Mayoral candidates weigh in on rapid transit referendum

CBC canvassed registered candidates for Winnipeg mayor on whether the city should hold a referendum on the second phase of rapid transit.

Havixbeck, Steeves say no to referendum, Bowman says public input worth supporting

Three of the candidates for mayor are pouring water on the idea of holding a referendum on the second phase of rapid transit. CBC's Sean Kavanagh reports. 1:58

Two candidates for Winnipeg mayor are pouring water on the idea of holding a referendum on the second phase of rapid transit, but one said public input should always be welcome. 

North KildonanCoun. Jeff Browaty said before the city spends $590 million on the next phase of rapid transit, Winnipeggers should be consulted, since they may face higher property taxes as a result. 

Candidate and Charleswood-TuxedoCoun. Paula Havixbeck said she has her concerns about the transit plan and wants the line finished to the University of Manitoba, but does not support holding a referendum.

"This horse has left the gate already," she said. "We've built one piece of it already. To go back and say, 'Do you want rapid transit or not?' seems kind of [like] going backwards and looking in the rear view mirror instead of looking forward."

Candidate and former councillor Gord Steeves said he doesn't think now is the time to hold a referendum either.

He said the city should finish what it started.

"They have put a lot of time, effort and money into doing it right now," he said. "It has not been a perfect route to get to where they are today, but hey, finish it off and then the good news is, it's going to be years before we talk about the next leg."

Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman said while he supports public referenda, including one on rapid transit, he thinks Winnipeg has to get going with the transit extension. 

"Rapid transit is an oxymoron with this city council," he said. "I mean there is nothing rapid about the discussions in the planning involved with rapid transit. I think this has been debated long enough quite frankly."

Pressed on whether he supports Coun. Browaty's proposal to hold a referendum on rapid transit, Bowman said anything that engages people is a good idea. 

"If our current city council decides that they do want to proceed with a referendum, then I'll certainly be prepared to defend my positions and advocate for rapid transit," he said. 

Fillion, Warren also give thumbs down to referendum

Candidate Michel Fillion said he is against holding a referendum on bus rapid transit. 

"My thoughts are that when you are an elected official, you are elected to represent your people, representation for the past, present and future," he said in an email.

Another candidate, Gordon Warren, agreed a referendum is not called for. 

"Having an all-or-nothing BRT referendum would be a knee-jerk reaction to poor decision making at city hall," he said.

CBC's attempts to get comment from mayoral candidate Michael Vogiatzakis were unsuccessful. 

Bus now, but rail likely down the road

While all three said completing the second phase of rapid transit should be done, as planned, with buses, they also said Winnipeg will likely need a more enhanced system in the future.

Brian Bowman said if predictions by the Conference Board of Canada are correct that Winnipeg will have a million people in 20 years, then rapid transit will have to expand and rail might be the answer. 

"Light rail is something being discussed, but I would like to see city council implement plans already made," he said.

Paula Havixbeck said she believes the city will have light rail some day.

"We don't have the density that drives light rail now," she said. "That being said, I think it will be here eventually."

Gord Steeves said when Winnipeg's population grows past a million, the city should be ready.

"Some day, the city of Winnipeg is going to need a full light rail system," he said. "I don't think the people of Calgary regret putting in their light rail system. We are going to need that."

Coun. Jeff Browaty said he will bring the referendum proposal to council next week.


  • An earlier version of this story suggested Brian Bowman did not support a public referendum on rapid transit. This version corrects and clarifies that.
    May 22, 2014 10:46 PM CT