Winnipeg votes 2018: Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward profile

For the first time in 20 years, Winnipeg's Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward will have a new city councillor after Oct. 24.
Seven candidates are running for the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election. (CBC)

For the first time in 20 years, Winnipeg's Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward will have a new city councillor after Oct. 24.

Jenny Gerbasi, who has been the ward councillor since 1998,  isn't running again, leaving the city council seat open to seven new candidates.

Winding along the west bank of the Red River, the ward contains some of Winnipeg's most historic sites, including The Forks and the Manitoba Legislature. Its neighbourhoods also include Wildwood, Lord Roberts, Earl Grey, Riverview, Osborne Village and West Broadway.

'What will you do to bring back the businesses to the [Osborne Village] strip?' is one of the questions voters put to the seven candidates running in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

The ward has an approximate population of 47,770 as of 2016, according to the City of Winnipeg.

In the 2014 civic election, 47.3 per cent of the 33,837 eligible voters in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry cast a vote.

Other facts about the ward:

  • According to the city's data, the largest number of complaints made to 311 in the ward revolve around neighbourhood livability (2,291 complaints filed between the start of 2016 and Sept. 28, 2018), which can include issues relating to building maintenance, property safety, drainage and sanitation. Following that were complaints about missed garbage and recycling collection (2,070 garbage complaints and 1,734 recycling complaints since 2016).

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry in the news

Meet the candidates

Seven candidates are running to replace Jenny Gerbasi.

Peter Koroma has worked as a policy analyst for the province, a case co-ordinator in Family Services and a special assistant to River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard. He was one of the creators of a non-profit organization providing summer and after-school programming to newcomer youth.

Stephanie Meilleur has a background in event management and marketing. As a co-owner of a local promotions company, Meilleur has worked on many Winnipeg events, including the 103rd Grey Cup Festival and the Osborne Village Foot Patrol Safety Program. For the past six years, Meilleur has been the executive director of the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone.

Jeff Palmer has been a city planner for the past 18 years, focusing on the revitalization of communities, urban planning and creating affordable housing. Palmer currently is a partner at Catapult Community Planning.

Sherri Rollins was elected a trustee for the Winnipeg School Division in 2014 and is currently the division's chair. Rollins has worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and is an employee of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Bryanna Spina has been involved in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry community as a board member of the Earl Grey Community Centre and as the owner and operator of a community yoga program. Spina worked to bring yoga programs to students in the Louis Riel School Division. 

Michael Thompson has been involved with a variety of community programs, including working as director of the Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel. Thompson has an education in computer science and project management, and currently works for Kiwi Installations, a security shutter company, and Christie Lites, a stage lighting company.

Harry Wolbert is an anti-poverty and disabilities advocate. Wolbert has been involved in the community as former chair of the Winnipeg Transit Riders' Association and a Winnipeg Sun monthly columnist writing on poverty and disability issues.

What the candidates say on key issues

Questions in this section were among those voters in the ward said they wanted asked of candidates. Responses have been edited and condensed.

There is very little parking for residents of the ward, with even less for visitors. What will you do about all the condos and apartment complexes being built and little parking to accommodate them? 

Peter Koroma: It needs a creative way of thinking. I will consider looking at the building that used to be The Zoo — that motel — and we can create a community parking area similar to the parking lot on Hargrave and Ellice, with a private sector ownership and a community walk in.

Stephanie Meilleur: Other cities have implemented a parking permit process, so as a resident you get to apply for a parking permit and you get to apply for a certain amount depending on the people that live in your home, and that parking permit gives you access to park on your front street. You are the only one allowed to park on that front street at certain times, or however that process may look like. That is what I plan to implement.

Jeff Palmer: What I would like to do is really focus on providing alternatives like better bus service, better cycling service, safer cycling service, and maybe even different kind of options like shared parking and Peg City Car Co-op, where you have a shared car service.… Basically, I want to make our city have more options for people to get around rather than have to rely on a car.

Sherri Rollins: I am working right now to convince residents that I will be a protective ward voice that will consider some of those basic details, like if you have a 24-suite new apartment that you are considering the parking spaces necessary and then hold developers to their plans.

Bryanna Spina: What I would do is make sure the [developer's] plans have adequate parking to begin with, so before it even comes to fruition we need to make sure there is adequate parking and hold them accountable.

Michael Thompson: If I was elected councillor I'd be working with the community members as well as the developers to make sure that this, along with other issues when it comes to condos or apartments or buildings going up, that they are addressed.

Harry Wolbert: I would seek input from all stakeholders involved and try and come up with a solution. I don't have an answer to give you right now.

Residents say they have seen an increase of crime and violence in the area over the last few years. What will you do to make the community safer?

Peter Koroma: Crime is an outcome of poverty. We have to reduce poverty, eliminate homelessness and increase the presence of police officers and security guards in our neighbourhood.

