Winnipeg can do more to fight poverty, Point Douglas candidates say
From cutting red tape to making transit free, candidates promise to help low-income Winnipeggers
In a ward that's home to one of Winnipeg's poorest areas, candidates for the Point Douglas council seat promise to work harder at city hall to fight poverty.
About a third of Point Douglas residents are considered low income, according to the latest Winnipeg Regional Health Authority community profile, and in South Point Douglas, the median household income is shy of $30,000.
"Our lower-income areas aren't just in the Point Douglas area of the Point Douglas ward, it's spread out right across our entire ward," said Dean Koshelanyk, a current Winnipeg School Division Ward 9 trustee and one of three candidates running to represent the area at city hall.
Point Douglas ward includes areas like Tyndall Park, Weston, Burrows-Keewatin and the Exchange District.
"I definitely want to focus on reducing poverty because it will make everyone's lives better," said Koshelanyk.
The ward will elect a new councillor on Oct. 24 for the first time since 2002, after longtime councillor Mike Pagtakhan decided not to run for re-election.
Koshelanyk says more job opportunities and access to education are the key ways to lift residents out of poverty, and one of his main campaign promises is to reduce red tape to make it easier for small businesses to establish in the area.
A prime example, he says, are private daycares which take months to get the appropriate approvals to start up.
"I want to work with new businesses, existing businesses. The one thing that gets you out of poverty is education and a good job. You can't just hand people money," he said.
This is Koshelanyk's third run for a city council seat. He previously ran against Pagtakhan in Point Douglas in 2006 and 2010.
Candidate proposes free bus fare
Vivian Santos may not want to hand people money but she might hand them free bus tickets if she wins the council seat.
Santos, who served as executive assistant to Pagtakhan, wants to push to make public transit free in Winnipeg.
It's a simple way to make it easier for residents to get around and knock down barriers that keep people from accessing better jobs and other opportunities, she said.
"I think that would be absolutely fantastic, a great project that we could bring forward," said Santos at her campaign headquarters on McPhillips Street.
She wants to carry on the work of Pagtakhan, her former boss and mentor, but said she also has her own ideas.
Along with free transit, Santos wants to make upgrades to area parks, extend after-school programs and use her ward budget to help fund local organizations like IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.
"I'm still my own person but I've learned a lot from the councillor in what we can do to better our neighbourhood," she said.
City must make better budget choices
Like Santos, fellow candidate Kate Sjoberg also wants to see changes at Winnipeg Transit. She wants bus fares to return to the levels they were at before they jumped 25 cents in a single year.
"There's room in the city's budget to make the choices that matter," said Sjoberg, who said she would be willing to move money from the police budget to cut transit fares.
Like Santos, Sjoberg intends to work more closely with local non-profits to help them continue the good work they are already engaged in. Both committed to supporting greater funding to local organizations.
Sjoberg is a long-time community organizer in Winnipeg — she previously worked for the Spence Neighbourhood Association and the North Point Douglas Women's Centre. She's now a consultant with the Louis Riel School Division.
"There are community leaders who have been doing this work for their entire lives in our own city, and we just need to do a better job of supporting them," Sjoberg said.
Part of reducing poverty means ensuring all City of Winnipeg employees and contractors take home living wages, she said.
She also wants to expand grants for private citizens who cannot afford emergency repairs, like fixing a broken water heater or a leaky roof, to prevent people from becoming homeless.
"A senior citizen might be fine to live in their home for another 10 years but those are the kinds of things that can force people out, and if you're not ready for that, financially it can be devastating."
- A previous version of this article said Kate Sjoberg wanted to introduce grants for homeowners to pay for emergency repairs, when in fact she wants to expand an existing program.Oct 22, 2018 10:10 AM CT