Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/11/2014 (1742 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg's divide is far more complex than Bartley Kives suggests in High hopes for first indigenous Winnipeg mayor (Oct. 25).
Having a self-identified Métis mayor will undoubtedly dispel many of the negative stereotypes about indigenous people that continue to be far too prevalent in our city.
Our first openly gay mayor certainly had this effect on homophobia. In fact, my somewhat conservative Catholic mother changed her views about homosexuality in part because of former mayor Glen Murray. She held him in very high regard and came to understand his sexual orientation was irrelevant. I've always attributed a big part of my mother's acceptance of my gay brother to her seeing a progressive, openly gay male as a civic leader and role model.
But the divide Kives refers to is far more complicated, and Bowman identifying himself as indigenous will not be enough to bridge it.
The geographic distribution of the vote tells us an important story about this divide. Our city is, as it has always been, deeply divided by class. Much of the north of the city came out in support of Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the left-leaning mayoral candidate, while the south and other suburbs came out in support of conservative-aligned candidate Brian Bowman.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who ran a high-spirited, passionate campaign that was often portrayed as "left" but was in fact more libertarian at times, garnered most of his support in the core area of the city. It is notable the distribution of votes in this election was not that different than 2010's. Wasylycia-Leis was the clear choice of voters in the inner city and North End, while Sam Katz had a firm grasp on the south. In spite of all the hype about 'change,' nothing much has changed, at least in this respect.
An Insightrix Research poll commissioned by CJOB and Global News and released shortly before election day tells another important story about our city's divide. While clearly underestimating Bowman's lead, it provided some insight into the socio-economic status of decided voters.
Fifty per cent of voters with household earnings less than $30,000 chose Wasylcia-Leis as their preferred candidate, while another 38 per cent of households earning moderate incomes, between $30,000 and $60,000, also proclaimed support for Judy.
Not surprisingly, Bowman was the preferred choice of 50 per cent of decided voters earning between $90,000 and $120,000 and 53 per cent of those earning more than $120,000.
So what about the indigenous divide?
In spite of the stereotypes, not all indigenous people in our city are poor, and not all live in the inner city and North End. There is a growing number of middle-class indigenous people across city neighbourhoods. But many indigenous people are poor, and many continue to fall behind. The inner city and North End of Winnipeg, where Bowman's support was weakest, is home to a large number of aboriginal people, including many who struggle to survive on a daily basis.
There is little in Bowman's campaign platform that speaks to this divide.
Bowman did not run a campaign on indigenous issues, and he did not run as an indigenous candidate. His emphasis has always been on ensuring Winnipeg is a city that is "open for business." It is this focus that garnered the support of high-profile conservative leaders and the business community, and it is this focus that led to his success in the south end of the city and the outlying suburbs.
If Bowman wants, as he says, to "build bridges between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community," he will have to acknowledge the socio-economic and geographic divide as well. He will need to focus on the issues that matter to poor people, a large number of whom are aboriginal and live in the inner city and North End, where his support was the weakest. Bowman will need to reach out to the inner city to show he is more than just the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce mayor. This means he will need to include in his agenda policies and programs that speak to the needs and interests of the disenfranchised, indigenous and non-indigenous, who supported other candidates or did not vote at all.
Bowman will need to take leadership on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and children. He will need to expand recreational opportunities for marginalized inner-city youth. He will need to commit to increasing the supply of low-cost housing. He will need to recognize that while increasing the number of people downtown is good for our city, this alone won't make our downtown safer, and it doesn't address the root causes of crime. While these are not issues outlined in his platform, he can make them a priority if he chooses to. This will be a challenge for Bowman, who has promised a two per cent cut to all department budgets with the exception of fire, paramedics and police, while also making big-ticket promises that will have little benefit to inner-city residents.
Now that he has been proclaimed the "first indigenous mayor," there will be high expectations from indigenous and non-indigenous Winnipeggers who have long been concerned with racism as well as the geographic social and economic divide in our city.
Shauna MacKinnon is an assistant professor in the department of urban and inner-city studies at the University of Winnipeg. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba's blog is at policyfix.ca.