Winnipeg residents can be forgiven if they’ve forgotten there is a civic election in October.

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This article was published 4/9/2018 (1353 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg residents can be forgiven if they’ve forgotten there is a civic election in October.

With 49 days left in the campaign, civic issues haven’t dominated the headlines like they did four years ago.

In the summer of 2014, there were several high-profile and credible candidates who wanted to take the job after Sam Katz said he’d had enough: Brian Bowman, former Coun. Gord Steeves, former New Democrat MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis (who was making her second run at the job), then-Coun. Paula Havixbeck, community activist David Sanders, and Robert-Falcon Ouelette.

While there are 10 individuals officially registered in the mayoral race, only two candidates — Jenny Motkaluk and Don Woodstock — have done any real campaigning and only Motkaluk is getting any media attention.

Mayor Brian Bowman has said he won’t start his campaign until sometime later this month.

Tim Diack, a 31-year street cop, looked promising when he showed up at city hall with about three dozen supporters at the end of May to register his campaign but he’s been invisible since that day.

Political scientist Aaron Moore said he thinks Motkaluk is looking impressive only because the other candidates are invisible and he believes she’ll be in for a tough race once Bowman actually starts campaigning.

"I don’t see (Motkaluk) as someone who can challenge Bowman," Moore, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, said. "Bowman should have a relatively easy path to victory, which is probably why he’s not campaigning."

Moore said he expects Bowman to run a simple campaign, listing his achievements in the past four years and offering a few promises for the next four.

"It’ll probably be sufficient for him to get re-elected."

Pollster Mary Agnes Welch said most serious individuals who had been thinking of taking on Bowman probably will wait another four years, explaining that it’s tough in Winnipeg to beat an incumbent.

Welch, an associate with Probe Research Inc., said she’s been impressed with Motkaluk but, like Moore, says it will be difficult for her to beat Bowman.

"Jenny Motkaluk has been setting the agenda and the tone this summer," Welch said. "After a bit of a rough start, she’s run a reasonably good summer time campaign with meaty announcements, reasonably focused, on message and substantive."

Anyone still thinking of running only has two weeks to register their campaign and file nomination papers. The deadline is Sept. 18.

Jason Schreyer city council election signs on Nairn Avenue.


Jason Schreyer city council election signs on Nairn Avenue.

A marker was passed on Saturday that should make the next 49 days actually look like an election campaign. Saturday was the first day that candidates could put up campaign signs.

What will be different Oct. 24 and new for many voters is the ballot question on re-opening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

It’s been 35 years since Winnipeg voters were asked a ballot question — that was in 1983 when they were asked two questions: if they supported global nuclear disarmament; and, a question on Manitoba’s controversial English only-language laws. Before that, voters were asked in 1968 if they would allow commercial billiard halls to remain open on Sundays.

This year’s question will be much simpler, if not very controversial: Do you support the opening of Portage and Main to pedestrian crossings? Yes or No.

Moore said he’s concerned the focus on Portage and Main will distract voters and candidates from exploring other, more important issues: determining how best to spend scarce dollars on the city’s other needs.

While the mayoral race may not attract much attention, both Moore and Welch said there will be a few hotly contested ward races that will make the next few weeks interesting: Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, River Heights-Fort Garry, St. James, and Transcona.

Right now, three incumbents aren’t facing any challengers: Matt Allard in St. Boniface, Brian Mayes in St. Vital, and Janice Lukes in the new ward of Waverley Heights.

"It would be unusual in most major cities across North America for an incumbent to go unopposed," Moore said.

"To have three wards without any challengers is sad," Welch said.

Jenny Gerbasi represented Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry for 20 years on council before she decided in the spring not to run again. There are eight candidates trying to replace her and it’s possible that whoever wins could do it with only 20 per cent of the vote.

There are three strong progressive candidates in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry: labour-endorsed Sherri Rollins (chairwoman of the Winnipeg School Division), planner Jeff Palmer and NDP organizer Geof Langen. Also running is Stephanie Meilleur, executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ.

In River Heights, former Coun. Garth Steek is attempting a comeback against incumbent John Orlikow. Orlikow was part of the opposition when Sam Katz was mayor but Bowman elevated Orlikow to his inner circle, where he’s been chairman of the powerful property and development committee for four years.

St. James features the unusual situation where two incumbents are facing off against each other — Shawn Dobson versus Scott Gillingham. Both their area wards were eliminated for this election through a ward boundary revision. Both men were elected for the first time in 2014 but each has had vastly different political careers. Gillingham had a high profile as chairman of council’s finance committee for the past two years and the chairman of the police board before that, while Dobson was part of the Bowman opposition for four years, where he regularly complained about the administration’s refusal to share information with all councillors and Bowman’s practice of only soliciting support from a simple majority of councillors, which didn’t include Dobson.

Trying to carve out some space in St. James is Kurt Morton, a 22-year-old civic employee who made headlines in December 2016 when he appeared before a budget review committee to say his bosses at city hall hadn’t been making the best decisions.

In Transcona, the news is that veteran Coun. Russ Wyatt still hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, which is not unusual given he’s very publicly trying to stay sober after a stint in rehab earlier this year and is now facing a sexual assault charge. Six candidates have registered in that ward, including Shawn Nason, who had been an executive assistant to two Pallister cabinet ministers until he took a leave of absence; and Steven Lipischak, director of marketing for the Vickar Automotive Group.