#WPG22 Candidates: Part 1 – Murray and Gillingham

I have no connection to any candidate, and no clear preference yet. I may not know who I’m voting for when I walk into the booth, but I reviewed the platforms of the candidates for mayor in the 2022 Winnipeg election, paying particular attention to the issues I highlighted last time, to help myself make a decision.

Below I have jotted down things that jumped out at me as being interesting or notable. Welcome to my scrap-book notes on the candidates, starting from the highest to lowest ranked in the late-September Probe Research poll.

Glen Murray

I heard someone say recently “I don’t really like Glen but I don’t know who else to vote for”. This is the power of name recognition. He is the clear front-runner and the likely next mayor, but for a lot of potential voters like my friend, his support is wafer-thin. With a televised debate yet to come and recent bad press still resonating, I don’t think the game is completely over.

For my part, I was on the fence about Glen even before Bart’s stunning article about Murray’s troubled stint at the Pembina Institute. Why? A few things: First, he made some questionable management decisions in his first term as mayor including a property tax freeze which laid the foundation of our current infrastructure deficit. Second, I am not impressed that he abandoned Winnipeg mid-way through his last term as mayor only to come back after all of his attempts for glory elsewhere flopped. I don’t like being a second choice much less a last resort. Lastly, there had been too many anecdotal examples of Murray bending the truth or exaggerating his accomplishments — something that seems to have accelerated as election day nears.

That said, he has the support of many people, some of whom have even worked with him before. Although I admit that I had a compromised impression of him going into this election, he wasn’t crossed off my list and had an opportunity to win my vote. Anyhow … I reviewed his policies with an open mind:

Some of the good things (in my view, as all these takes will be — this is my blog after all! You may not agree):

  • Murray’s platform has a strong focus on community outreach and support initiatives, and he seems to be good at building relationships with people in the community which gives some hope that he may achieve some success in this area.
  • He has a plan to create a “natural capital budget” for trees, which is an interesting idea. I have some questions about the plan including funding (selling carbon offsets?) but agree with the principle of building tree planting into plans for road construction/renewal and replacing lost trees and increasing pruning.
    – I should note that all 11 candidates signed the Trees Please Pledge so I will not mention it again. Everybody is on board!
  • All of the top candidates have a plan of some kind to increase affordable housing. Glen’s includes a ‘housing trust’ to provide land for affordable housing, which I thought was an innovative approach. I’m not sure it’s better or worse, but innovative thinking to address a big problem is welcome.

Some things I am not fond of:

  • He has no plan to address the police budget issue that I’ve seen, other than getting rid of the police helicopter which, as I noted last time, is not a solution. This is a major gap in his plan that will need to be filled in the final days of the campaign.
  • He does not commit to implementing the Transit Master Plan
    10/18 update: his website does say “affordable, safe, and reliable transit routes as envisioned in the City’s Transit Master Plan”. I missed this because it was in the preamble of his announcement and not in the details/actions. The wording is curious and by my reading falls short of a commitment to the actual plan and all that it entails, but there is a focus on improving transit. BTW I have a nit-pick about his electrification plan that I may address later.
  • He has no reference to active transportation in his platform. We have a patchwork network of AT paths. It has slowly been improving but needs more connectivity and enhancement for safe coexistence of cars and bikes. I don’t see recognition of this on his website (which, to be fair, is not very well organized so maybe I missed something, but I don’t think I did).
    10/19 update: Glen replied to my tweet: “The complete implementation of the cycling network”. I also read that he doesn’t own a car so one would presume he would be an advocate for improved AT. Odd that he hasn’t said more about it, unless he’s saving it for later.

Something I am skeptical about:

  • Murray’s Safer Neighbourhoods plan relies heavily on a nebulous and complex consultation process with community asset mapping and other such things. The problem is that few people have time to participate in these sorts of consultations, so they are unlikely to be representative of the actual needs of the neighbourhood. Better to rely on the expertise of actual city planners, perhaps informed by much more modest and less burdensome consultations.

