Manitoba’s 2nd-largest city has 1st mayoral race since 2014, with 2 contenders in Brandon

Manitoba’s second-largest city will have a mayoral race this fall for the first time since 2014.

Two candidates — Jeff Fawcett and Elliott Oleson — are vying for the mayoral seat in Brandon’s Oct. 26 municipal election, which will be a wide-open race after Mayor Rick Chrest’s decision not to run for a third term.

Fawcett, who is currently the city councillor for Brandon’s Ward 1 (Assiniboine), says he hopes seeing two faces in the mayoral race will boost voter turnout in the city.

“I’ll be out knocking on doors and pushing for things. But there is a bit of apathy,” Fawcett said. “We are trying to figure out our media — how do we communicate best … to everybody.”

During the 2018 civic election, which saw Chrest acclaimed, the city reported a voter turnout of 16.86 per cent — 6,185 ballots cast among 36,675 eligible voters. That was a drop of more than 50 per cent from the 42 per cent turnout in the 2014 election.

Oleson, a longtime Brandon resident and local volunteer, said his decision to run for mayor was driven by the fact no one else was stepping up to the plate to challenge Fawcett, who until recently was running unopposed. 

With registration now closed, candidates have been acclaimed in four of the city’s 10 wards, each of which had only a single nominee. Three other wards are two-person races.

Oleson said he hopes his participation in the mayoral race will encourage voting and more community engagement at the municipal level.

“This election might be shot, but we can work towards next election, and one of the ways that we do that is the city needs to directly engage more with people and hear them,” Oleson said.

Brandon needs recognition: Fawcett

Fawcett said his vision for Brandon is to ensure it gets the attention it deserves as Manitoba’s second-largest urban centre. A key part of that is being visible at a provincial level and in Winnipeg, he said.

“You have to be present, you have to be sort of in their face with a bit of controlled aggression, but also with a plan,” said Fawcett.

“We need to reach out and say, you know what, our plans are good, but we can’t do this on our own. We need a lot of help and we can make it work.”

A man smiling with wavy hair wears a black jacket.
Jeff Fawcett is the current city councillor for Brandon’s Ward 1 (Assiniboine). (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Building the city’s reputation provincially will enhance business opportunities in the community, including encouraging new businesses to come to Brandon, he said. That growth can include collaboration with the surrounding region and leaning into agriculture “in a big, big way” to fuel economic growth, said Fawcett.

Support for small entrepreneurs and local businesses in the downtown area is essential, Fawcett said. He wants to work with organizations that conduct research downtown, including Brandon University and Prairie Mountain Health, to better understand how to drive development.

“The small entrepreneur shows the character of your community,” he said.

“The entrepreneurs in downtown Brandon are all new immigrants and we need to continue to work with them, continue to give them the ability to grow, continue to make any kind of accommodations we need to to get people working and starting businesses in the downtown.”

If elected, Fawcett said he’ll continue working with social service groups to help vulnerable people in the city’s downtown, but he cautioned there is no “silver bullet” to deal with social issues.

A key steps will be growing the Community Wellness Collaborative to collectively address the needs of vulnerable people, Fawcett said. The collaborative provides opportunities for Brandonites to discuss strategies centred on tackling core community issues.

“We need to have a good plan, we need to present the good plan to the province. The province has to be on board to help us with, with good local plans for around here.”

Brandon’s potential ‘untapped’: Oleson

Bringing investment to Brandon has been a talking point for years, Oleson said, but those looking to invest in the city may be deterred by the “eternally vacant lots” in the downtown area. 

He cited the empty Esso gas station and former Greyhound bus station on Rosser Avenue as examples.

A bald man wearing glasses stands in front of the camera.
Elliott Oleson is a longtime Brandon resident, who says his decision to run for mayor was driven by the fact no one else was stepping up to the plate to challenge Fawcett. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“I think we as a city need to be enforcing our building bylaws much more strictly. I think we shouldn’t be allowing buildings to get to the point that they become abandoned and that they rot out,” Oleson said. 

Abandoned buildings also add the the tax burden on Brandonites, he said, leaving less money to deal with issues like homelessness in the Wheat City.

“We have problems that need money,” Oleson said. “One of the biggest problems that we’ve got to deal with is the unhoused situation.”

Olseson said he also wants to show that the supports offered by non-profit agencies in the city are a priority, especially when it comes to creating affordable housing.

“We can get those people off the streets. We can get them into housing, stable housing, if we have stable and sufficient funding for groups.”

Oleson also said community engagement meaningful dialogue are critical, in order to ensure citizens know what is going on in the city and that city council is accountable to the community.

“Brandon has a lot of potential, but it’s untapped.”

Brandon candidates for the Oct. 26 election

Ward 1

  • Richard Bruce.
  • Kevin Chambers.
  • Heather Karrouze.
  • Jo-Ann Pasklivich.
  • Jeff Plas.

Ward 2

  • Dale Bates.
  • Kris Desjarlais.
  • Phillip Emerson.

Ward 3

  • Barry Cullen.
  • Quentin Derhak.

Ward 4

  • Shaun Cameron.

Ward 5

  • Sunday Frangi.
  • Greg Hildebrand.

Ward 6

  • Bruce Luebke.

Ward 7

  • Shawn Berry.

Ward 8

  • Michael McCormick.
  • Jason Splett.

Ward 9 

  • Glen Parker.

Ward 10

  • Olivia Boyce.
  • Franco Chartier.
  • Tyson Tame.
  • Ben Welsh.

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