Poverty, safety and city services: Winnipeggers weigh in on what they want to see from the next mayor

Though he’s been eligible to vote in past civic elections, Mark D. Head will be casting a vote for Winnipeg’s next mayor for the first time next month.

He’s one of several Winnipeg residents CBC spoke with this week, just over a month ahead of the Oct. 26 election, about what they want to see from Winnipeg’s next mayor.

They flagged issues ranging from poverty to safety to 311 service as things they’d like the next council to address.

Head, now, 34, spent much of his early adulthood working with the North End Community Renewal Corporation and volunteering with the grassroots community engagement group Meet Me at the Bell Tower. It was a combination of those experiences that led to a political awakening for him, Head says.

“Poverty, housing and community health — those three things are things that the city has been lacking severely for many years,” he said. 

Head said he understands what it’s like to live in poverty in Winnipeg — he has his whole life. He’s frustrated that at his age, he’s still been unable to escape it. He’s been out of a job since mid-2021, and is still searching for one.

The latest challenge he’s facing is a water shutoff at the Furby Street house he currently rents. He and his roommate collect water in rain buckets to flush the toilet, and he has a hose attached to his neighbour’s water line that allows him to use their water sparingly.

“Because of the pandemic, we had about a year and a half [with] no money coming in to pay the bills. Now we’re paying for that,” he said.

After slowly educating himself and observing previous civic elections, Head is ready to fully engage this year and vote. 

He wants Winnipeg’s next mayor to “put their policies and their promises where their actions are.” 

Head stands with other people at a Meet Me at the Bell Tower event. (Submitted by Mark D. Head)

The mayoral race this year is wide open — after two terms as mayor, Brian Bowman is not running for re-election.

Following the close of the nomination period on Tuesday, 11 mayoral candidates are eligible to appear on the ballot on Oct. 26: Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock.

Head identified three candidates that he’s seriously considering voting for: Shone, Loney and Clacio.

He said he’s met all three — Shone and Clacio as they campaigned door to door, and Loney at a community event. 

“What I kind of get from [Shone] and … his policies is he wants to provide stability [and] innovation, but also community. He’s very community-minded,” Head said. 

He also noted Loney’s promise of a community housing land trust, which would help create more affordable housing for people in the city. 

“He’s probably the only one that’s been really focusing on the poverty stuff,” Head said. 

He hopes in the coming four years, the next mayor helps Winnipeg go “beyond its limitations” and challenges the provincial government to do things differently.

Head said after taking the next step in his political journey by voting in the civic election, he hopes to one day run for mayor himself.

“I think service to others is something that I meant to do,” he said.

17-year-old disappointed to miss out on voting

University student Sammie Carvalho, 17, is disappointed she won’t be eligible to vote in October. Voters need to be 18 by election day.

“It’s not only my future at the forefront here, it’s those who are becoming politically aware and questioning who should be in control of our city,” she said. 

Carvalho wants the next mayor to make Winnipeg a safer place — not just for working adults, but for youth and for people who may be struggling. 

She said the recent assaults that occured on city busses left her extremely disheartened.

“It’s very important for me for [transportation] to be a safe place. That’s how I get home from school. Transportation shouldn’t be a place where I question my safety,” she said.

Carvalho, who is studying to be a teacher, thinks investing in Winnipeg’s youth and young adults would go a long way in making lasting change to the city’s safety. 

“I think that’s super important for children to have that sort of experience — to know that there’s adults and leaders who believe in them and trust them and care about them,” she said.

Sammie Carvalho, 17, said she’s extremely disappointed she won’t be eligible to vote on Oct. 26. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Carvalho said she would have considered voting for Ouellette, who resonates with her because like him, she has learned French and is now bilingual. 

“It was just really interesting to see … someone who was sort of like you [as a candidate], and [caring] about the things that you care about,” she said.

In four years, Carvalho hopes to see a safer city, including a reduction in homelessness and safe spaces for vulnerable youth.

“I hope to be helping my community in any way shape I can,” she said. “I know I can make a positive impact on those around me.”

Improve 311 efficiency

Phoebe Podrina, who works at Seven Oaks School Division, said she’s found it difficult to engage with the election, and wishes politics was more accessible to young adults. 

“You’re so focused on studies and your job and your family that you don’t necessarily have the time to go to a press conference or something like that,” said Podrina, 20.

Phoebe Podrina, 20, wants Winnipeg’s next mayor to improve 311 services and invest in more events and festivals. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

She wants the next mayor of Winnipeg to improve the efficiency of 311 and other city services.

“[At] my job, I get a lot of calls from parents and families about complaints, about graffiti or the property taxes. And I always have to redirect them to the city, even though I know that the city is backed up,” she said.

Podrina also wants the city to invest more in events and festivals that would bring people together and encourage them to engage with the city.

“Sometimes people don’t necessarily know about these things and so they don’t take part of them, even though all I hear from friends and people around me is, ‘There’s nothing to do in Winnipeg,’ and I’m like, ‘No, there’s a lot to do. It’s just no one’s ever told you,'” she said. 

Podrina said she’s considering voting for Murray or Gillingham. 

Focus on safety

H.S. Chawla, 38, will be voting for Winnipeg’s mayor for the first time next month. His top priority is increased safety in Winnipeg.

Chawla used to live on Broadway, but moved because he felt the crime rate was increasing.

“Major public safety is lacking, especially in downtown and [the] North End,” Chawla said.

He said he now sees the same kinds of crime that drove him away from Winnipeg’s downtown area following him into his new neighbourhood, and he wants the next mayor to come up with a plan to reduce crime.

Another priority for Chawla is improving public transit services.

“We have big buses for rush hours, it’s amazing. But after rush hours I’ve seen buses run empty,” he said.

H.S. Chawla, 38, says increased safety in Winnipeg is a top priority. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

He said he would like to see mini buses used around the city during slower times, which he believes would create more jobs and save on operating expenses.

Chawla said he’s considering voting for Klein, Woodstock or Gillingham.

“[Klein] touches a lot of topics which are on my list of priorities,” he said. “He wants to hire more police officers.” 

By the end of the next mayor’s first term, Chawla hopes to see more police presence around the city — including on public transit.

Chawla also wants to be a part of the change to make Winnipeg a safer place.

“My personal aim is to start volunteering with the Winnipeg police service,” he said.

CBC Manitoba will host a live Winnipeg mayoral candidates debate on the evening of Oct. 19, one week before the Oct. 26 civic election.

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