As many wave an impatient goodbye to 2021, Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) discussed some of her goals and priorities for the new year.
Government projects don’t live and die by the calendar year, so Santos said she plans to continue pushing on the initiatives she’s already been helping to champion.
"One of them is a big progressive idea, which is reducing transit fares to affordable transit," Santos said.
Santos said she’s hoping to have bus fares reduced to just one dollar. A report on this idea is set to come out this year, she added.
"My hope is to start advocating for the province and the federal government next year to see if they’ll partner with the city in helping us subsidize the transit fares," Santos said.
Another important issue for Santos is upgrading community green spaces in Point Douglas, the councillor said.
Specifically, Santos has her eye on improving Giizhigooweyaabikwe Park on Logan Avenue; Alderman John O’Hare Park, also on Logan Avenue; and the park at Northwood Community Centre on Burrows Avenue, for which Santos said she’d first like to solicit the ideas and opinions of nearby residents.
At budget time, Santos had lobbied for the building of a new gymnasium in Tyndall Park to try to fill a gap in access to fitness and recreational services. The proposed plan had a price tag of about $10 million, Santos said, and was not budgeted for in the city’s 2022 plan.
Santos said she wasn’t sure the conservatism on this issue was warranted.
"It’s a matter of strategizing and spending the money in a way that’s strategic for the right return," Santos said "For me, it’s always about spend the money now and reap the rewards later… Our debt capacity is very high. It’s $110 million. So there was definitely room to spend an extra $10 million."
Santos said investments in projects such as this or in increasing the city’s densification goals can help the city in the long term by bolstering the amount of property taxes flowing into the budget.
"I’m always looking at how we could invest in a way that increases our tax base," Santos said.
Santos said she’ll continue to push for a greater investment in "people versus roads."
"Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a lot of potholes. I get it. That is still an issue," she said. "But we should also be investing the correct amount into people."
Santos said the amount of money going into the city’s humanitarian issues is infinitesimal compared to that going just into road work.
"There has to be a fine balance between being fiscally and socially responsible," she said. "I think a lot of Winnipeggers want more money when it comes to social issues, like fixing poverty, fixing homelessness, spending more money in green spaces."
With a municipal election looming in 2022, and the certainty of a new mayor after Brian Bowman’s decision not to run again, Santos said she hopes to see a particular sort of mayoral hopeful.
"I think it’s time that we had a very strong BIPOC female leader that could come forward and could really bring a cohesive balance amongst the councillors," Santos said.
Santos said that while she may be the one to take up that mantle someday, she doesn’t plan to run for mayor in this year’s municipal election.
Santos served as deputy mayor until September of last year, when Bowman removed her from the position. Bowman cited Santos’ unvaccinated status for the move and said an unvaccinated councillor may undermine council’s efforts to encourage Winnipeggers to get vaccinated.
Santos said at the time she hadn’t received the shot due to a medical condition about which she could not provide details.
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for The Times. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7206.