Winnipeg votes 2018: River Heights-Fort Garry ward profile

The River Heights-Fort Garry ward, located in southwest Winnipeg, and is full of character and history, with century-old homes and successful local businesses along Academy Road and Grosvenor Avenue. It also faces challenges —​ vehicle break-ins and vandalism have been an issue in the area for years.

Incumbent John Orlikow faces challengers Gary Dale Lenko and Garth Steek in Winnipeg ward

Three candidates are running for the River Heights-Fort Garry council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election. (CBC)

The River Heights-Fort Garry ward, located in southwest Winnipeg, and is full of character and history, with century-old homes and successful local businesses along Academy Road and Grosvenor Avenue.

It also faces challenges —​ vehicle break-ins and vandalism have been an issue in the area for years.

The Smashed Window Club – River Heights group was created on Facebook in 2015. It encourages residents to post about any suspicious behaviour surrounding break-ins and vandalism.

It's also a changing ward in this election — the creation of the new Waverley West ward has altered the River Heights-Fort Garry boundaries. The Linden Ridge and West Fort Garry Industrial neighbourhoods will become part of the new ward (where former South Winnipeg-St. Norbert councillor Janice Lukes has already been acclaimed).

The remnants of a smashed window in the seat of a vehicle vandalized in River Heights in September. Voters in the ward asked the candidates what they would do to curb the vandalism. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

There will be a race, though, in River Heights-Fort Garry — incumbent John Orlikow, who has represented the ward since winning a 2009 byelection​, faces challengers Gary Dale Lenko and Garth Steek. A fourth candidate originally registered to run in River Heights-Fort Garry, Kurt Morton, withdrew his candidacy in the ward in early August to run in St. James. 

The ward, under its new boundaries, has a population of 50,667, according to 2016 census data.

River Heights-Fort Garry in the news

Meet the candidates

Three candidates are running for the River Heights-Fort Garry council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election:

Gary Lenko is a business owner who has lived in Fort Garry for the last 10 years. He says he is a strong supporter of infill housing — the development of under-used spaces in existing urban areas.

John Orlikow has held the River Heights-Fort Garry council seat since 2009. He grew up in the ward, and currently resides in River Heights with his wife and daughters. Prior to becoming city councillor, Orlikow was a member of various community boards and served as a trustee at the Winnipeg School Division for 10 years.

Garth Steek  is a former longtime councillor for the River Heights-Fort Garry ward, sitting on council from 1995 to 2004. Steek grew up in River Heights and has remained an active community member since leaving the political scene. Most recently, he was involved in the alumni fundraising campaign for Kelvin High School's new Active Living Center.

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. Garth Steek did not respond by deadline.

Car break-ins continue to be an issue in River Heights, including recent vandalism in September. In the River Heights Smashed Window Club Facebook group, posts go up as frequently as once a day. Do you have a strategy do tackle this ongoing issue?

Gary Lenko: I would have a strong police presence and surveillance to catch the people responsible. Depending on who is committing these crimes, if underage, make parents responsible and recommend youths be placed in community justice programs that are currently operated, including programs where youth must work off the debt for the damage caused.

John Orlikow: I am actively working with the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) and local residents to make River Heights-Fort Garry safer. Over the last four years, we have succeeded by:

  • Securing WPS resources to ensure more patrolling and a stronger presence in the ward.
  • Reducing violent crime in the River Heights-Fort Garry Ward by 14 per cent in 2016-17.
  • Implementing community grassroots safety initiatives.

As the city councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry, I pledge to continue to make our neighbourhood safer by:

  • Working with the community, stakeholders and the WPS to reduce crime.
  • Establishing a $100,000 Community Safety Fund to support grassroots community safety initiatives.
  • Creating partnerships to invest in addiction treatment centres, reduce poverty and affordable housing.

Residents living on streets off Academy Road (such as Lanark, Lindsay and Ash) have voiced concerns about parking in relation to the businesses on Academy (e.g. patrons having to park on the residential streets, leaving no room for homeowners to park). Are there future plans to improve the parking for these businesses? 

Gary Lenko: I would organize a community members and business owners town hall type forum to discuss their concerns, identify problems, compromise and work together on solutions.

John Orlikow: I understand that commercial development on Academy Road has resulted in parking challenges for residents and businesses alike. I've worked to address these issues head-on through a variety of initiatives, including:

  • Ensuring new businesses accommodate on-site parking and preserve the residential nature of our neighbourhood, through zoning and variance application processes.
  • Maintaining parking on Academy Road to lessen overflow parking on side streets.
  • Amending the Academy Road Plan Development Plan to reduce commercial development and minimize ongoing parking concerns.

If elected, what are your priorities for the ward? 

Gary Lenko: My priority is to talk to the community to identify their concerns, be it local community-based or citywide issues and governance, and to bring those issues to council as your voice.

John Orlikow: I believe in reinvesting in River Heights-Fort Garry to keep our historic community a vibrant, safe and active place for all families. Upon re-election, I will continue to work to achieve this through my commitment to the following priorities:

  • Fixing our roads.
  • Protecting our trees.
  • Managing growth to benefit River Heights-Fort Garry.
  • Neighbourhood safety.
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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