In Transcona, a sitting city councillor faces his predecessor as election day nears
Power of council incumbency usually confers an advantage in Winnipeg, but this challenger served 16 years
Thanks to name recognition, incumbent city councillors often enjoy an an advantage on election day.
But a challenger in Winnipeg's Transcona ward has levelled the playing field with name recognition of his own.
Transcona is a race where candidate Shawn Nason, a one-term councillor elected in 2018, is facing off against former Transcona councillor Russ Wyatt, who served from 2002 until 2018.
The race is the closest thing to a two-incumbent contest since the last municipal election, when the dissolution of Winnipeg's old St. Charles ward forced a pair of one-term councillors — Shawn Dobson and Scott Gillingham — to compete against each other in a realigned St. James ward.
Nason said he does not feel the campaign for Transcona this year has anything to do with who else is running.
"It's about me and what I bring to the table, my style of government and how I deal with residents. I'm engaging, I'm present, I'm visible and I'm not overly combative," he said at park in the Southland Park neighbourhood, near the southern edge of his ward.
"We see some of the prior councillors that may have been trying to be a little bit more bombastic. I'm more about quiet governing and trying to get along and work in collaboration."
The prior councillor is Wyatt, who was a vocal presence at city council under former mayors Glen Murray and Sam Katz as well as outgoing Mayor Brian Bowman.
Wyatt took a leave of absence from council during the final months of his last term to seek treatment for addictions. He was also the subject of a sexual assault charge that was stayed in 2019.
The former councillor said he was only asked about the charge once on the doorstep this year – by a young mother who was also interested in his addictions treatment.
Wyatt said he is now fit to serve again.
"I'm healthier today at 52 than I was at 22. I've lost over 100 pounds because I don't drink anymore. It's amazing, right? I can't," Wyatt said at his campaign office in a Regent Avenue stripmall. "It's liberating to say the least."
Both Wyatt and Nason said their main priorities are ensuring Transcona gets it fair share of infrastructure resources, the construction of a new recreation facility on the east side of Winnipeg and the construction of the Ed Schreyer Parkway, a regional road that would connect Chief Peguis Trail to Plessis Road.
Wyatt, however, accused Nason of initially opposing the new road, which would allow transport trucks to get from new industrial developments near Plessis reach CentrePort more easily.
The two other candidates in Transcona have also run in the ward before. Both identified road repairs as their main priority.
"Back lanes are an issue, they always have been, but they always seem to be neglected," said Wally Welechenko, who owns several businesses and finished second in Transcona to Nason in 2018.
Steve Lipischak, a retired automobile-dealership marketing director who finished fourth in 2018, said repairing existing roads is a priority.
"I'm not against all these big projects that people are saying we need to do, because we do. Our city is growing and our community is growing, but we need to take care of what we have now because even if we build the big projects, the streets are still going to keep crumbling," he said. "We need to fix that first."
Lipischak also identified addictions treatment, homelessness and the east-Winnipeg recreation centre as campaign prioriities.
The two candidates who have served on council are both connected to mayoral candidates.
Nason said it is no secret he has worked closely with Kevin Klein, the outgoing Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor who is running for mayor. But Nason said he will not be endorsing any candidate.
Wyatt endorsed mayoral candidate Gillingham on Monday, citing the outgoing St. James councillor's commitment to an east-Winnipeg recreation centre.
Wyatt also criticized candidate Glen Murray for promising to reinstate a property-tax freeze in Winnipeg.
"If you're making lots of commitments to do things and you're running for mayor and then at the same breath you're saying we're going to freeze taxes, you're in a sense trying to bribe the people with their own money," Wyatt said.
Transcona ward is bordered by Lagimodiere Boulevard to the west, Bishop Grandin Boulevard to the south, Springfield Road to the north and Winnipeg's municipal borders to the east.