Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Race for Mayor of Winnipeg 2014

It is usually after the long weekend when people start to pay a little more attention to what is happening besides what they will do on the weekend cottage visit or how many Fringe plays they will attend.

Our past mayor usually didn't even announce he was running until after Labour Day.

We still have a little while for the nominations to close. Across the province, lots of incumbents remain unchallenged. In some cases not enough people are running for the positions that are available. Sad, really.

It is a difficult decision to run. Mayor and Councillor are full-time jobs. The present mayor had his business as well as a home in another country and this was a source of consternation for many including our media. No matter how high energy a person is, running a city is an all encompassing thing. Also, the matter of conflict of interest is a growing concern. The wearing of two or more hats is no easy matter. Even the perception that you are acting on behalf of someone else is enough to destroy the credibility of the process and everyone within that process.

As of last count, we have 7 people running for mayor. One dropped out, three were ruled ineligible due to problems regarding getting the 250 signatures needed to run.

I have joked around over the amount of people running for mayor and even made some teasing remarks. However, let me state quite clearly that I am happy for a competitive race. The last mayor's race had four people including an incumbent mayor. I was undecided almost till the end and voted for my candidate despite doubts. In the end, I want better governance and despite witty rejoinders and some sarcasm, I respect anyone who runs.

In the last election I voted for Judy Wasylycia-Leis (JWL). Despite misgivings that her campaign had gone off the rails a bit and increasingly relied on her NDP friends, I voted for her over Sam Katz. I deeply worried that she would not be her own woman and felt that Greg Selinger would have undue influence over her.

The NDP has tried for many years to win City Hall all the while telling us there are no party politics. Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats have been in city office for years but it is only the NDP that seems to have an agenda of controlling the city through the provincial party.

At this point in the 2014 city election, I am once again undecided about who I will vote for mayor.

There are 7 final candidates barring any other changes. It is a lot to go through. Some people have dismissed some of the people listed already. To be sure some people in past campaigns seem to have entered in part for publicity.

At the moment, I can only assess what I can see, read, hear or otherwise find in regards to the ten mayor candidates. Some candidates have complained the media has not been covering them. I'm sure others think the media covers them unfairly.

It is not the job of the media to promote and go into depth on any particular candidate. Heck, they can endorse someone right now if they like and only cover that person till the election. The biggest threat to the media is if they are not regarded as credible so generally they will cover news stories and then add a healthy dollop of opinion. candidates should not get hung up on media coverage and try other forms of getting their message out there.

I consume a fair amount of print, radio and TV news and you soon realize that there is a variety of ways to approach news and even more varied opinion. I also read blogs, social media and often the personal or professional sites of the politicians. City Circus had one of the more extensive interviews with Judy Wasylcia-Leis.

The point is that candidates should use whatever means they can to get known, put forth a a platform and debate it whenever possible. Don't expect a free ride, understand that you might find the questions challenging, repetitive and even hostile. If you don't like dealing with the media, keep them at a distance like Stephen Harper does. It hasn't harmed him in getting his message across.

There have been a few polls out. Some say the race has already been won. Be that as it may, I am still undecided.

Let's work our way backwards from the least known candidates at this point. Some have called them fringe to whit they have bristled. Calgary elected a fringe mayor who became a beloved mayor. You could do worse. For sake of argument, I will just say least known which I think even the candidates would agree with at this point.

7. Michel Fillion

He doesn't have a website. I do follow the Twitter account. I have seen a few newspaper stories and he has promised to change perceptions of downtown and offered some ideas on what to do to provide better security. He has not been invited to a number of forums by some organizers. This is their right. If he wishes to crack that group, he will probably have to set up a website, organize his own media events, use all social media and forums he can.

What I do know of him is that he comes from a political family and that he is an entertainment booking agent. What I don't know is why he is running for mayor. I say this because many of his ideas focus on downtown. I would have thought council might have been a good start. With around 40 days to election, we'll see if some of his ideas will help elevate his status.

6. David Sanders

He has had a varied career in law,  journalism and government and rose to attention for his constant monitoring of city governance. He asked the uncomfortable questions that those representing the voters needed to ask. As an outsider, he faces an uphill climb. Sometimes it is easier to be a critic than to formulate your own ideas. That's okay. The world needs critics too. However, in a city election the voters are also looking for ideas and even a vision of how to run their community.

The job of running for mayor is one that requires organization which can be difficult. He might have made a more formidable candidate for councillor. It is possible over the course of the election that more notice will be taken of Sanders and his considerable resume. This will take ideas and challenging candidates who come to forums with empty rhetoric or outright lack of knowledge on a subject. It will be interesting to see in the days ahead,

5. Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Here is a candidate with another impressive resume and a little charisma. He probably challenges JWL on the left for the progressive vote. Some Liberals, Greens and NDP are looking at him now. I don't know that prominent NDP are going to endorse as they would likely be clubbed by the provincial party. However, nothing is stopping general members from climbing aboard.

JWL is well in the lead but RFO could eat into that support if she cannot tap into some of the vote that is looking for something a little more exciting. As it stand, RFO has been introducing some policy ideas that contrast with JWL. It will be interesting in the end to see which of the candidates has the more fleshed out campaign.

As a First Nations man, RFO is mounting a campaign that inspires even if he doesn't close the gap to striking range of the perceived front runners. One wonders if some in the city will let the issue of race dictate their vote. You would hope that like Calgary, we would look only at the person.

