October 20, 2019

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New faces, tight races

Departing incumbents, ward changes open doors for more women, immigrants on council

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2018 (362 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers are guaranteed to see at least five new faces on city council come election night, after four incumbents decided not to run again, along with the creation of new ward boundaries.

It won't be as big of a makeover as the 2014 municipal election, when a new mayor — Brian Bowman — and seven new councillors: Matt Allard, Shawn Dobson, Scott Gillingham, Marty Morantz, Cindy Gilroy, Jason Schreyer and Janice Lukes.

But there's a chance the 2018 vote may better reflect the makeup of the city, political analysts say.

In Point Douglas and Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry — wards long held by Mike Pagtakhan and Jenny Gerbasi, respectively — the outgoing councillors have backed their favoured replacements.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2018 (362 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers are guaranteed to see at least five new faces on city council come election night, after four incumbents decided not to run again, along with the creation of new ward boundaries.

It won't be as big of a makeover as the 2014 municipal election, when a new mayor — Brian Bowman — and seven new councillors: Matt Allard, Shawn Dobson, Scott Gillingham, Marty Morantz, Cindy Gilroy, Jason Schreyer and Janice Lukes.

But there's a chance the 2018 vote may better reflect the makeup of the city, political analysts say.

In Point Douglas and Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry — wards long held by Mike Pagtakhan and Jenny Gerbasi, respectively — the outgoing councillors have backed their favoured replacements.

Pagtakhan endorsed Vivian Santos, his executive assistant, prompting an outcry from Point Douglas rivals Kate Sjoberg and Dean Koshelanyk, saying she's had an unfair advantage. Santos maintains that she's broken no rules.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Markus Chambers, running for the St. Norbert-Seine River council seat, said he's running on his record of experience and skills.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Markus Chambers, running for the St. Norbert-Seine River council seat, said he's running on his record of experience and skills.

Gerbasi has endorsed Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of the Winnipeg School Division, to replace her.

"We need strong progressive women on council who will fight for social justice in our city," Gerbasi said.

'My interest is being the best candidate to be elected, as opposed to focusing on the diversity angle' - Markus Chambers, candidate for the St. Norbert-Seine River ward

There are seven candidates running to replace Gerbasi, including three women and an immigrant (Peter Koroma came to Canada from Sierra Leone decades ago).

If perceived front-runners Santos and Rollins, and incumbents Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) win, they would join Waverley West councillor Lukes, who was acclaimed after no rivals filed nomination papers — and women would hold nearly one-third of the seats on city council.

That would be great for Winnipeg's civic leadership, said Paula Havixbeck, a former councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo who ran for mayor in 2014.

"Women have a different way of managing, of leading," she said.

The United Nations says governments should have at least 30 per cent female representation for a "critical mass," and to "make a visible impact on the style and content of political decision-making."

"They have different styles that may be more collaborative and inclusive of all members of council and that may be what we're missing right now," said Havixbeck. "That would be my hope."

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Nancy Cooke, running in St. Norbert-Seine River, said diversity hasn't been an issue on people's doorsteps, with voters more concerned about tackling pressing issues.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Nancy Cooke, running in St. Norbert-Seine River, said diversity hasn't been an issue on people's doorsteps, with voters more concerned about tackling pressing issues.

Although Winnipeg has consistently fallen below 30 per cent — with 25 per cent of recent council members being women — the 2018 election could buck the trend, she said.

If mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk pulls off an upset, that would be a game-changer for the city, Havixbeck added.

She's also watching the race in the new St. Norbert-Seine River ward. It's one of the closest in the city, with a woman and a visible minority candidate among the five candidates.

'They have different styles that may be more collaborative and inclusive of all members of council and that may be what we're missing right now' - former councillor Paula Havixbeck on the advantages of having more women on council

Nancy Cooke is a business owner who's worked as the special assistant to Manitoba's minister of infrastructure for the last two years. Markus Chambers is a manager with the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program.

"I have not made the gender thing an issue, and I'm not hearing that at the door," Cooke said. "(Voters) want to talk about the issues that matter" and whether she has the skills and experience to address them.

"It's a big new ward and a number of communities are coming together for the first time."

Peter Koroma and Sherri Rollins are running in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Peter Koroma and Sherri Rollins are running in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward. TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lukes, whose old South Winnipeg-St. Norbert ward was split into Waverley West and St. Norbert-Seine River, doesn't know what to expect in the new area.

"This will be one that's really hard to peg," she said.

In Fort Richmond, student housing and rooming houses is a major issue, Cooke said. For St. Norbert and Seine River residents, it's traffic, road speed and development, while the areas of Vermette and St. Germain outside the Perimeter Highway have issues of zoning, water and waste.

What's needed is a councillor with a vision, instead of just reacting to issues, Cooke said.

"There's lots of opportunity to grow together as a community," she said.

Chambers is taking a similar approach.

"My interest is being the best candidate to be elected, as opposed to focusing on the diversity angle," he said.

"Obviously, I would be honoured to be elected as the first Afro-Caribbean person (on council). But I'm running on the basis of my skills and experience and 25 years as a resident of the community."

'I have not made the gender thing an issue, and I'm not hearing that at the door. (Voters) want to talk about the issues that matter' - St. Norbert-Seine River candidate Nancy Cooke

The hockey and soccer coach has volunteered with the United Way and Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and is endorsed by philanthropist Gail Asper.

Diversity is important, he said.

"When my wife and I moved here in 1992, it was very homogeneous." That's changing, said Chambers, who has taken a leave from his work to take a run at council.

"My program has been bringing internationally trained skilled workers to the province," he said, adding the recruits are from many countries and they're settling in, qualifying for citizenship and making the city more diverse, including in the ward.

Former councillor Paula Havixbeck said a council balanced on gender and race would be more representative of Winnipeg. MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Former councillor Paula Havixbeck said a council balanced on gender and race would be more representative of Winnipeg. MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

"It's great for the entire city."

Cooke and Chambers are up against Nikolas Joyal, 22, a University of Manitoba student; Chris Davis, a driver with Top Dog Courier and sports volunteer; and Glenn Churchill, a transportation engineer who says he wants to help city council improve its due diligence on major projects and make sure tax dollars are wisely spent.

"It's going to be very interesting," Lukes said of the ward race.

Elsewhere, the lack of gender and cultural diversity is glaring, said Havixbeck, pointing to Transcona and Charleswood-Tuxedo as examples.

In Transcona, eight men are running to replace long-serving councillor Russ Wyatt, who is leaving politics after battling addiction and pleading innocent to a sexual-assault charge still before the court. Wyatt is not leaving Transcona, and hopes his replacement has his eye on the future.

"I know the community — I was born and raised here and I love Transcona," said Wyatt, who has held the seat since 2002. "The elected candidates should always look at the long term."

Business consultant Ray Ulasy, who finished second behind Wyatt in 2014, is running again. Sandeep Sharma is the only non-Caucasian candidate for the ward.

Charleswood-Tuxedo is also up for grabs Wednesday, with councillor Marty Morantz bowing out to run in the next federal election.

Four Caucasian men are vying for the ward formerly known as Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge. One is a former city councillor, Grant Nordman, who served two terms in the former St. Charles ward until he was defeated by Dobson in 2014. Nordman is running against Kevin Klein, a former Winnipeg Sun publisher, business owner Kevin Nichols and Ken St. George, a nurse.

The city is lacking in fair representation on council, said Havixbeck.

If it was truly reflective of the population, half the council members would be women and one quarter would be immigrants, she said. "It's imbalanced."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

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