Your City: Election Fest 2014

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On September 22 members of the public were invited to attend Election Fest hosted by Metro Winnipeg at the Convention Centre. At Election Fest you were given the opportunity to walk freely around the room and chat with candidates running for mayor, council, and school trustee for the upcoming election. It was well attended and I loved how open the event was. It is difficult for the public to get up close and personal with candidates and ask the questions they really want to ask. This presented the perfect opportunity.

I attended the event and asked the following question – What is your vision for the North End? What can you contribute in regards to youth programs, safety, business development and community programs? Here is how they responded.

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Mike Pagtakhan (Incumbent, Councillor for Point Douglas candidate) | http://mikepagtakhan.ca/| @MikePagtakha

Mike would like to continue developing programs for the youth by working side-by-side with them. He notes AYO!, Michael Champagne and the Bell Tower Movement as one example of how the youth can bring the community together. He said that by working with the youth he will be able to find out the key issues that they face, especially growing when growing up in the North End, on what works best for them and how we can all make the community grow.

Mike plans on working with schools within the community to develop recognition programs for youth. This way when the youth feel included they are not afraid to step up and continue working in the area. Youth need to be recognized for the great things that they do and because we rarely do that, they feel left out and do not want to help within their community.

Mike would like to continue working on affordable housing for everyone – young adults fresh out of college, adults, seniors, those with disabilities. They shouldn’t be forced to live in terrible run down houses just because they make a certain amount. If we continue to raise prices on housing, we’re going to drive people out of the city and that is something we want to prevent. Mike would like to develop more housing for seniors and does not like it when he hears that seniors are often forced out of their houses because they can no longer afford it. “They’ve worked hard all of their life… why should they be forced out once they hit retirement or if they face a disability? That is not right.”

Mike will continue to fight for affordable transportation including changing the way Handi-Transit is currently run. “Many citizens who use Handi-Transit are told they cannot use it because of the new tiered systems. How are people supposed to get around town and why are we forcing them to stay at home and rely on other people? They like their freedom too.” Affordable transportation would also be available to youth, students and people on assisted living. Mike would also like to make programming for youth and seniors a priority if elected again. Accessibility to community centers and more healthy living programs for seniors and the disabled.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Mayor candidate) | http://www.judyformayor.ca/ | @Judy_WL

Judy believes the North End is a great model for the city. “The North End has always struggled, for years, since before the city was a city. The people of the North End have always learned how to fight back and rise above it all. I think the rest of the city could learn a valuable lesson from them.” As mayor Judy would continue to support and fund programs for Aboriginal youth & women and members of the community. Judy would bring in a 24-hour community/outreach center that would be funded with volunteers as a place where at-risk-youth could escape to if they are in trouble or need somewhere to go so they don’t get in trouble. “The fact is that kids are out late at night and we need to give them a place where they can go to feel safe. Period.” She would also make sure that trained workers are available for young girls and women in the sex trade to get help – “This is not just an individual problem… this is a problem that we the city must stand up, recognize and deal with. We cannot let this continue any further.”

Judy will continue to support businesses and organizations within the North End that help empower the community. “Neechi Commons is a great example of community service and social enterprise. Neechi started as a corner store and developed into a large-scale community business where the community can thrive. It is just amazing how much they have accomplished! And let’s talk about Michael Champagne…” Judy credits Michael with the youth movement in the North End – “His creative vision is simply admirable. He recognized that in order for the North End to rise once again, it was the youth that needed to stand up and take charge. How amazing is that?! We should all take note of his work. From AYO! to the Bell Tower Movement, I like seeing programs like that! We need to empower our youth and make them feel included.”

Safety is also another aspect that Judy would like to continue working on. “Have we seen some improvement? Yes. But we need to continue working on that. We can do that through more programs such as community patroling, police presence, programs for especially the youth and, of course, for everyone else. We need to make sure that the community is presentable through clean-up programs and that our garbage is picked up on time and properly.”

