While Winnipeg’s mayoral race is heating up, the competition has also started for the city’s 15 council seats. Four wards – Charleswood-Tuxedo, Old Kildonan, Elmwood-East Kildonan and Mynarski – do not have current councillors running as incumbents.
Two wards, however, are still uncontested. Dan Vandal, current councillor for the St. Boniface ward, is the only candidate running so far, according to the city’s list of registered candidates.
He has held the position from 2002 to 2005 and again from 2006 to 2010. Uncontested incumbent for Transcona Councillor Russ Wyatt has represented that ward in city council since 2002.
Mike Pagtakhan, current councillor for Point Douglas, has held his seat since 2002. He was the only candidate running until Sept. 2 when Herman Holla joined the race.
According to media reports, Holla has run twice for city council. In 1989, he ran against Glen Murray and Sam Katz for the Fort Rouge seat and in 1998, he went up against Daniel McIntyre’s councillor Harvey Smith.
Some Point Douglas residents have found Pagtakhan responsive and accessible.
“He helped me arrange garbage pickup,” Jinlan Hou, a Point Douglas resident for four years said. “I e-mailed him and he responded quickly.”
Russ Wyatt, incumbent councillor for Transcona, agrees it is important for councillors to be accessible.
“Openness and accountability of city hall is crucial,” Wyatt said. “That means councillors have to be accessible. I try to be, at least.”
Wyatt has worked on a range of projects, including sitting on the Standing Committee on Property and Development and the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee.
Since 2006, Wyatt noted, he has worked with the Transcona Playground Renewal Association to revitalize six playgrounds. Outside of his duties as councillor, he also sits on the board of directors for the Transcona Business Improvement Zone as well as works on the Transcona Historical Museum Board.
Organizations like the Winnipeg Citizens’ Coalition (WCC) believe that lack of competition for council seats is not necessarily a sign that people are happy with the work of the current councillor.
“Uncontested seats are a combination of two things,” Shaun Loney, co-chair of the WCC said. “One, there’s a general sense that the candidate is not beatable, and generally, secondly, that no one else has come forward.”
Loney is glad to see that most of the incumbents are facing competition.
“We want candidates that can think for themselves and vote in their constituents’ best interests,” he said.
Loney believes councillor integrity is crucial, especially in controversial instances like the 2008 council decision to forgive the $233,000 tax debt on the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ parking lot. Goldeyes owner and Mayor Sam Katz did not take part in that council vote.
“That’s money that could have gone to other city services, like recreation, police officers, roads, any number of priorities,” Loney said.
Coun. Wyatt noted that he may yet face competition for the Transcona ward, since candidates can register up until Tuesday, Sept. 21.
Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)