The long and winding road to become mayor The campaign to become Winnipeg’s next mayor ends when the votes are counted Wednesday evening
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It wasn’t just hats tossed into this year’s race to be the 44th person to occupy the mayor’s chair. There were a couple of hand grenades, as well.
The first was lobbed by former mayor Glen Murray, who announced he was in the race, blowing up what had been, until then, a relatively low-profile campaign consisting of a soon-to-be-former city councillor sparring with a former provincial Liberal leader and a mix of others in the battle.
Immediately, Murray became the front-runner, a position reflected by two polls in July and September showing him ahead of his closest challenger, former city finance committee chairman Scott Gillingham, by an almost two-to-one margin among decided voters.
About that other explosive? It also involved Murray’s campaign.
Late last month, CBC Manitoba published a story detailing bullying allegations made by former employees against Murray — and one of sexual harassment — when he ran the Pembina Institute clean-energy think tank in Calgary in 2017-2018.
And while Murray — Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998-2004 — denied the accusations in a public statement that day in the presence of several prominent supporters, along with a statement of support from the then-board chair of the Calgary non-profit, the damage was done.
A poll released earlier this month — albeit commissioned by Gillingham’s campaign — suggested Murray’s support had dropped 12 percentage points from a September survey that had him at 40 per cent of decided voters.
There are 11 names on the ballot for mayor, and the race comes to an end Wednesday at 8 p.m. It won’t be long after that when Winnipeggers learn the identity of Brian Bowman’s successor.
In the meantime, here’s a look back at this campaign’s twists and turns, some of its key moments, and the top promises made by the people who look to be the top runners.
April 2021 — The length of civic campaigns always make federal and provincial campaigns look like brief walks in the park, but Shaun Loney made this one even longer. Loney, a social enterprise activist, becomes the first declared mayoral candidate, announcing he will take a run for the job when Winnipeggers go to the polls in 18 months.
Feb. 4, 2022 — Scott Gillingham says it is very likely he will be run.
May 1 — Even though it falls on a Sunday, it’s the first-day candidates can register to launch mayoral campaigns. Jenny Motkaluk, Don Woodstock and Chris Clacio are the first out of the blocks, followed the next day by two-term St. James city councillor Scott Gillingham and Wilderness Supply owner Rick Shone.
June 21 — Motkaluk causes a stir when she wades in on social media to criticize a decision by officials at The Forks to abandon the traditional Canada Day fireworks and change the name of July 1 celebrations to “It’s a New Day at The Forks” and add more Indigenous culture out of a desire to acknowledge painful elements of the country’s history.
June 22 — Ending weeks of speculation, former mayor Glen Murray announces he wants the job again. “There is still a lot of work to do to get a better deal for our city so we can prosper and succeed,” he says.
July 28 — A Free Press–CTV News poll conducted by Probe Research shows Murray is in the lead among decided voters with 44 per cent support. Gillingham is second with 16 per cent, followed by Robert-Falcon Ouellette with 13 per cent and Motkaluk at eight per cent. The rest of the candidates — including Loney, Rana Bokhari and Shone — are all well back, with single-digit support percentages.
Aug. 3 — Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor Kevin Klein is the final candidate to announce a run for mayor. A week later, longtime CJOB broadcaster Hal Anderson announces he will take a shot at winning the now-vacant ward seat.
Aug. 31 — Shone’s bike is stolen just minutes after making a campaign announcement about active transportation and anti-bike theft measures.
Sept. 14 — Candidates for public office frequently accuse their opponents of all sorts of wrongdoing and lousy decision-making, but things don’t often end up in court. During a public forum, mayoral hopeful Don Woodstock says Motkaluk will have to “rein in” her brother — who runs a construction business — if she becomes mayor because of potential conflict-of-interest concerns. She says her brother’s business would face the same rules and requirements as any other company. Her brother, two companies and their owners later file a defamation lawsuit against Woodstock in Court of King’s Bench. The matter has not yet been heard.
Sept. 20 — The campaign proves to be a particularly easy one for both Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) and Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River), whose re-election bids draw no challengers at the registration deadline.
Sept. 23 — The results of a second Free Press-CTV Probe poll are released and play a pivotal role in determining the top-five candidates lineup for CBC Manitoba’s Oct. 19 televised debate. The poll shows Murray maintaining a commanding lead over the rest of the field with 40 per cent of decided voters backing him. Gillingham, his closest rival, had 15 per cent. But there were a couple of surprises: Loney jumped from six per cent to 14 per cent, putting him in either third or second place — depending where the survey’s margin of error put him — and Ouellette, who parlayed a strong showing in the 2014 civic election to one-term as a Liberal MP, dropped from 13 per cent to seven. Klein, who jumped into the campaign after the July poll, placed fourth at 10 per cent.
Sept. 26 — Motkaluk is the lone candidate to insist on participating without a mask — in contravention of a University of Manitoba mandate indoors — at a candidate forum. “Quite frankly, I’m done wearing masks, I’m done social distancing. It’s time for us to recover,” she says, drawing a chorus of boos from the audience.
