Haven’t paid attention to Manitoba’s election campaigns? Here’s what you need to know

After months of municipal election campaigns across Manitoba, it can be hard to keep track of everything that’s happened.

Who’s signed up to run? What have they promised? What else could decide who comes away a winner on election day?

And while Winnipeg voters showed up to vote in record numbers at advance polls this year, many people across the province still have yet to cast their ballots.

Here’s a quick roundup if you haven’t been paying attention, with everything you need to know before Wednesday.

Winnipeg’s getting a new leader — but who?

For the first time since 2014, Manitoba’s largest city is about to get a new mayor. That was official after Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman announced in 2020 he wouldn’t run again.

Eleven people are hoping to take his place. Here’s a look at what they’re promising.

The five frontrunners — Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Glen Murray and Robert-Falcon Ouellette — all participated in CBC’s live mayoral debate last week. You can watch the full debate and shorter clips of each section here.

On top of that, all the candidates — a list that also includes Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Jenny Motkaluk, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock — also sat down for one-on-one interviews with CBC. You can watch those here.

What are the big issues?

A Probe Research poll released in September suggests most Winnipeggers place homelessness and poverty among the top issues in this year’s civic election.

Respondents ranked those issues with reducing crime and increasing public safety among the top three for the next mayor and council.

Women and people living in the core area were more likely to rank homelessness and poverty among their top issues, while crime was a higher priority for people over 55 and those in the northwest part of the city.

A man looks back as he walks out of a polling station.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman leaves a polling station after voting in the 2018 civic election. People in the city are voting for a new mayor this year after Bowman announced in 2020 he wouldn’t run again. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Who do the polls say is leading?

Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray was an early frontrunner in the race. A Probe Research poll in July suggested he had 44 per cent support from decided voters. That dropped to 40 per cent in a late September Probe poll. 

A few days after the second poll came out, a CBC News investigation revealed Murray was forced to leave his “dream job” as the head of the Pembina Institute after one year following complaints about his management, according to former staff and communications obtained by CBC News. 

Murray also tried to find out who made anonymous bullying complaints about him when he led the clean energy think-tank, according to emails obtained by CBC News. The candidate has denied several of the claims the investigation revealed, including allegations he physically harassed a former employee.

A Leger poll released this month and commissioned by rival candidate Scott Gillingham suggested Murray has now dropped to 28 per cent support — still ahead of the pack, but with less of a lead.

Murray also ran into controversy this summer when the former mayor of a Toronto community alleged the candidate promised to make a complaint about her “go away” if she approved a development in 2013, when Murray was an Ontario MPP. Murray said he has no recollection of engaging in any arm-twisting.

What about second place? Third?

Polls have consistently placed two-term St. James Coun. Gillingham in second place. The Probe poll this summer pegged him at 16 per cent support, though he dropped to 15 per cent in the September poll and rose to 19 per cent in the latest poll he commissioned.

Gillingham, who was a Pentecostal pastor for 22 years before being elected to Winnipeg’s city council in 2014, said this week he hasn’t believed the tenet of his faith that describes being gay as immoral for years.

Each poll has put a different candidate in third place. 

People in communities across Manitoba will cast their ballots on Wednesday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Former Winnipeg Centre Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette was in third with 13 per cent support in the July Probe poll, while social entrepreneur Shaun Loney jumped into third with 14 per cent support in September.

The Leger poll commissioned by Gillingham this month suggested Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein has pulled into third place, with 14 per cent support.

Klein has run into controversy of his own amid online trolling about his former employment by Peter Nygard, the former fashion mogul now accused of sexual assault.

Klein worked for Nygard for four weeks in 2012, and for just under four months in 2014, handling communications and working in a government-relations role for a biotech company partially owned by Nygard.

What about city councillors?

All but two of Winnipeg’s electoral wards will vote for their city councillors on Wednesday.

Councillors in north Winnipeg’s Old Kildonan ward and south Winnipeg’s St. Norbert-Seine River ward have already been elected by default after no one ran against them.

A map of Winnipeg with numbers on each ward.
All but two of Winnipeg’s electoral wards will vote for their city councillors on Wednesday. (CBC)

Two wards are also guaranteed to get a new councillor. That’s because their incumbents — Klein in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood and Gillingham in St. James — are running for mayor.

The rest of Winnipeg’s wards will see their incumbent councillors face one or more challengers in their bids to hold on to their seats.

Those areas are Daniel McIntyre, Elmwood-East Kildonan, Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, Mynarski, North Kildonan, Point Douglas, River Heights-Fort Garry, St. Boniface, St. Vital, Transcona and Waverley West.

And school trustees?

You can read the full list of candidates on the city’s website.

It’s believed at least a dozen people running for school trustee positions in Winnipeg are vocal critics of pandemic-era restrictions, some of whom gained widespread notoriety for their dissent.

Concerns have also been raised about Manitoba’s election laws, which don’t require disclosure about who’s financing a campaign. 

How do I vote?

You can find information about how to vote here, including what kind of ID you need, how to know where to cast your ballot and who’s allowed to vote.

What’s happening outside Winnipeg?

Almost half of Manitoba’s municipalities having elections this year will see their head of council — like a mayor or reeve — elected by default because no one ran against them.

But that’s not the case everywhere: the city of Brandon, for example, is having a mayoral race for the first time since 2014.

And because incumbent Mayor Rick Chrest decided not to run for a third term in Manitoba’s second largest city, Brandon is also guaranteed to elect a new mayor. Two candidates have stepped up in the wide-open race: Elliott Oleson and Jeff Fawcett.

The northern Manitoba city of Thompson is also seeing a competition for its mayoral seat. Incumbent Mayor Colleen Smook faces challengers Les Ellsworth and Ron Matechuk.

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