July 21, 2019

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Wads of cash no guarantee of winning races

Civic election shows that to be true

Janice Lukes will represent St. Norbert at city hall for the next four years.

PHOTO BY DANIELLE DA SILVA

Janice Lukes will represent St. Norbert at city hall for the next four years.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/7/2015 (1463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is a tale of two council ward races.

One, a battle for the open seat in St. Norbert that saw candidates Janice Lukes and Sachit Mehra square off in a hard-fought race that saw them collectively raise about $90,000 in donations.

The other in St. Charles, where Shawn Dobson managed to oust incumbent councillor Grant Nordman after receiving only $9,000 in donations, compared to Nordman who received more than $36,000.

Audited financial statements from the fall civic election show money didn't necessarily spell victory in Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/7/2015 (1463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is a tale of two council ward races.

One, a battle for the open seat in St. Norbert that saw candidates Janice Lukes and Sachit Mehra square off in a hard-fought race that saw them collectively raise about $90,000 in donations.

Councillor Shawn Dobson

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Councillor Shawn Dobson

The other in St. Charles, where Shawn Dobson managed to oust incumbent councillor Grant Nordman after receiving only $9,000 in donations, compared to Nordman who received more than $36,000.

Audited financial statements from the fall civic election show money didn't necessarily spell victory in Winnipeg.

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said the easy explanation is money in campaigns doesn't guarantee success.

"People spend a lot of money and win, people spend a lot of money and lose, so money alone doesn't get you elected," he said. "It depends on the constituency, the affluence of the constituency, how competitive it is, whether the candidates are high-profile and well-connected."

Another open race, this one in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge, also saw candidates collect heaps of cash in donations.

Between victor Marty Morantz, runner-up Evan Duncan, and third-place finisher Luc Lewandoski, almost $100,000 was raised in the ward.

In St. Boniface, the winning candidate, Matt Allard, raised almost $40,000 more than runner-up Ryan Davies.

Yet, Dobson's fourth stab at becoming the councillor for St. Charles was cinched with a shoestring budget.

Dobson chalks up his victory to knocking on doors, spending what little money he had wisely and staying on message.

"Number one: knock on doors. Number two: have good campaign volunteers. Number three: pick the issues that resonate in the neighbourhood," Dobson explained.

Dobson would go on to beat Nordman by more than 1,000 votes in a surprising victory.

St. Charles is the smallest ward in the city in terms of population, while St. Norbert has about 20,000 more residents. The city compensates for that discrepancy by giving the candidates in larger wards such as St. Norbert or St. Vital a larger maximum amount they can spend.

Lukes and Mehra both raised more than $40,000, just about the maximum they could for St. Norbert. But Lukes said what set her apart was the message that went along with all the ads, brochures and signs.

"To communicate to that number of people... mailing is more costly; you've got a vast area, so to have any impact with signs you have to have tons of signs, and because of the mayoral race, the media wasn't covering us."

"It is not how you spend your money in the campaign, I think it is the calibre of the product that you are marketing; you can spend as much money as you want, but the quality of product you are marketing matters."

Lukes trounced Mehra, winning by more than 4,000 votes.

More often than not, a candidate's ability to collect large amounts of donations is directly related to a candidate's social connections and friendships more than "buying a councillor's support," explained Thomas. The most a person can donate to a campaign is $750.

"I don't think there are many cases where quid pro quo, 'I'll give you $10,000, and you'll rezone the land.' What it buys you is access. 'So when I call, you'll take the time to listen to me,' " he said.

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

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