OK this is a big one …

FUNDING. Murray recently announced a plan to replace the current grant-based funding from the province with a 1% share of the provincial sales tax. It would transform the city’s budgetary framework, allowing much more breathing room and flexibility. One Free Press columnist took the bait calling it “game-changing” and “the best of what Murray brings to the table”.

It’s only game-changing if it works, and there is close to a zero percent chance that this will. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a good thing if it came to pass, but I can’t imagine a provincial government of any colour or stripe giving that much unconditional funding to the city and forgoing all the credit and photo-ops that go along with the piecemeal funding of city projects. In short, it’s not realistic, and there is no Plan B in the likely event that this fails. This is a big gamble for Winnipeg voters.

What is more realistic? Allowing to city to generate more revenue through property taxes by pulling back the provincial property levy for education — something that’s already happening but just not in a way that’s coordinated with the city. It should be coordinated. But the irony is that Glen’s ‘New Deal’ back when he was mayor the first time around included an element like this, and now it’s his opponents who are more likely to make it happen.

Glen may very well be able to fix some of the societal problems plaguing Winnipeg and in particular the core area, but I have reservations about some of the gaps in his platform as well as his character. I hope he proves me wrong. To my friend who is on the fence, I would suggest that if you’re not a fan of Murray you could find another candidate who addresses the issues you care about as well or better than Glen and without the questionable history if you take the time to look through their platforms.

Scott Gillingham

I had a pretty neutral impression of Scott going into this election. He looks neutral — like a friendly uncle who might sneak you a beer when your parents are preoccupied. Not being a keen observer of city hall, I don’t have many specific criticisms or kudos, but he generally seemed to be a competent councillor who didn’t always vote how I would have but had good intentions.

I did meet Scott briefly at a family day event at work, and he seemed like a decent guy but it was a very short interaction. So 99% of my voting decision will be based on what I observe on TV and on the internet including, of course, his platform.

Going through his platform, and those of the other candidates, I would say Scott’s is the most comprehensive and detailed on the issues he addresses. His platform is generally well thought-out and specific, including timelines and in some cases funding detail. Some highlights:

Mostly good:

  • Committed to implementing some of the improvements in the Transit Master Plan, though it is not clear if he is committed to the entire plan. I suspect not, otherwise he would have said so.
  • Improved AT network, with specific details about funding. I touched on the importance of this above.
  • Comprehensive crime prevention / police reform plan.
  • “Fairness for Local Business” by-law changes to reform Air BnB rules and include local economic benefit when evaluating bids (with certain conditions).

A note about short term rentals like Air BnB: This is a growing problem that not everybody addresses. It’s not just about fairness for the hotel industry, which is negatively impacted, but also an issue of livability for people who live in condo developments overrun with Air BnBs and even for neighbourhoods where houses have turned into quasi-hostels. Scott’s plan is a good start.

Not so good:

  • Scott does not support a safe injection site or some similar direct intervention related to addictions control. He does call for a “Senior Advisor on Homelessness and Street Safety within the Mayor’s Office (funded) from existing budgets to help the Mayor and Council take action on homelessness, street safety, mental health and addictions policy issues” but what those actions are I don’t know. He has specific actions on housing and emergency shelters but not much about addictions.
  • He is going to build the Chief Peguis Trail extension, claiming it is “critical to goods and freight movement” in Winnipeg. I disagree. If you want to move freight from CentrePort to East Kildonan, use the Perimeter Highway – that’s what it’s there for.

    The chief impact of building the extension will be to facilitate more urban sprawl. Eventually we will need to expand further, but now is not the time. It’s critical that we first wrap our heads around lowering our infrastructure deficit, improving density, and putting in place a properly thought-out, legally binding development levy.

I’m not sure?

  • Gillingham has a fondness for ten-day task forces. I think I counted at least three in his plans. They could be useful but I’m curious about why ten days. Does this come from somewhere else?
  • In the same category are Neighbourhood Action Teams. They sound like tactical swat teams armed with shovels and rakes, swooping in to fix curbs and plant shrubs. Maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe it will be inefficient to cross train everybody instead of having specialized crews like today. I guess we’ll see if he gets elected.


I hope to post about at least 5 more candidates if I can find the time. Come back for part 2!


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