September 24, 2018

Winnipeg
5° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Winnipeggers to decide fate of Portage and Main in fall election; lack of rules raises concerns

Concerns are being raised about the lack of rules and regulations surrounding the Oct. 24 ballot question that will ask Winnipeggers whether Portage and Main should be reopened to pedestrians.

Manitoba is one of only three provinces that has no regulations surrounding election-ballot questions, which means supporters and opponents could spend as much as they want in a campaign that could continue outside voting locations up to the time the polls close.

“With the potential for a free-for-all on the subject, I question whether voters will have quality information on which to base their decision,” said University of Winnipeg political studies professor Aaron Moore.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Concerns are being raised about the lack of rules and regulations surrounding the Oct. 24 ballot question that will ask Winnipeggers whether Portage and Main should be reopened to pedestrians.

Manitoba is one of only three provinces that has no regulations surrounding election-ballot questions, which means supporters and opponents could spend as much as they want in a campaign that could continue outside voting locations up to the time the polls close.

Debate rages on

Do you support the opening of Portage and Main to pedestrian crossings? YES/NO

Do you support the opening of Portage and Main to pedestrian crossings? YES/NO

•••

Winnipeg voters will soon get a chance to do something they haven’t done in 35 years – vote on a question placed on the fall election ballot.

In an overwhelming 14-1 vote, council supported putting a simple yes-or-no question on the Oct. 24 ballot, on whether Portage and Main should be re-opened to pedestrians.

The only vote against was from Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who is not running for re-election.

Coun. Russ Wyatt, who is facing criminal sexual assault charges, was absent from the meeting.

Debate on the issue prompted all but two councillors — Shawn Dobson and Mike Pagtakhan — to stand and speak.

The outcome on the ballot question will be non-binding on council but Mayor Brian Bowman said he would consider the vote binding and previously had challenged other mayoral candidates to say the same.

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk, who opposes re-opening the intersection, later told the Free Press she would abide by the outcome of the ballot vote.

"If I'm elected and the voters ask me to open Portage and Main, through that plebiscite, to pedestrian traffic, then that's what we're going to do," she said.

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk

"With the potential for a free-for-all on the subject, I question whether voters will have quality information on which to base their decision," said University of Winnipeg political studies professor Aaron Moore.

Council voted 14-1 Thursday to put the question to residents.

There are strict election campaign rules for candidates, including a requirement to disclose contributors' identities and donations, limits on the amount of individual contributions and election-day campaigning.

But none of the rules apply to ballot questions.

A civic spokesman said council could pass a bylaw establishing rules on third-party advertising on a ballot question but it’s uncertain if it would be binding. In addition, Thursday's meeting was the last until September, as members of council traditionally go into a summer recess.

Conceivably, Mayor Brian Bowman could try to set up an emergency council meeting to pass such a bylaw before September or the administration could bring a bylaw for council’s consideration then, but that would be too late.

Portage and Main in Winnipeg. City hall will hold a plebiscite to determine if the pedestrian barriers are to be taken down.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Portage and Main in Winnipeg. City hall will hold a plebiscite to determine if the pedestrian barriers are to be taken down.

"There certainly seems to be nothing that will prevent third parties from running ads on the issues, which is problematic," Moore said.

Winnipeggers were asked about global nuclear disarmament and Manitoba's controversial English only-language laws in 1983. And in 1968, voters were asked if they would support commercial billiard halls operating on Sundays.

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk, who opposed holding a plebiscite, said she’s concerned that the Portage and Main question could dominate the campaign at the expense of other issues.

Several councillors raised concerns about the merits of ballot questions in the first place, but it was Coun. Scott Gillingham who captured the issue most clearly.

Previous ballot questions.

The last time the City of Winnipeg held a plebiscite was 1983. Here are the two questions voters were asked.

The last time the City of Winnipeg held a plebiscite was 1983. Here are the two questions voters were asked:

"Should the provincial government withdraw its proposed constitutional amendment and allow the Bilodeau case to proceed to be heard and decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on the validity of English-only laws passed by the legislature of Manitoba since 1890?"

The result: 76.49% of Winnipeggers voted “yes.”

"Do you support nuclear disarmament by all nations on a gradual basis with the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and mandate the federal government to negotiate and implement with other governments steps leading to the earliest possible accomplishment of this goal?”

The result: 76.91% of voters supported disarmament.

Before 1983, the last city referendum was held in 1968, when voters agreed to allow commercial billiard halls to remain open on Sundays.

Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston) said he didn’t know if the use of a ballot question is a demonstration of direct democracy or an abdication of council responsibility, but he said city hall has never considered the implications.

"This city does not have any thought-out standards, criteria or policy for when a plebiscite should be triggered, what types of matters should or can appear as a plebiscite on this or any future ballot," Gillingham said. "We do not have rules around advertising, promotion, the messaging, including spending limits for the respective positions on both sides."

Gillingham also wondered aloud about the question; who gets to write it and who ensures it’s a fair question designed to get an accurate response from voters? And, he wanted to know what level of support is enough to compel council to follow the outcome of the vote.

"The next council needs to have a larger debate before the use of any other plebiscite or referendum in the future, a debate that will establish the necessary policy needed surrounding the use of these democratic tools."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Thursday, July 19, 2018 at 7:05 PM CDT: Adds second sidebar.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.