As mayor Sam Katz and Judy Wasylycia-Leis continue to steal headlines all over Winnipeg, it is easy to forget that a diverse, and equally legitimate, slate of mayoral candidates are simultaneously vying for the top job.
“I think Winnipeg was once a great city,” said Nancy Thomas, 47, a mayoral candidate and business consultant who lives in St. Vital. “I say it was once a great city because people simply don’t feel safe anymore.”
Thomas decided to enter the race in early spring after realizing that a radical change in city leadership was paramount for the success of Winnipeg.
“We need open, honest and accessible government,” she said.
To make city services more accessible, Thomas proposes to review the 311 communications system, which links most city service calls to one central phone line. The line delays communication between residents and city service departments, she said.
Thomas would institute strict term limits of a maximum of two four-year terms for the mayor and all city councillors in order to avoid complacency among career politicians and their constituents.
She also wants to beef up the Winnipeg Police Service by opening community service stations and scrapping the recently approved police helicopter in favour of added foot patrols in needy neighbourhoods.
“We may need more officers,” she said, addressing mayor Sam Katz’s commitment to add 58 new cops to the Winnipeg Police Service. “But I don’t think our current officers are being deployed strategically or effectively.”
The other three “fringe” candidates have put forward even more unique approaches to the city’s ailments.
Rav Gill, a 28-year-old mayoral candidate, real estate broker and Scotia Heights resident, would like to see economic revitalization in the downtown. He advocates for the creation of a 24/7 mixed-use entertainment district around the University of Winnipeg and parts of the West End.
“The area would have everything people there need,” he said.
On accessibility, Gill vows to do away with the communications system around the mayor’s office by answering all phone calls and e-mails personally.
On public safety, he wants every police officer equipped with a camera in order to decrease “frivolous claims” against the police and increase conviction rates.
“I trust the police to turn on the camera when they should turn it on,” said Gill, adding that a simple training session would be required for the implementation of the program.
Gill also advocates for a crime-free housing program, which would train landlords on how (and when) to report possible criminal activity in their rental properties.
Avery Petrowski, 23, a mayoral candidate, appliance salesman and resident of Wolseley, vows to improve accountability through the online publication of city expenses.
He also wants to reach out to youth in order to change the city’s low voter turn-out, which was a minuscule 38 per cent of eligible voters in the 2006 election.
“I want to set up a student council to advise the city council,” he said. “We need to make students feel that their opinions are valid and will continue to be valid.”
Last but not least, mayoral candidate Ed Ackerman, a filmmaker and owner of the “Alphabet House” at 89 Gertie St., has been accused of violating the city’s vacant and derelict buildings bylaw by maintaining the house. Opposition to the bylaw is central to his campaign but he also wants to give residents unregulated access to the Brady Landfill in order to re-use discarded material.
If elected, Ackerman pledges to make Winnipeg Transit a free service for everyone.
“I don’t believe in rapid transit,” he said. “I believe in free transit.”
Brad Gross, a real estate agent for Royal LePage, is also running for mayor. At the time of this writing, he was not yet registered as a mayoral candidate.
Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)