman’s victory had been predicted by local political observers and polling data, which had him comfortably ahead of seven largely unknown challengers throughout the campaign.
The unofficial results didn't match the size of the victory the polls had predicted. When the votes were all counted, Bowman captured 53.3 per cent of the vote, to Motkaluk's 35.7 per cent.
Aaron Moore, a political science professor at the University of Winnipeg who had been watching the mayoral race closely, said the outcome was not a surprise.
"In the end, Bowman ran a fairly safe campaign, and avoided making any major gaffes that would derail him," Moore said. "He’s been paving the roads, and there have been no major scandals during his first term, an improvement over the last mayor."
Moore said the odds were always against Motkaluk and she simply could not mount a big enough challenge.
"Motkaluk had an uphill battle from the start as a virtual unknown and it’s very difficult to defeat an incumbent under such circumstances," Moore said. "There were no strong left-wing candidates challenging him, so he had the centre and left all open to him, though perhaps many people on the left stayed home."
The unofficial results saw Bowman collect more votes in this election (114,222) than he did in 2014 (111,504). The overall voter turnout (42% 214,303 votes), however, was less than that the 2014 election (50.23% 235,455).
Across town, Motkaluk abandoned the hard-edged tone that marked her campaign and was gracious in defeat as she urged her supporters and all Winnipeggers to get behind Bowman and the new council.
Stepping down from the stage at a ballroom at Canad Inns Polo Park, Motkaluk was embraced by her husband, Trevor Sprague, and their daughter, Emily, alongside various supporters. Setting down her daughter, who had jumped into her arms, and wiping a tear from her eye, Motkaluk fielded questions from reporters.
"We were optimistic of course. Winnipeggers, a lot of them came out in support," Motkaluk said. "But, you know what, it is what it is -- here we are. The end."
While Bowman thanked his supporters in a 10-minute victory speech, he offered them little insight into what his priorities would be for the next four years but he was more specific when questioned by reporters.
Bowman said he would continue to make road renewal his priority as well as implement the public safety initiative council approved at its September meeting.
Bowman also said one of his first efforts will be targeting members of the Winnipeg Police Service, where he said he would pursue his campaign pledge to remove pensionable earnings from police over-time pay and use that money instead to bolster the public safety plan.
Bowman said that while he voted Yes on the Portage and Main ballot question, he would respect the overwhelming No vote to keep the intersection closed to pedestrians, regardless of what repairs will be needed to upgrade both the surface and underground concourse.
One of Bowman's first challenges will be to assemble an executive policy committee -- the chairpersons of council’s standing committees -- which has to be done before the swearing in of new council members Nov. 6.
The election saw all members of Bowman’s former executive policy committee re-elected: Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), and Scott Gillingham (St. James).
Bowman said he would interview all members of council before making his EPC appointments.
Motkaluk had run a professional and strong campaign that set her apart from the group of challengers. A business consultant whose only previous run at political office had been in 2010 (in a losing effort to Ross Eadie when he was elected councillor in the Mynarski ward), Motkaluk clearly established herself as an opponent to be reckoned with, consistently hitting Bowman where he was thought to be weakest, using language that gave her an angry edge.
Bowman, meanwhile, opted for the incumbent’s safe campaign. Unlike 2014, when Bowman spent most of his first campaign as the underdog, this time, he ran on his record over the past four years, which had seen few pitfalls. He promised more of the same in a series of commitments that included an annual cap on property tax increases of 2.3 per cent, a freeze on water and sewer rates and frontage fees, and costed positions on road renewal, community safety, community centres, inclusion and human rights.
Motkaluk’s strategy to blame the mayor for all of the city’s problems -- the meth abuse crisis, a spike in violent crimes, and even the sewage overflow discharges into the rivers during heavy rainstorms -- wasn’t enough.
The other mayoral candidates finished far back: Tim Diack (4.9% 10,548), Don Woodstock (2.2% 4,738), Doug Wilson (1.7% 3,527), Umar Hayat (1% 2,229). Ed Ackerman (0.8% 1,697) and Venkat Machiraju (0.4% 788).
--with files from Ryan Thorpe
Updated on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 9:10 PM CDT: Updates with speech from Motkaluk
9:22 PM: Adds tweets
9:48 PM: Updates with speech from Brian Bowman
10:15 PM: Adds video, photos
10:46 PM: Final writethrough
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