Stephanie Meilleur: We need to invest in our neighbourhoods through community watch groups, and I think a great resource is our community centres. We have great community centres in the ward — a lot of them need work, but if we can work within our neighbourhood groups and our community centres to bring everyone together and create that closeness and that grassroots efforts to share information and share data, we can start seeing a decrease in our crime.

Jeff Palmer: The best solutions always come from the community and I think if we address it in partnership with service providers and the police service, then we should be able to get a handle on the issue.

Sherri Rollins: Part of my plan to make our community safer relates to [missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls] in terms of committing to reduce racialized and sexualized violence by creating new safe-space drop-in centres for trans-identified Indigenous women and girls.

Bryanna Spina: I'd like to see more collaboration between the police services and organizations like safety interest groups. We have Neighbourhood Watch, we have Block Parent, we have Citizens On Patrol — creating models for communities to follow that offer collaborative efforts.

Michael Thompson: If I was elected as councillor I would obviously be active in [community patrol groups'] efforts [and] hands-on approach, and lend my support in any way that I can with city resources.

Harry Wolbert: First of all, I wouldn't make any cuts to the Winnipeg Police Service budget. I would provide them with all of the resources they need to keep us safe. I would work, again, with all stakeholders, including the provincial and federal government.

Business around the Osborne Village strip are leaving and the area is gaining a "scuzzy" reputation. What will you do to bring back the businesses to the strip?

Peter Koroma: No rational business person will come here if their customers can't even park to come and do business. So to me parking is a serious issue that the ward should look at, and it's not just Osborne — the same thing is happening at The Forks.

Stephanie Meilleur: [The city] leaves it down to business improvement zones, which we have limited budgets. So we do what we can during the seasons we have funding for and the rest of the time we're looking at business owners to make sure that their storefront is clean. But I think the city needs to step up with our cleaning process because that's the reason our streets are so dirty.

Jeff Palmer: I think where we would start is having a good dialogue with the business community there and get a handle on why they feel there are issues. Maybe they don't have the tools that are necessary to address these issues, maybe it is beyond the scope of the businesses to solve, but until we have those conversations with the businesses on Osborne it is hard to say what the problem is and what the solution is.

Voters want to know what the candidates think of the proposal to reopen the Portage and Main intersection to pedestrians. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Sherri Rollins: I've been considering the appointment of an economic development officer who would be responsible for attracting sustained investment opportunities to create not only more good jobs but to support and further business development.

Bryanna Spina: I think it does come down to the safety issue to begin with. We need to be working alongside our businesses and our residents together. We need to inform both parties on how they can keep themselves safe … also putting a bit more money in the community-focused events so that we are enabling our youth in the area to become more involved.

Michael Thompson: I always believe in best practices. We are not working in isolation, we can always look to our other communities, other cities and see what practices they are doing. Get input from the owners, input from the community to patch those up.

Harry Wolbert: We could provide some of the poor and homeless with employment to keep the Osborne Village clean. I know panhandling has been a problem in that area. This may help eliminate that problem if we gave people jobs to keep our city clean, to pick up the garbage. I think that may be one way we can revitalize the area.

Where do you stand on the referendum for the opening of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians?

Peter Koroma: I'm not against [opening Portage and Main], but the way they are going about it — I'm not in favour of that. It has to be a part of this project that unifies downtown Winnipeg.

Stephanie Meilleur: I don't believe that Winnipeg will benefit in the way that it's been predicted by opening Portage and Main.… We need to deal with the issues that are happening downtown before we go and open another pedestrian corridor.

Jeff Palmer: The way to make a healthy downtown is get people walking and cycling and make it as easy as possible for people to move from one location to another. As a driver, I don't mind if I have to spend an extra half a minute in my car. That being said, I appreciate that I'm in the minority of the situation here and I will respect the decision made by the population.

Sherri Rollins: Twenty-three years ago, when I moved to Winnipeg from Ottawa — I'm 43 years old now so it feels like a long time ago — I had some frustrating moments when I got my first job at 303 Main St. and I couldn't figure out how to cross, and so for reasons primarily due to accessibility and an accessible city, I'm on Team Open.

Bryanna Spina: I am for the opening to pedestrian traffic. I understand that there are safety issues and that it's very important to inform and educate everyone that does work, does live or is possibly going to travel that area.

Michael Thompson: I support active transportation and making our city more accessible for people with disabilities. I reserve my decision on opening it — I'd like to see the plans and the budget for either the opening of Portage and Main and the costs associated with that.

Harry Wolbert: I'm opposed to opening up Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic. I think that whole issue has been poorly managed by the mayor and the outgoing councillor for Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry.

Winnipeggers will vote for mayor and councillors in 15 city wards on Oct. 24, 2018. (CBC)

More CBC Manitoba election ward profiles:

Journalism students from Red River College's creative communications program have prepared profiles of each city of Winnipeg ward ahead of the 2018 civic election for CBC Manitoba. Read all of our election 2018 coverage here


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