Scott Gillingham calls for unity in 1st speech after being sworn in as mayor of Winnipeg

Scott Gillingham called for unity Tuesday night in his first speech to Winnipeg city council after being sworn in as mayor.

“As city hall veterans, you all know me well enough to know that when I call for unity, it’s not a call to less debate or less dissent. Rather, it’s a call to put our city first when we happen to disagree,” Gillingham said.

In making his speech, Gillingham pointed out that all but one of the incoming councillors have served on council before, with the exception of Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Evan Duncan.

“Who gets to use that as a free pass for two, maybe three weeks,” Gillingham said, to laughs from the packed audience of family and supporters of the incoming council. 

Two men wearing suits with flowers on their lapels are sitting around a circular table.
Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Evan Duncan, left, is the only member of council who has never been elected before. He is seated next to St. James Coun. Shawn Dobson, who had represented the former ward of St. Charles before it was eliminated in 2018. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

To illustrate his point about unity, Gillingham told the story of a Winnipeg election nearly 100 years ago.

In the years leading up to the 1924 election, “Winnipeg endured the collapse of a major property boom, the terrible costs and consequences of a world war, a deadly global pandemic, and, of course, the struggle and the division of the [1919 Winnipeg] general strike,” Gillingham said.

That election saw the incumbent Seymour Farmer, a labour leader who pushed for reform after the strike, lose to Ralph Webb, a First World War veteran and pro-business politician.

In Webb’s victory speech, Gillingham said, he spoke about one door closing behind him, and another open in front of him.

Quoting Webb, Gillingham said: “Behind this closed door, let us shut and imprison for life the antagonisms, enmities and quarrels of the past. Let us all, as citizens of Winnipeg, close up our ranks, bridge our cleavages and see if we cannot, by co-operation and mutual effort, make of this city what is best for all of us.”

Murray, Bowman get shout-outs

Gillingham narrowly won the election, beating Glen Murray by just over two percentage points. 

In his speech, Gillingham also paid tribute to Murray by quoting him, saying: “There is only one team Winnipeg.”

Outgoing mayor Brian Bowman, who was not in attendance, also got a shout-out. Gillingham thanked his former council colleague for his work on reconciliation, building infrastructure, and leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma won re-election as speaker of the council, while Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie returns as deputy speaker. 

The ceremony also marked the return of two people who served on council until 2018.

Two men wearing suits are hugging, while a third man watches smiling.
Mayor Scott Gillingham and Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt embrace after Gillingham presented Wyatt with his certificate of office. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Russ Wyatt defeated incumbent Shawn Nason to claim the Transcona seat and Shawn Dobson succeeded Gillingham as the councillor for St. James.

Dobson had represented the former ward of St. Charles before it was eliminated. He then ran and lost against Gillingham in St. James in 2018.

EPC picks coming Wednesday, Gillingham says

After the ceremonial meeting, Gillingham reiterated his promise to cut his inner circle on executive policy committee down by one member, from seven down to six.

“What that does is it makes me collaborate more, I’m going to have to collaborate more, so I’m committed to doing that,” Gillingham told reporters.

He said he would announce his EPC picks Wednesday morning. 

When asked whether reducing the size of EPC might also reduce his influence on council, Gillingham said his campaign was built on the theme of uniting Winnipeggers.

“My commitment is to bring people together and it’s now my job over the next four years to serve all Winnipeggers, those who voted for me and those who did not.”

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