Trevor Mueller (Mynarski Ward Councillor Candidate) | Facebook Page

Trevor feels that there really hasn’t been change in the Mynarski ward. “Our roads and backlanes are falling apart and when it comes to reporting them, they’ve been ignored by the city for a very long time. Trash collection is horrific and since the new system has been rolled out, collection is skipped! Was it cost effective? Maybe, but service is terrible. Why should I be calling you and telling you how to do your job?” Trevor would like to see more access to health programming in our community, not only from the static clinics but perhaps mobile clinics and health development programs where people can come and learn about well-being, etc.

Trevor would like to continue to promote an active community. “We already see a reprise of Residents Association and we need more of that – residents taking back their community and making sure it works and flourishes.” Trevor would like longer access hours to community clubs with focus on more volunteers. Trevor would like to focus on new immigrants to make them feel welcomed into our communities – programs, newcomer nights, information sessions. “When they come here, they want nothing more than a better life and to become a Canadian Citizen – that process takes a very long time. How can we help?”

Greg Littlejohn (Mynarski Ward Councillor candidate)

As city Councillor, Greg would like to push for the removal of the CPR yard that runs through the North End and have them moved to work in conjunction with Centreport. Greg would like to focus on seniors and youth in the community by keeping programs in the North End for both. “We need funding and I know there is, we just need better access to it.” Greg wants to see a call for 24-hour community centers, seniors group at Ralph Brown Community Centre and a program from new immigrants.

Paula Havixbeck (Mayor candidate) | www.Paula4Mayor.com | @PaulaHavixbeck

As a former North Ender (she attended Faraday School and St. John’s High School), Councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge, Paula has a huge part in her heart reserved for the North End. “I loved living there because the people were so wonderful and you could feel the community spirit. You still can. I have some great memories from living there.” Paula has a community vision for the North End that she says will work. “The North End is diverse in people, culture and business. How can we continue to support that without dictating how things should be run there? The community knows how things work and you see that with Michael Champagne and his AYO vision and the Bell Tower meetings. We need to continue that.” Paula also believes that we need to get all groups/organizations within the North End into a large representative group… “How amazing would that be? There would be this large group from the North End working together coming to City Hall and informing us what needs to be done to make sure the community is safe and working efficiently.”

Paula wants to focus on trash collection and snow removal. “There is a huge difference with garbage services in the North End and in Charleswood. Why are we giving preferential treatment to one area and not the other. I see the issues that Ross Eadie has to deal with, it is horrible. The same goes for snow clearing. Why is one area receiving better snow clearing service than the other? Proper clearing is about safety for everyone.”

Dr. Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Mayor Candidate) | falcon2014.com | @DrRobbie0

IMG_6378“The North End is the reason why I am running for mayor,” Dr. Ouellette said proudly. “I was coming out of the UM off-campus building on Selkirk Avenue when I noticed garbage. I followed that garbage to a backlane and I was shocked by what I saw… piles, upon piles of garbage all over the place and overflowing autobins. It was ridiculous. I know that there are community groups that go around cleaning up the community but where was the city in all of this? How can a community function when there’s garbage all over the place? Three mattresses, a couch.. that’s an invite for arson. And now you have to pay for it to be removed?!” Garbage issues are high on his “to-do” list if elected mayor. He wants the garbage system to run more efficiently with trucks that don’t break down (understandable that equipment doesn’t work in -50C weather), more trucks in the fleet and ensure that garbage is picked up on time, every time. He also wants to make sure that if there’s bulk garbage, citizens are not on the hook for paying that. “Five dollars on your tax bill adds up. I understand people can’t get to Brady Landfill, we need to meet them half way and say we’ll pick it up and pick up the tab. It keeps arson out of our neighbourhoods.”

Robert supports more clean-up groups and community gardens. “When there’s more of that, there’s less trash. People like pretty things and who would want to make it look ugly by dumping trash all over the place?” Creating more clean-up groups will create job opportunities in the community, especially for young people.

