With seven candidates registered so far, the Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry ward is the most crowded race for City Council in the 2018 Winnipeg civic election.
By vacating the seat, long-time Councillor Jenny Gerbasi has created a wide open race that is anyone’s to grab. I sat down with one of the candidates recently for breakfast at Sals on Pembina Highway to find out more about her.
With her big smile and horn-rim glasses, Bryanna Spina sets a person at ease. We had a good talk about her connections to her community and desire to run for office.
What made you want to run for councillor?
It’s really a call to action. I’ve always been deeply involved in the community. I’ve been a resident of Ft Rouge for 18 years now, and when we started to have a family, everything took on a new view because before kids we lived in Fort Rouge and we worked in Fort Rouge and we didn’t explore even half of the neighbourhood until we had kids. And it was when we had children that we stepping into this new area of volunteering. We became a part of our local community centre and that became an extension of our living space.
I’m a teacher, and so I love the idea of sharing information … being so close to different community members, learning information and then sharing it, and I just love that interconnectedness of people. But I’ve always been one that wants to help out even more and this just ended up feeling like it was the next step. The next step in this progression or evolution of helping.
The city has provided tools for us to use to encourage more engagement. But how many people are connected with it? How many people know about it, and how many people can find it easily? It’s this idea that the city is doing things with us rather planning everything for us, and I’d like to be more a part of that.
Do you think that Gerbasi was doing a good job?
I sat down with her and had quite a few conversations about things that I was concerned about, and she actually shared with me that these things that were concerning me actually have potential solutions. One of my largest concerns is how a community member can find out certain things about their community through the city. I think she has done a good job and has been part of a lot of wonderful movement forward in this city and growth. And I think that if we were able to get more connected with the things that have been moving forward like that … I feel like there is a puzzle piece missing between citizen awareness and what city hall has been doing and so I want to help bridge that gap with more information for community members. And that’s what I found, that Gerbasi had been doing quite a number of good things, but we just didn’t see the largeness of it and the impact that she has made in our community.
On parks and community centres
It is nice to see that there is uniqueness to each little pocket of the city and that’s what got me thinking about how our mature neighbourhoods need to remain pocket neighbourhoods. A lot of the people who want to move out into the sprawling neighbourhoods do have more disposable income to put into destination supercentres as opposed to mature neighbourhoods that don’t necessarily need that necessity to drive everywhere. Maintaining the infrastructure of our neighbourhood community centres and neighbourhood parks so that kids and families can walk to them as opposed to having to drive to them is important.
Where do you stand on opening Portage and Main to pedestrians?
I’m for opening Portage and Main. Seeing increased accessibility, and also to see more pedestrian options, because we’re looking at more and more visitors and more and more residents downtown. Within the next five years we could see 10s of thousands of people moving into that neighbourhood. And I think that it’s a safety issue with how to navigate Portage and Main, whether you’re forcing up to 20,000 people a day to move down into the underground without a secondary option, I think that it’s a safety issue, definitely.
To move forward in this city we need to take a chance, you know? Take a risk knowing that some people are going to be upset about it, but to move forward I think we need to do it. And we’re already going to be improving the infrastructure of the underground. Why not do it at the same time?
What is your opinion on how we’re handling rapid transit? Do you support BRT?
I do. I do support it. It’s helping connect the city in more effective ways. It’s helping us use those corridors in a more effective way. I love the idea of alternative transportation. To give people the option of whether they want to or have to use a vehicle to get somewhere; and more and more people are looking at more sustainable ways to travel and giving people the option to ride their bikes more safely and giving people the option to take the bus in more direct ways …
It’s the risks that we’re taking now that will help us in the long run. We’ll always meet resistance.
Among the people that Bryanna is running against are long-time community activist Harry Wolbert and school board Chair Sherri Rollins. The person to beat might be Stephanie Meilleur, Executive Director of the Osborne Village BIZ, only because that is the sort of role we’ve seen springboard people to elected office before. However it’s a wide open race, and Bryanna’s community focus could win her support.
“We just need to make sure that we’re creating healthy environments for all of our neighbourhoods and especially preserving those neighbourhoods that are established so that we maintain that history and that connectedness.”