December 8, 2019

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From activist to politician in St. Norbert

After years as a grassroots, volunteer community activist, Janice Lukes is about to find out what it's like on the inside.

The community fundraiser — who was a longtime thorn in the sides of elected municipal officials — won the St. Norbert riding in a decisive victory over main challenger Sachit Merhra. Lukes will take the seat previously held by Justin Swandel.

Eight brand-new faces will fill half of city council's 16 seats.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Eight brand-new faces will fill half of city council's 16 seats.

In fact, Lukes had served as a community assistant under Swandel for recent years, along with serving as director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

"People always said to me, 'You should run (for council)'," Lukes joked on Wednesday night. "I said, 'No way! There might be another me out there.

"Another person told me, 'Let's see how you can do on the inside.' I see that as a challenge. I just know we can do more. I'm as low-budget and grassroots as they come."

As a rookie councillor, Lukes said her first priority, on a city-wide level, will be to improve communication between city government and residents. The second priority will be to improve communication between councillors, period.

"I really want to bring a sense of decorum," she said. "I want to help instill pride. I want to see more togetherness at city hall and not so much negativity.

"There was a lot of pitting against each other. I have 12-year-olds at home. I don't need to go to city hall for that."

In fact, Lukes said her decision to run was triggered largely by what she believed was a loss in faith of council, which has been under a cloud of project cost overruns.

"The perverse good thing about that," she said, "is all that with all that bad stuff we're going to be hyper-vigilant to proper governance. Massive No. 1. That's good, right?"

Lukes never trailed in the voting from the first poll count. Around 9:15 p.m., main challenger Sachit Mehra dropped into Lukes's campaign headquarters, a former liquor store, to concede the race. A third candidate, Joe Chan, was ran behind on the ballot.

Janice Lukes won the St. Norbert riding, and wants to 'see some new blood at city hall.'

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Janice Lukes won the St. Norbert riding, and wants to 'see some new blood at city hall.'

"I'm so proud of my campaign," Mehra said. "I'm proud of the St. Norbert residents who came out and shared their ideas. This was a win for St. Norbert in ideas."

Lukes, meanwhile, pumped her fist when Mayor elect Brian Bowman surged ahead of Judy Wasylycia-Leis. "I just want to see new blood at city hall," she said, adding, "Sometimes it's good to have vitality and youth."

The new councilor said her list of priorities for the riding include:

1) Improving the communication process.

2) Helping local seniors angered by the closing of a neighbourhood Safeway.

3) Addressing the issue of rooming houses in neighbourhoods near the University of Manitoba.

"We're going to aggressively take care of our community," Lukes said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Randy Turner

Randy Turner
Reporter

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.

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