I know TheAnalyst already has a thread about the Winnipeg Police Association where next month's municipal election is mentioned, however I wanted to start a more generic thread to go over more issues, and also invite conversation about municipal elections throughout the province.
First off, Winnipeg. How did we get where we are today? In 1989, a left-wing insurgency in Winnipeg took over Winnipeg City Council, and was to then one of the best ever showings for the left since the 1940s. The PC government at the time responded by shrinking council to its current size, thereby eliminating the possibility that a council majority would be able to stop a mayor from proceeding with his or her agenda. How is this possible? The Mayor appoints an Executive Policy Committee (EPC). This EPC is nearly half the council, and along with the EPC, the mayor only needs 1 or 2 extra votes for something to go through. This creates a situation where roughly half of council votes with the mayor, and the other half can only yell and scream but can't actually put the brakes on anything. Traditionally, the fault line tends to be left-wing, urban councillors representing low income areas on one side, with right-wing, suburban councillors representing higher income areas on the other. What's fascinating about the Bowman administration is that while there still is a de facto pro mayor and anti-mayor coalition, Bowman's allies and critics on council are members of both factions.
So what do I think about Bowman? Frankly, he's a car salesman. One of his first acts as mayor was to attempt to eliminate severence pay for outgoing councillors who quit or were defeated. Some critics indicated that councillors who vote a certain way may have problems finding employment after council, and that other councillors can easily rely on their connections to bounce back. Bowman, a former law firm partner, said with a straight face that nobody on council has a job lined up for them when they are done. On the rapid transit file, he accepted the bad decision by the former Katz administration to route the line away from Pembina Highway. There is also the issue with bus fare. It is true that the province did hurt Winnipeg with its cuts to Winnipeg Transit. But while this was going on, Bowman passed a city budget that lowered business taxes while at the same time raising bus fare. I don't know how much of a difference the business tax reduction made, but on principle the idea of cutting business taxes while raising transit fares is problematic. That said, the expansion of the city's bike trail system provides another option for those of us who were able that is inexpensive. He has started the process of building rapid transit to eastern Winnipeg. He also fought very hard to build the Bruce Oak Recover Centre, a place for recovering addicts. It is a small piece of help that is badly needed, however against opposition, Bowman stood up and said, "addicts need help." The big issue that has moved me into Bowman's camp, however, is development fees. For too long, developers have been building car friendly suburban developments near the city's edge, which has implications for infrastructure of existing communities. Against opposition from developers, he fought to implement a fee on new developments at the city's fringe. This not only serves to discourage suburban sprawl, but also gives the city more money for its own needs. Not even Judy Wasylicia-Leis brought up this idea in either of her campaigns.
So on the mayoral front, I think Bowman is the best we can expect, as I simply do not see a Valerie Plante or Charlie Clark type figure emerging in this election cycle. I think the real battle will be for council seats. The seats in particular that need attention are Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, Point Douglas, and Transcona which are all open (the latter 2 of which would mean a net gain for the left) and River Heights-Fort Garry, where incumbent John Orlikow is in a fight against a former right-wing councillor Garth Steek. I think Bowman is maleable enough that a solid left-wing contingent would be a positive influence on his administration. For me the real battle, is 2022, and we should start preparing for that on October 25. Bowman has indicated an intention to only run 2 terms. That means other people will be preparing for the empty spot, and the issues in Winnipeg will be very pronounced by that time. There are very reactionary forces that would love to undo the baby steps that the Glen Murray and Brian Bowman administrations have taken towards making Winnpeg a more liveable city.