Night of surprises Gillingham celebrates, Murray concedes, Klein and Loney round out top four

Scott Gillingham, a two-term city councillor and former Pentecostal pastor, has pulled off a win in a mayoral race in which he seemed destined to finish second — and it was a squeaker.

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Scott Gillingham, a two-term city councillor and former Pentecostal pastor, has pulled off a win in a mayoral race in which he seemed destined to finish second — and it was a squeaker.

Polls done earlier in the campaign had put Glen Murray, who was mayor of the city from 1998 to 2004, well out in front of the pack of 11 contenders.

But Gillingham, the top right-leaning candidate, benefited from Murray’s campaign missteps, including his flip-flop on taxes, and fallout from workplace harassment accusations stemming from his time at Alberta-based Pembina Institute a few years ago.

The full slate of candidates included former MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, former Manitoba Liberal leader Rana Bokhari, consultant Jenny Motkaluk, businessman Rick Shone, security company owner Don Woodstock, engineer Idris Adelakun and grocery store worker Chris Clacio.

The victor

Gillingham’s pledge to lead a stable city government resonated with voters; there was no drama or big promises.

The councillor for St. James cut through the noise of a crowded field of candidates to emerge victorious.

“Holy smokes — what a night,” Gillingham said.

“Thank you to everybody for proving that hard work and perseverance and focus and dedication pays off,” Gillingham said. “This was an extremely close race.”

Throughout the night, Gillingham’s supporters crowded around the big screens set up in the Clarion Hotel as results trickled in, showing their candidate and Murray neck and neck. There was a collective gasp in the room when CTV News projected Murray had won with just 140 polls reporting, then cheers erupted moments later when Gillingham pulled ahead with 170 polls reporting.

He hung on to that lead for the rest of the night. Flanked by his wife Marla and adult children, his parents and grandfather in his 90s, the mayor-elect saluted all the candidates for having the courage and stamina to run and congratulated the councillors before getting down to work next week.

“I didn’t run to settle for status quo,” Gillingham told the elated crowd. “I did not run to defend the status quo. I ran because I believe Winnipeg can try harder, can govern smarter and can deliver faster — to build a city that is economically stronger so we can afford responsible investments to build a city that is socially stronger — so that we can be proud and safe and can walk tall, to build a city that’s culturally richer so our peers will see us and envy us,” he said. “Let’s unite together.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Scott Gillingham gives his grandfather, Gordon Alder, a hug during his victory speech at The Clarion Hotel after winning the mayoral election.

Gillingham was upfront with Winnipeggers about his plan to impose a $1.50-per-foot frontage fee increase in 2023, and raise property taxes by 3.5 per cent in each of the next four years.

The man who chaired the city’s finance committee for more than five years pledged to simplify the approval process for office to residential conversions to attract more residential development downtown and to work with other levels of government to incentivize the development of affordable housing at Portage Place.

He supports extending Chief Peguis Trail, widening Kenaston Boulevard between Ness and Taylor avenues and restoring transit to full pre-pandemic service levels.

“My campaign motto has been from the start, ‘Uniting to build a stronger Winnipeg.’”–Scott Gillingham

He was endorsed by former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, a Liberal, and former federal Conservative MP Laurence Toet.

His support of urban reserves and treaty land entitlement won Gillingham endorsements from former Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches and Indigenous Leadership Development Institute chief executive officer Rosa Walker.

Gillingham was elected city councillor for St. James-Brooklands in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018.

“My campaign motto has been from the start, ‘Uniting to build a stronger Winnipeg,’” he said Wednesday night. “It will be my goal to make every effort in the coming months and years of this term to unite Winnipeg together so we can build a stronger brighter city.”

 

The runner-up

It was a nail-biting, emotional roller-coaster ride for Murray.

“Well, for a few minutes there, we knew what it felt like to win,” Murray told supporters at the start of his concession speech.

The candidate experienced a very eventful election day, which was also his 65th birthday.

The early election results showed a tight race between Murray and Gillingham just after polls began reporting. Shortly before 9 p.m., CTV News projected a win for Murray, leading his supporters to erupt in cheers.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Supporters cheer at Glen Murray's election night watch party as he is falsely declared the winner early in the evening.

That response turned to confusion. Gillingham took the lead soon after and had about two per cent more votes than Murray 15 minutes later. By 9:30, CTV News tweeted that the race for mayor was “undetermined” and its decision desk was “revisiting the numbers.”

Murray told reporters it was too soon to speculate on why he didn’t win the race.

“I can’t speculate on that. I’m a good mayor but I’m not a great pundit,” said Murray, adding he felt all candidates contributed to a hard-fought campaign.

When asked if he would run for mayor again, Murray indicated there were some surprises in the competition.