4. Paula Havixbeck

As a first term councillor, she was on the Executive Policy Committee but soon fell into disagreement on a host of issues with Sam Katz. This got her booted off. I didn't vote for her because I thought she would be brought into the inner circle of the mayor and things would never change. I can say I was wrong in thinking that. At first it appeared to be that way but she could no longer go along with the old way of business.

I can't say how I feel about her as councillor. I had one issue that I dealt with myself for the most part. After one term, I can't really assess how she has done since she was shunted aside by Katz. Her currency went up being a critic of the mayor but was it sufficient to make a run for mayor herself? We are still seeing policies unveiled but might be a case of too many people at center right running for office and she doesn't have as many endorsements of establishment backing.

It is difficult to break into the lead without something exciting to propel you there and the people to do it.

3. Gord Steeves

Steeves keeps bouncing back. He quit city politics, changed long time party affiliation and ran as Progressive Conservative and was smacked for it with defeat. Out of office and back into law, he indicated his interest early in the mayor's race and possibly crossed the line into violating the law on when you can announce. Had another set back when a prominent organizer and supporter ditched him. Ran into huge controversy when his wife said things that stung of racism.

And yet Steeves keep ticking. This is in part due to the fact that the front runner is on the left and is running a campaign light on actually mentioning too much. The controversies may have knocked Steeves down again but they also bolster people and supporters. It is likely a few people think his wife was bang on.

Steeves has been in politics a long time. He had a huge mandate from his ward when he was a councillor and would likely still be there if he didn't have wanderlust. It would appear that Steeves is trying for aggressive and is confronting JWL at every turn. It is a risky proposition as it can look like bullying but it has turned attention to the contrast between the candidates. Given the setbacks, Steeves has remained part of the discussion for the top 3 but he might have to wait for someone else to falter to benefit.

The people who look to Steeves are the ones who will hate rapid transit, are sick of tip toeing over which demographic scares them and makes them angry, are not fans of downtown, want roads fixed but also want their taxes low. The aggrieved suburbanites.

2. Brian Bowman

Another lawyer in the mix. This one a privacy lawyer with long time ties to the Chamber of Commerce. In short order he has picked up some top business endorsements. However, the bulk of the Progressive Conservative party and Liberal party are split among candidates. The Liberals have people in almost every camp. The NDP key supporters are by and by with JWL.

Bowman has largely tried to straddle the center right with a positive campaign. Like a lot of candidates, there is talking of finding efficiencies in the system. He remains a supporter and expander of BRT in contrast to Steeves. In fact, he has several policies that contrast him with Steeves including downtown. What he still lacks is policies that contrast him with JWL. The transparency policy could be that but he would have to show how allies of JWL such as the unions and trustees on school board don't record votes and hide facts such as raising salaries for unionized workers. Even if was a good idea, hiding it wasn't.

Depending on which poll you read, Bowman is second or third. It appears that Steeves and Bowman could do with a consolidation of the anti-JWL vote. However, neither seems likely at this stage to drop out. At this point, the movement in support is unpredictable. Stumbles can happen and momentum can build. Front runners can slip. Bowman could be well positioned to move up.

1. Judy Wasylcia-Leis

She has been the front runner since the beginning and campaigns like one. She tries not to be controversial, she makes no big vision or policy statement. In the one area of rapid transit, she says to finish it but struggled to indicate how to pay for it.

It is hard to fault her campaign. She is collecting the endorsements she needs, the union support and NDP/Liberal support she needs and just has to be the thing the is really the elephant in the room: Sam Katz.

Could Sam Katz have won again. Sure. However, it seemed obvious that some in the business community were looking for something different.

JWL still has difficulties in outlining her ideas. She can get flustered or angry. Being the only woman in the race had advantages though. She can appeal to a part of the population who want a left of center female mayor in power. Ideology and feminist movement politics are in the background. Union activity in the foreground.

I voted for JWL last election mainly because I believed that Sam Katz was increasingly running into problems related to city management. I worried that all the police and fire union endorsements could result in a lack of due diligence on budgets. It would seem much of that has borne out.

Nothing seems to have dislodge JWL from grabbing the ring of power in this upcoming election. And yet I have troubled thoughts that she might not be her own woman and that the provincial NDP and Greg Selinger will be pressuring her to kowtow. The provincial party has bulled city candidates before with Harvey Smith. I don't see them changing their tune that NDP people should do as they are told.


Despite my misgivings on the election, campaigns and some of the candidates, I am still undecided. There is still some time before the vote so I continue to watch with interest.


Anonymous said...

Judy isn't the only woman in the race, Paula is also woman.

RFO often makes it about race, so hoping that people will see the man and not the race is contrary to his strategy.

Good post overall!

DT guy said...

Judy isn't the only woman in the race, Paula is also woman.

RFO often makes it about race, so hoping that people will see the man and not the race is contrary to his strategy.

Anonymous said...

Could you please explain this comment: "The NDP has tried for many years to win City Hall all the while telling us there are no party politics. Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats have been in city office for years but it is only the NDP that seems to have an agenda of controlling the city through the provincial party."

What has the NDP tried to do to control city hall? I fail to see how prominent New Democrats supporting and donating to mayoral and council candidates is any different than what the Conservatives and Liberals do. What exactly is the NDP doing differently.

Also, it is fair to say JWL did not have a good explaination on how she would find the $20 million to finish the SW Trasnwitway. But Bowman has no plan on how he will build his 5 new BRT lines, besides going cap-in-hand to the province for money. Judy because Judy fell victim to an unfair and amateurish ambush by Tom Broadbeck, should not take away from the fact that she is no less unsure than any of the candidates how BRT will be paid.