The 2022 Winnipeg mayoral race: Few promises to keep, so far

With the first month of Winnipeg's mayoral race in the rearview mirror, voters can be forgiven for not having a clue what most of the candidates would do if they get elected.

Candidates have yet to make many pledges after a month of campaigning

Nine people have registered to run for the mayor's position in Winnipeg. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

With the first month of Winnipeg's mayoral race in the rearview mirror, voters can be forgiven for not having a clue what most of the candidates would do if they get elected on Oct. 26.

For whatever reason, most of the candidates have decided not to reveal much about their intentions.

As of Tuesday morning, nine people have registered to run for mayor in the wide-open race to succeed Brian Bowman. Two of these candidates have not made a promise of any sort — and most of the remaining seven candidates have chosen not to wade very deeply into policy waters, at least not yet.

Let's start with the candidates who have yet to make any promises.

Jenny Motkaluk, a business consultant, finished second to Brian Bowman in the 2018 mayoral race. Rana Bokhari, a lawyer and former Manitoba Liberal party leader, has never run for municipal office before. 


Both have said they'll take some time before they unveil their platforms — with Bokhari and Motkaluk going as far as to suggest they intend to crowd-source their policy positions.

"The only way that I'm going to be able to put forward a compelling policy platform and show Winnipeggers a view of a very happy future is if I hear from them first. So that's what I'm going to be doing," Motkaluk said at the beginning of the month, when she became the first candidate to formally enter the race.

Bokhari also plans to listen to the public, she said on Friday, when she became the most recent candidate to enter the race.

"We're going to spend the next two weeks knocking on doors, talking to Winnipeggers, hearing and listening to all the issues that they've been facing, not only during COVID, but also prior to the pandemic. We're going to stick with what they have to say."

Motkaluk also suggested her second campaign would involve fewer promises altogether.

"Last time around, we spent a lot of time putting out policy," she said on May 1. "I think we had too much of a focus on that and not enough of a focus on giving Winnipeggers an opportunity to really get to know who I am."

Few details 

The candidates who have made pledges have not offered much more meat.

Rick Shone, who owns The Wilderness Supply, has pledged to create LGBT advisory committee. Idris Adelakun, a biosystems engineer, has promised to reduce taxes and increase revenue, without saying precisely how. Grocery worker Chris Clacio posted that he wants to make public engagement more meaningful. Security company owner Don Woodstock said he wants stamp out corruption.

Former Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette has promised to do more to help people with addictions but has not said precisely how.

Ouellette also promised to change the way Winnipeggers vote in future races, by bringing in a ranked-ballot system. This is a pledge he can not fulfil without convincing the provincial government to change legislation that governs municipal elections.

Meanwhile, two-term St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham has pledged to bring a construction adviser to city hall and to ensure the city fulfils more freedom-of-information requests. He also challenged the other candidates to cost out their campaigns. 

Former provincial environmental policy adviser Shaun Loney made three promises. He pledged to forgo most of his transportation allowance and to contract out the responsibility to respond to repeat 911 callers to social-service agencies so police can focus on crime.

Loney also promised to relieve the stress on Winnipeg's combined sewers by using vegetation to capture more rainwater.

Luc Lewandoski, Gillingham's campaign manager, said more pledges are coming this week. Loney, for his part, encouraged all candidates in the race to step up their policy game.

"I'm disappointed so far with the lack of substance from the other campaigns," he said in an interview on Monday, scoffing at would-be mayors who suggest they need to speak to voters before they develop their platforms.

"I think that candidates are saying that they don't know what the priorities of Winnipeggers are. It's just another way of saying that they don't have ideas.

"I think candidates that are going to wait really don't have a whole lot to say."

Mayoral races usually start slow

To be fair, Winnipeg mayoral races are six-months long and thus tend to start relatively slowly. Two of the biggest-name potential candidates — Families Minister Rochelle Squires and former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray — have not entered the race, though Squires is expected to register later this week.

But even though there are already nine formal candidates in the wide-open race, the debate over issues is slightly less robust than it was in 2014, the last time Winnipeg's mayoral race was wide open.

In that race, every candidate made at least one policy statement early on.

During the month of May 2014, every registered candidate stated a position on expanding rapid transit — though former city councillor Gord Steeves reversed course on his support for bus corridors later in the campaign.

Every 2014 candidate also offered a position on pedestrian safety in the month of May. In addition, Bowman pledged to make Winnipeg an open-data leader among Canadian cities, while Paula Havixbeck, an outgoing city councillor at the time, promised to tap into surplus funds to pay for more road repairs.

Royce Koop, a political studies professor at the University of Manitoba, said mayoral candidates may be more reluctant to make election promises than provincial or federal political leaders, simply because cities have fewer financial resources to follow through on those pledges.

"I'm not sure that elections are less focused on policy, on platforms," said Koop, "I think there's lots of different ways to try to run for office and to win elections."

Registering to run enables candidates to raise and spend money. They must also complete the nomination process, in September, to appear on the ballot.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.

With files from Sam Samson