“I’m going to reflect a lot on this experience. Politics has changed… You are much more vulnerable as a public person (now),” he said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

'I’m going to reflect a lot on this experience. Politics has changed… You are much more vulnerable as a public person (now),' Glen Murray said.

Though he was deemed the front-runner among mayoral candidates shortly after he registered to run in late June, Murray’s support appeared to weaken throughout the campaign. Two Probe Research polls found him to have a commanding lead among decided voters, with 44 per cent of those surveyed in July planning to cast ballots for Murray and 40 per cent planning to do so in September.

However, a Leger poll commissioned and publicly released by Gillingham’s campaign earlier this month found Murray had dropped to 28 per cent support among decided voters, followed by Gillingham at 19 per cent, Kevin Klein at 14 and Shaun Loney at 13.

The Leger poll was conducted in early October, shortly after allegations arose about Murray’s time at the Pembina Institute. Some former Pembina staff claimed Murray was forced out of his role at the energy think tank, where he worked in 2017-18, following complaints about his “chaotic” management. One staff member accused Murray of sexual harassment at a social event.

Murray consistently denied the harassment allegation, while his campaign provided letters from three people who publicly defended Murray’s performance at Pembina.

 

Third place

One-term city councillor Kevin Klein fell short in his bid to become mayor, but said he’s more motivated than ever to remain active in politics.

Klein gave a short concession speech to a room of several dozen supporters at Assiniboia Downs shortly after it became clear Gillingham was the victor.

He said he remains committed to the City of Winnipeg, which he considers the best in Canada.

“Winnipeg needs change… I’d really like to see (the new council) become more fiscally responsible. In my time on council, as much as they felt they were being fiscally responsible, they weren’t doing enough,” Klein told reporters.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

Kevin Klein said he remains committed to the City of Winnipeg, which he considers the best city in Canada.

“Most importantly, I’m concerned about crime in our city… I didn’t hear a lot of talking about that (from the other candidates), and I’m afraid they’re going to ignore that even more, like we have for the past eight years.”

Klein ran as a fiscal hawk who would not raise property taxes until he got a handle on the city’s existing financial resources.

He promised to abolish the executive policy committee (whose members are handpicked by the mayor), and to overhaul the budget process, which he characterized as a “disaster.”

Klein attacked the city’s record of fiscal management under the leadership of Gillingham as finance chairman.

I’d really like to see (the new council) become more fiscally responsible. In my time on council, as much as they felt they were being fiscally responsible, they weren’t doing enough.”–Kevin Klein

Community safety initiatives were a key component of his platform, with promises to aggressively crack down on youth-gang recruitment and to keep the Winnipeg Police Service helicopter in the air.

Klein was elected councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood in 2018 after his extensive experience in the private sector.

Klein said he’d like to stay involved in politics — adding it’s too early to say whether that would be at the provincial or federal level.

“I’m going to take a couple days to think about what I want to do, but I think I’m more committed to doing something in politics, because I really believe we need to bring change to politics,” he said.

 

Fourth place

Rookie politician Shaun Loney made a name for himself as the entrepreneurial and environmentally friendly option in a crowded race and built momentum throughout his campaign.

Loney, a self-described “entrepreneur and trained economist,” was the first to declare his intention to run for the top job after Brian Bowman announced he wouldn’t seek a third term.

More than a year after Loney stepped forward, a crowded room of his supporters at the Norwood Hotel welcomed him at election night headquarters with rowdy chants of his last name.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES

Shaun Loney congratulated Gillingham and pledged to work with the incoming leader to address homelessness.

The room quieted as the two front-runners, Glen Murray and Scott Gillingham jumped ahead to battle it out.

Loney congratulated Gillingham and pledged to work with the incoming leader to address homelessness.

“A year and a half (ago), I was cleaning up a homeless camp and it was the last straw for me — realizing that someone who lives in our city was living in a tree,” Loney said, surrounded by his wife and three adult sons.

“I’ve never met her before. but I carried her with me every day of the campaign and I want her to know: ‘You still deserve a better city and we are still here to fight for it.’”

Probe Research data show the contestant gained more than double the support of decided voters in Winnipeg between public opinion surveys undertaken in July and September.

“A year and a half (ago), I was cleaning up a homeless camp and it was the last straw for me.”–Shaun Loney

In the lead-up to election day, Loney repeatedly touted his credentials as a founder of several social enterprises that create employment opportunities in underserved communities.

He pledged to house people living in bus shelters and on riverbanks within one year of being elected through negotiating service agreements with non-profits and open a safe consumption site.

The former director of energy policy for the Manitoba government also promised to make Winnipeg a leader in solar energy, fast-track permits for projects that target net zero emissions, tax commercial surface parking lots, establish a tree trust, and accelerate the transit master plan. To back up his pitches, he released a fully costed platform.

 

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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Updated on Thursday, October 27, 2022 10:21 AM CDT: Corrects formatting

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