Leading Winnipeg mayoral candidates square off in CBC Manitoba debate

Five candidates — Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Glen Murray and Robert-Falcon Ouellette — told voters why they should be elected as Winnipeg’s next mayor in a Wednesday night debate hosted by CBC Manitoba.

The debate comes one week before the Oct. 26 election day.

There are 11 candidates in total running to become mayor. CBC Manitoba limited participation in the debate to candidates who polled above 10 per cent, factoring in the margin of error, in a Probe Research poll released at the end of September

On issues ranging from crime to taxes to infrastructure, the five candidates staked out often starkly different positions in Wednesday’s debate.

That became clear when all the candidates committed to raising property taxes, with the exception of Murray.

When asked to clarify, the former mayor repeated his intention to push the province to replace the city’s operating grant with a single percentage point of the seven per cent provincial sales tax.

“I believe we really have to build the tax base. I think we’ve exhausted it,” said Murray, who was mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 to 2004. He also served as a member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament from 2010 to 2017.

“We are in a hyper period of inflation right now.… Property taxes, if you raise them, you are raising the tax burden significantly.”

Another difference appeared when the candidates were asked whether they would reopen the intersection of Portage and Main to pedestrians, an issue that was the focus of a plebiscite in 2018.

Only Loney — a social enterprise activist who founded organizations such as BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Development) and the non-profit Aki Energy — committed to opening the intersection, although Klein said he only said no to give a definitive answer to the question.

He added that the barricades should have been removed in 2014, when repair work was supposed to be done on the intersection, but the issue then became “a political hot potato.”

“Once the membrane is fixed, if it’s more cost-efficient not to put up the concrete [barricades], we won’t put it back up,” said Klein, an outgoing city councillor who was elected in 2018 to represent Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood. 

Gillingham is also an outgoing two-term city councillor representing the St. James ward. Before entering politics, he was a pastor for 20 years.

Ouellette represented Winnipeg Centre as a Liberal member of Parliament from 2015-19. He also ran as a mayoral candidate in Winnipeg’s 2014 election, finishing third. 

Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Jenny Motkaluk, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock are also running for mayor.

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