Charleswood confidential: At home with Brian Bowman

The wind has blown the Brian Bowman sign down on the candidate's front yard, but inside the house the political breeze is gentle.
The CBC's Sean Kavanagh explores the contents of Brian Bowman's refrigerator with the mayoral candidate and his family. 1:02

The wind has blown the Brian Bowman sign down on the candidate's front yard, but inside the house the political breeze is gentle.

Bowman's two boys are in the midst of some serious play time and are oblivious to the TV camera and even to the leaps of the family dog, Indiana. But in a general sense, they are aware something is going on.

"We have had conversations around the dinner table," Bowman said. "Each time there is a poll out, Hayden asks, 'Where are you now, Daddy?'"

Recent numbers have Bowman back of Judy Wasylycia-Leis in second, and six-year-old Hayden has impressed upon his father the importance of all this — "You've just got to beat her, Daddy!"

Hayden and Austin have appeared at a couple of political events, most notably when Bowman and his wife, Tracy, went to city hall to sign the nomination papers.

"It was a really important day for us and we very much approach this as a family," said Tracy. "They wanted to be there. We weren't using them to get media attention  that wasn't it at all."

It was a special day for four-year-old Austin Bowman to be sure: it was one his first events ever  diaper-free. Brian Bowman quips that Tracy was worried at least one of her three boys would have an accident!

A family affair

This campaign is truly a family affair. Brian's father is on the sign crew and his mom is running the phone bank.

Tracy is also clearly all-in on the campaign, but it's meant more work. Pre-election, Brian handled much more of the cooking duties, but now a lot of the domestic chores have to be covered by his wife.

Tracy, left, and Brian Bowman in their Charleswood home. (CBC)
Bowman said it's one of the downsides of constant campaigning.

"If I could have two hours uninterrupted in the kitchen … put some music on. But it doesn't happen very often [these days]," he said.

Bowman admits the campaign makes a ton more work for spouses of candidates and says Tracy deserves a "gold star" for picking up the slack.

Despite being a lawyer and sitting on several boards, it's clear that Bowman leaves some domestic administration to Tracy full-time. He couldn't answer what the property taxes are on the family's Charleswood home and Tracy piped up with the answer without hesitating.

"It's $3,200," she said.

So do the Bowmans get the services they should for $3,200?

"Not even close," said Brian.

"Our street was shovelled once last year. And in Charleswood, we don't have sidewalks. We have ditches. The snow clearing is terrible."

And Bowman said he hears it at the doors constantly — that people would pay more in taxes if they knew they would get service for the money.

Born and raised in Winnipeg

If there is tension in the Bowman home, it's who's controlling the music in the house or car. Tracy Bowman's tastes run to pop, while Brian doesn't hesitate to crank Van Halen when he gets a chance.

He likes Winnipeg band The Watchmen as a local fave and admits to playing BTO as an old-school selection. Tracy is more a Black Eyed Peas fan.

Bowman is a born-and-raised local product who has lived in Winnipeg most of his life, except for a stint in Toronto when he went to law school.

On the sports front, there are rather diplomatic signs of allegiance throughout the house. The kitchen has a Winnipeg Jets score clock  with a rather optimistic score of 22-11 for the home team — but look out the window and the barbecue is wearing a Blue Bombers cover on it.

Bowman said he loves the team memorabilia and added that he's even mailed garden gnomes sporting Bombers colours to friends in Regina.

Bowman said he's a season-ticket holder for the Bombers, but with one choice between the two, his last game would be in a Jets jersey. He remembers being at Portage and Main when the Jets were yanked from Winnipeg and the hockey team is clearly in his blood.

Chances are if you see Bowman at a game, he won't be holding a beer. An aversion to gluten has robbed him of the pleasures of the barley and his fridge bears that out — a lonely bottle of Corona sits unwanted on a back shelf.

With the interview winding up, Bowman pulls out a stack of letters from a Winnipeg Grade 6 class. Their teacher has given them an election assignment, and it's clear from the papers they take it seriously.

The top priorities from the voters of the future: potholes and buses.

Five facts on Brian Bowman

  • Swam competitively for the University of Manitoba Bisons.
  • Guilty pleasure: '80s hair metal bands.
  • Does a nice salmon dish.
  • Wouldn't trade Evander Kane (he's got a great shot and like him on a line with Scheifele)
  • Is lactose intolerant — no butter on the popcorn (but recommends a special olive oil).

Stances on key election issues

Taxes, rates, fees and fines

Bowman has promised to limit property tax increases to the rate of inflation — something he estimates will be around two per cent a year. Bowman says alternative sources of revenue have to found, adding that property taxes stifle economic growth. Bowman has mused publicly about some sort of municipal sales tax, saying a discussion among municipal leaders with the province is needed to find new ways to raise money for cities. He says that conversation has already started in other provinces.


Bowman would inject $10 million in additional dollars into road repairs and find the money from trimming two per cent of annual operating costs. Bowman says he would launch a Mayor's Infrastructure Investment Committee made up of  councillors and city staff to find the money. He also wants the province to pony up more cash ($105 million) for Winnipeg streets. Bowman's plan for rapid transit is perhaps the broadest of all the candidates. He is promising to complete the city's entire bus rapid transit (BRT) plan by 2030. That would include Phase 2 of BRT to the University of Manitoba. Bowman says he would pay for the completion of the lines through taxation of the developments that build up around the routes.

Open data, transparency and accountability

As a privacy lawyer, Bowman says he is best of the candidates to improve transparency at city hall. He says he would make council votes easily accessible and include access to council expenses, including travel. He is promising to publish details of discretionary budgets used by councillors and make the mayor's office's schedule and calendar open to public scrutiny. Bowman says the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act will not be used to block the release of information to the public.