Dr. Ouellette would like to develop a co-op model for affordable housing – for everyone, not just a specific group. “We cannot continue driving people out of the city or into shelters because they cannot afford it. Affordable housing should be universal, just like our health care.” His affordable housing includes all types out housing – duplex complexes, apartments, side-by-sides, etc. He would also like to see Manitoba Housing revamped by working with them on how to make the experience better for those who require it.

Dr. Ouellette is also a huge supporter of community centers and better accessibility. He loves how after-school programming is making a comeback, but it is still a slow roll out. By providing funding for CC’s, we can have before and after school programming for youth to access, and it’s not limited to specific after-school hours that end at 6pm, “Kids are still out after 6, especially in the summer months. Let’s keep it open longer and make it safe for them. Isn’t that what we all want – a safe place for kids?”

Gord Steeves (Mayor Candidate) | http://www.gordsteeves.ca/ | @gordsteeves

Gord doesn’t want to segregate each issue a community has, but look at it as a whole. While he didn’t go into specifics, he referenced his campaign platform – lowering taxes and not raising them, tax freezes, continue to work on safety and more opportunities for business owners.

Brian Bowman (Mayor Candidate) | bowmanforwinnipeg.ca |@BrianBowmanWpg

Mr. Bowman said he loves the North End as he grew up close to it and played sports within the community. He also loves the spirit that we have, how we can bring the community back through its residents and how resilient we are. With that said, Mr. Bowman said he has a few key ideas on how he can help the North End- increase funding for recreation and accessibility for youth. Brian would like to extend that accessibility to seniors, “They too deserve programming. We need to help them keep busy after retirement with great programs that are specifically altered to their needs.”

“We need to show the same level of support across all wards, so that one is not feeling neglected… and I know the North End does feel that way. We cannot favour one over the other. There needs to be consistency and that is something that this city is lacking.”

Infrastructure also needs to be dealt with, especially in the North End. Streets, backlanes and sidewalks need to be repaired, more so in the heart of the North End – Point Douglas.

Ross Eadie (Incumbent – Mynarski Councillor Candidate) | http://elect.rosseadie.ca/| @rosseadie

If re-elected, Ross would like to continue his work within the Mynarski ward. Garbage and snow removal issues remain on the top of the list, “The city lacks consistency. I have streets within my ward that get plowed and then streets that do not. Streets get plowed but it’s a terrible job – some streets are impassable after plowing, there’s huge snowbanks and sidewalks are blocked. We had a huge issue with sidewalks not being cleared, and yes, equipment did break down but the city did not move on sidewalk plowing until after weeks the two major snowfalls between Christmas and New Years Day. That created a lot of problems for us and that cannot happen again. It’s a safety issue.”

Funding for youth and seniors needs continued funding. He notes Barber House Senior Centre as a prime example. He would like to see more senior centres throughout the ward; more programming for youth within the community centres, more spray pads with longer hours in the summer. Ross would also like to see the Food Security program expanded and have more access to funding. Food Security through NECRC has been of great value to the community through promoting and educating healthy food choices and access to healthy food. Programs such as this help our community members live and lead better lives.

Michel Fillion (Mayor Candidate) | http://www.youtube.com/user/TheMichelFillion | @MayorMitchWPG

Michel, if elected mayor, would like to involve youth in City Hall. “They have great ideas and we need to get the involved.” He would implement programs through school student councils; each school would be represented on this newly created Youth Board. He would like to build more community centres for youth.

Michel believes that there needs to be more opportunities for businesses to compete with each other and not big box stores, that is what kills smaller businesses. Michel would hold businesses accountable for cleaning up their store front – “The cleaner the city is, the better it will be.” If a business refuses to clean up their store front and maintain it, the city with clean it but at cost to the business.

(We could not finish our conversation as the session ended before we could continue further.)

(By the time it was over I didn’t get a chance to speak with David Sanders [mayor candidate] and the remaining candidates for Mynarski & Ward 7 and 8 School trustees were not in attendance.)

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Become an informed voter and get out to polls on October 22. Voting that day begins at 8AM and runs until 8pm. Advanced polling stations are now open. Visit www.winnipeg.ca for locations. This is our city. It is time for a change.

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