Sept. 29 — Murray vows to continue his campaign after a CBC news investigation reveals accusations of bullying and sexual harassment against him in 2017-2018 while he was leading the non-profit Pembina Institute in Calgary, a clean-energy think tank. Responding to the allegations with media and supporters in the room at his campaign headquarters, he denies the claims, says he knew nothing of their existence, but apologizes for any “stress or tension” he caused while working there. Then-Pembina board chair David Runnalls said he had no knowledge of any harassment claims, but presented Murray with a termination notice after senior staff interviews and a staff survey about Murray’s management. Murray opted to resign instead. Runnalls is one of the people endorsing Murray on the candidate’s website.
Sept. 30 — Candidates and their volunteers put campaign literature in mailboxes; they’re not supposed to take things out. But that’s what St. James resident Jordan Shelest says happened, and he posts a video on social media showing what appears to be school board candidate Pierre Attallah rummaging through his mailbox and removing campaign literature from another candidate. Attallah denies the allegations to a Free Press reporter, but hangs up before taking questions.
Oct. 13 — A poll commissioned by Gillingham’s campaign finds 28 per cent of decided voters plan to vote for Murray. Gillingham is in second place at 19 per cent, Klein at 14 and Loney at 13.
Oct. 19 – The five mayoral candidates who had at least 10 per cent support with sampling error as determined by the earlier Free Press-CTV News poll take the stage for the CBC Manitoba televised debate. Murray is the only one who vows not to raise property taxes during his term in office. Outside CBC’s Portage Avenue building, Motkaluk and a few supporters protest her exclusion from the debate.
Glen Murray: freeze property taxes, convince the provincial government to give the city a one per cent slice of the PST, raise business tax by one per cent for a year, bring in electric buses on frequent bus routes by 2030, study light-rail transit crosstown lines, create an enhanced tree-funding program, bring back the annual downtown street party that kicked off the Winnipeg Blue Bombers season and restart the Winnipeg private refugee sponsorship assurance program.
Scott Gillingham: raise property taxes by 3.5 per cent in each of the next four years and add $1.50 per foot to frontage levies in 2023, fast track extra lanes on Kenaston Boulevard and extend Chief Peguis Trail from Main Street to Route 90, add $50 million to the road-repair budget, add 33 more buses, provide $13 million for new connected bike and pedestrian routes, and improve sidewalk snow-clearing.
Shaun Loney: improve public safety by creating social-enterprise jobs and hiring people who face barriers — including criminal records — to employment, find housing for people living in bus shelters, discourage vehicle use by charging 25 cents on every commercial parking space in the city — including mall lots — create a nightlife mayor position to champion businesses and arts groups open at night, accelerate the implementation of the city’s transit plan to 10 years instead of 25, reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians and create an electric-bus shuttle system so transit users could request a vehicle to get them to the nearest bus stop.
Kevin Klein: eliminate the executive policy committee to ensure all councillors receive the same information, would not expand the city’s rapid transit system, increase the availability of low-cost programming for youth, work with groups such as Siloam Mission and Homes for Heroes to create housing options for people living in bus shelters, have more teams of plainclothes police officers and mental-health clinicians respond to crisis calls, reduce property taxes for qualifying non-profit housing services and put more police officers on the street by not charging the Winnipeg Police Service more than $20 million in rent for its downtown headquarters and leasing fees for its vehicle fleet.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette: have a more community-focused approach to safety with the police service and front-line community organizations, freeze the police budget for four years, hire more paramedics and put more ambulances on the road.
Jenny Motkaluk: freeze property taxes and do what she can to fire Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth.
Rana Bokhari: reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians, establish safe-consumption sites and is calling for a provincial inquiry into the police headquarters construction scandal.
Rick Shone: wants to see Police Chief Danny Smyth replaced, construct more bike lanes and places for pedestrians and will build a new splash pad every year.
Don Woodstock: have Winnipeg Transit buy only electric buses, examine the elimination of transit fares and direct $400 million annually for five years for youth programming.
Idris Adelakun: work with non-profit organizations to create 800 housing units for homeless people, drop property taxes by five per cent for people over the age of 65 and scrap the business tax.
Chris Clacio: remove what he sees as barriers of oppressive systems that prevent people from fully participating in the city and economy.
Information for voters
Polls are open at sites across the city Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters need to provide two pieces of identification with their name and current address, including a driver’s licence or enhanced identification card. But anyone without either, can take two other pieces of ID, including the voter’s card mailed out several weeks ago, a Canadian passport, a Manitoba Health Services card, a blank personalized cheque, a credit card bill, utility bill, or an Indian status card, band membership card, Métis card or card issued by an Inuit local authority.
This will be the first time since the pandemic began that polling stations are open inside various schools across the city.
In addition to mayor and councillors, there are also school trustee races across the city. In the Winnipeg School Division alone, a total of 35 candidates are running to oversee the needs of about 30,000 students being educated in almost 80 different schools.
There seems to be great interest in this election, if advanced voting is an accurate indication. The city said Friday that a record total of 41,895 voters cast early ballots for mayor, councillor or school trustee, a 5.1 per cent increase from the former record of 39,840 voters in 2018.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Monday, October 24, 2022 7:29 PM CDT: Shaun Loney spelling fixed