Freethinking

It’s been a big year in Winnipeg politics. Here’s a quick rundown:

Brian Bowman surprised many with his victory in the mayoral election. Former NDP Member of Parliament and Manitoba Cabinet Minister Judy Wasylycia-Leis was seen as the clear frontrunner at the outset of the campaign, but Bowman gained support throughout the race and ended up winning handily, securing almost 50 percent of the vote. Bowman ran an optimistic and tech savvy campaign, promising to complete the bus rapid transit system and make city government more efficient and transparent.

Another big story from the municipal election was the success of candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette. Ouellette ran a strong social media campaign and focused on increasing turnout, especially among Indigenous voters and youth. Ouellette finished with 15 percent of the vote and showed appeal across the political spectrum - leading to him being courted by the Liberals, PCs and NDP.

The mayoral election led to another big story in Winnipeg and Manitoba politics. With the NDP already a bit jittery about low poll numbers, the defeat of Wasylycia-Leis appeared to deepen concern among many Manitoba New Democrats about their chances of victory with Premier Greg Selinger at the helm. This exposed the NDP’s internal divisions as five cabinet ministers were demoted for publicly criticizing Selinger.

 Some of those former ministers may run against him in the upcoming NDP leadership race and Winnipeg will play a central role. Because NDP support is concentrated in the city, any prospective NDP leader will need strong support among the Winnipeg membership to win.

 Winnipeg will be the focus of all three provincial parties in the upcoming year. With the PCs dominant in most of southern Manitoba outside of Winnipeg, the NDP will have to maintain their Winnipeg support to form government, while the PCs will be working to make inroads in the city. The Manitoba Liberals will be seeking to make the most of the NDPs struggles to make a breakthrough in Winnipeg and rebound from their difficult 2011 election.

 Winnipeg’s importance to the next election means we can expect to see a lot of the negativity that turns many people off of politics. That being said, there is reason to be hopeful about Winnipeg politics moving forward.

 In the municipal election, much attention was paid to issues affecting Winnipeg’s Indigenous community, particularly missing and murdered Indigenous women. Many have acknowledged that Winnipeg is divided, yet that acknowledgment is creating awareness that can lead to positive change.

 All three of the top candidates for mayor brought attention to Indigenous issues. Bowman - Winnipeg’s first Métis Mayor - was the first candidate to visit the missing and murdered Indigenous women protest site. Wasylycia-Leis devoted much of her time and effort towards supporting the Indigenous community. Ouellette made a moving speech during the campaign about Winnipeg’s divisions and the need for progress to include Indigenous Winnipeggers.

Additionally, both Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari and the Manitoba New Democrats endorsed a call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

It is a hopeful sign when our political leaders are taking steps towards acknowledging our divisions and healing our city. Let’s hope this progress in Winnipeg politics continues in 2015.

Spencer Fernando has been involved in politics at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels. He believes in a “live and let live” philosophy.

Published in Volume 69, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2014)

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