Orlikow prevails in Winnipeg municipal byelection

Former school trustee John Orlikow was voted in to Winnipeg city council in Tuesday's byelection in the ward of River Heights-Fort Garry.

Former school trustee John Orlikow was voted in to Winnipeg city council in Tuesday's byelection in the ward of River Heights-Fort Garry.

With all 49 polls reporting Tuesday evening, an unofficial tally gave Orlikow 4,392 votes, compared with former broadcaster Geoff Currier's 3,299. The byelection was held to fill the seat left vacant by the death of deputy mayor Brenda Leipsic in December.

Orlikow, 39, ran in the ward before but came up short against Donald Benham in a 2004 byelection.

The former chairman of the Winnipeg School Division's board of directors believes he has the political experience residents need.

"People are willing to be engaged in the political process and have incredible insight. They just need to feel a little more connected and that will be my job — to make sure they do connect to that decision making," Orlikow said Monday in a final pitch for the job.

Opponent Currier, 54, is on leave from his job as a CJOB radio talk-show host. Currier has no formal political experience but lots of ideas. He said it's time to do away with the city's property tax freeze, which has been in place for 12 years.

That would generate much-needed revenue for desperate infrastructure needs, he has said.

The battle for the seat has focused on many issues, but none greater than the Ikea furniture store slated for construction off Kenaston Boulevard.

Orlikow supports the project but has echoed the concerns of a residents group, which believes the city is moving too fast on it.

Currier fully supports the project, calling it a great opportunity for the city. He said Winnipeg would suffer serious damage and reduce its chances of attracting other large companies if it blows the $400 million deal.

The development would cover close to 200 acres at Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard. IKEA would be the anchor tenant and, over several years, a hotel, condos and more large retail stores would be added.

The mayor's cabinet holds a public hearing on the project Wednesday.

"If Manitoba and Winnipeg chase a $400-million project out of town, not only will we never get a development from these people again, nobody will come to Winnipeg," Currier has said.

On Monday, he took a final parting shot at Orlikow, saying "my opponent didn't like the location, now he likes it. He wanted to delay the project, now he doesn't want to delay the project. He didn't want to raise taxes, now he wants to raise taxes."