11 people are in the race to be the new boss of Winnipeg. Although one candidate has more name recognition and support in the polls, the winner is not quite a foregone conclusion. I find it refreshing to have a civic election where there is no incumbent mayor and many different visions and personalities to choose from.
I have not made up my mind yet. I am not going to agree with every position from any one candidate, but I am looking for somebody that I believe will be an effective and responsible leader, and who has a realistic approach to resolving key issues.
Here are some of those key issues:
This is my broad bucket that includes homelessness, drug use and other outcomes often associated with poverty, inter-generational trauma and mental illness. It’s complex and difficult to solve, but what I’m looking for are specific but plausible actions the city can take to improve the situation.
I certainly don’t have the answers. This is in no way my area of expertise, but as a volunteer with a non-profit that manages a green corridor in south Winnipeg, I can tell you that we’ve seen more homeless encampments and used needles in the past few years than ever before. Transit users see it too. We are all aware, and though we may not all be impacted in the same way, it is obvious that it’s a problem that needs to be solved for the welfare of the individuals on the streets, the perception of safety in the city (especially downtown) …. and the city’s budget: as candidate Shaun Loney points out “someone living on the street can trigger 100 or more interactions with emergency services in a year”. This is not cheap.
The person I vote for has to have credibility on this issue. As mentioned, it won’t be easy — it will require persistence and focus to address, which is difficult to assess in a candidate sometimes, but it starts with a realistic plan.
One very specific thing that I am becoming convinced is needed is a safe injection site. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it’s one box I will look to check as I review the platforms of the candidates.
The WPS are to the City of Winnipeg what Healthcare was to the Province of Manitoba — a critical service that is unsustainably consuming an increasing share of the government’s budget.
This can’t go on. Like fixing healthcare (which hasn’t gone terribly well so far) fixing the police budget problem won’t be easy, but if you want an easy job you shouldn’t be running for mayor.
The solution is not getting rid of the helicopter or “the tank” (it’s not a tank). These are distractions. The vast majority of the police budget is consumed by labour costs and that’s what needs to be fixed. Police are spending countless hours attending to the social issues discussed above, the Winnipeg Police Pension Plan has an ongoing “solvency deficiency”, and there is a growing absenteeism problem among the police force that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and compromising service.
We need a mayor that has the fortitude drive a more affordable deal with the union, although again … that might be difficult to evaluate at this stage. In the mean time, we can look for other solutions, including diverting non-traditional police work away from the police to other agencies that are less expensive and/or better positioned to deal with it. Several of the candidates have ideas about how to do this. If this isn’t a prominent part of a candidate’s program then they’re off my list.
I don’t use transit except occasionally to go to a Bomber game. It’s not feasible for me to take transit to work. But it’s clear that Winnipeg’s sprawling infrastructure is creating a budgetary tumour that is growing out of control and threatening to overwhelm us unless we can get it under control; and transit is our chemotherapy.
Congratulations for surviving that metaphor without closing the tab! To backtrack a bit: transit is not the only solution, but it is a key part.
Some candidates are pledging to expand roads or build new ones. There will always be a need for some new roads, but we need to get more people out of their cars. The City produced a Transit Master Plan last year. I like it. It simplifies transit routes, increases frequency of service in most areas and commits to improving transit infrastructure. I am looking for a clear commitment to implement this plan.
Other solutions are welcome too, including a transition to a greener bus fleet and plans to make taking transit safer. I will also be looking for specifics on what the candidates plan to do with regards to the slowest moving project since Antoni Gaudi began construction on the Sagrada Familia in 1883 — Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit network.
I realize this is somewhat redundant as the Transit Master Plan encompasses RT, but decisions need to be made soon concerning rapid transit and in particular the eastern corridor which has already progressed through the final phase of public engagement.
… those are a few of the key things. Now I am working on finding out how the candidates stand. Maybe some of them will blow me away with other things that I haven’t even thought about. (Boy I hope one of them is planning a water park!)
Seriously though, what I really want is somebody responsible and prudent, but also visionary. They also need an easy to navigate and well organized website so I can tell that they are reasonable, prudent and visionary without tearing my hair out.
I need to give a shout out to the RRC journalism students that created Winnipeg Better, a simple and effective website documenting items related to the election, including “at a glance” views of candidates’ platforms. It’s a good place to start if you’re pressed for time.
On that note: if I have enough time I will post some specifics about the individual candidates. Stay tuned!
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