Winnipeg votes 2018: St. James ward profile

In an unusual situation, three candidates — including two current city councillors — are running for the St. James council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election.

3 candidates, including 2 sitting councillors, running for St. James seat under new ward boundaries

Three candidates — including two current city councillors — are running for the St. James council seat in the 2018 civic election. (CBC)

In an unusual situation, three candidates — including two current city councillors — are running for the St. James council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election.

That's because changes to the city's ward boundaries for this election eliminated the St. Charles ward, where Shawn Dobson was councillor, and altered the boundaries of the St. James-Brooklands-Weston Ward — now called St. James — which has been represented by Scott Gillingham.

The two sitting councillors will also face first-time candidate Kurt Morton in the Oct. 24 election.

Located in west Winnipeg, the ward now has a population of 49,118. Its neighbourhoods include Silver Heights, Deer Lodge, King Edward, Birchwood, Woodhaven, Bruce Park and West Wolseley.

St. Charles Coun. Shawn Dobson, running in St. James this year, opposed the sale of Vimy Arena in January. The ward's other two candidates, current St. James-Brooklands-Weston Coun. Scott Gillingham and Kurt Morton, have said they support opening the centre in St. James. (Gary Soliak/CBC)

Under the new ward boundaries, St. James will also include the former St. Charles neighbourhoods of Buchanan, Crestview, Heritage Park, Saskatchewan North and Sturgeon Creek. 

The former St. James ward neighbourhoods of Brooklands, Omand's Creek Industrial and Weston are now part of the Point Douglas ward. 

Other facts about the ward:

  • There were a total of 12,638 calls to 311 calls from St. James-Brooklands-Weston ward residents between January 2016 and Sept. 28, 2018, according to city data. The ward had the highest number of complaints in the city about potholes (2,256 calls). The largest number of 311 complaints for the ward involved missed garbage collection (2,710 calls).
  • According to the city's CrimeStat data, there have been 571 crimes reported to police during the year to date (as of Sept. 28) — an eight per cent increase from 529 calls during the same period in 2017.
  • The most commonly reported crime in the ward is vehicle theft, with 149 thefts reported so far this year (a four per cent drop from 156 reported thefts from January to September 2017).

St. James in the news

Meet the candidates

Shawn Dobson is currently the city councillor representing the St. Charles ward, which has been dissolved under new ward boundaries. The redrawing of ward boundaries, to account for population changes, means that Dobson is forced to face another incumbent in his race for a council seat. He was first elected in 2014, defeating opponent Grant Nordman by 1,068 votes.

Scott Gillingham currently represents the St. James-Brooklands-Weston ward, which has been renamed St. James and had its boundaries redrawn for the 2018 election. He served as the pastor for Grace Community Church in Charleswood for 12 years before running for council, and was first elected in 2014.

Kurt Morton currently works for the city in the planning, property and development department. He has also worked as a lifeguard in St. James.

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.

What is your vision for St. James? 

Shawn Dobson: My vision for St. James is basically, we've got to make it safer, we've got to fix our roads. I'd like to see the community clubs reinvigorated, more used, especially in the summer. And the senior centre at the Civic Centre, I'd like to see that up and running, to address the seniors. 

Scott Gillingham: I believe the future for St. James is to continue to invest in the priorities that the residents of St. James have shared with me. Their priorities continue to be investing in road renewal, sidewalk renewal, and park and playground renewal. 

Kurt Morton: I'm attempting to provide a more progressive voice for the St. James ward. I believe that we as a city are at a turning point. How do we move forward as a city? Do we want to be a city that's inclusive to everyone or do we want to be a city that focuses exclusively on roads and lower taxes?

As far as a long-term vison for St. James, I want to make a ward that everyone can live in. That includes better transit for seniors, better roads and better bike lanes.

What is your stance on the proposed Bruce Oake Recovery Centre and the pushback it's getting

Shawn Dobson: I don't really like to go into that because it's so controversial, but it is recreational land, and I would like the Equal Opportunities group to move in there. I have nothing against a recovery centre, I just think this would be a better fit for the community. 

Scott Gillingham: In the past, in January, when I voted on the request by the province to transfer the land from the city to the province for a dollar, with the understanding that it would be going over to the Oake Foundation for a treatment facility, I supported that position. I maintained my position that we have an addiction crisis in our community, throughout the city of Winnipeg, and there is a shortage of long-term treatment facilities to assist people that are struggling with addictions. 

Kurt Morton: I fully support the construction of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. I feel that addictions are problems found in all communities and that building a recovery centre in the neighbourhood is a good way for people who are undergoing addiction treatment [not to] feel they're just being turned away into this industrial area when they go to their recovery centre. 

Voters want to know where the St. James candidates stand on reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Why do you think some residents of St. James are worried about the recovery centre? 

Shawn Dobson: It's really not surprising seeing as this was done, I'm goingn to say, through, a back door. It was offered to Scott Oake before even telling the residents, so the pushback is understandable. 

Scott Gillingham: St. James is an older, established community where the residents take great pride in their community, and they watch out for one another — the families know one another. There are deep roots and a lot of pride within the community. 

I think that connectedness, that community pride, that commitment to one another, also has an impact in making the community safer. Now, I am aware that crime has bumped up across the city and in St. James as well, and the chief of police and the chair of the police board have stated that it's directly related to addictions.

Kurt Morton: The lack of public consultation is unfortunate. The Vimy Arena should not have been closed in the first place. I think a lot of people's opposition comes from the kind of surprise sale of a community asset and then something controversial being put in its pace. The closure of the arena took away from recreation assets in that area.… What I would have preferred to see is the land be sold at market value and have that money be reinvested into the St. James civic centre renovations that's coming up next year. 

At the doorstep, I have been hearing opposition to the centre itself but a lot of that is due, in my opinion, to a lack of public consultation about what the centre is really about. There is going to be security on site. It's not like you can just casually drop in for addiction treatment, it's not a walk-in centre, it's not a safe injection site — it's for people who are genuinely committed to being there. 

To me, people who have an addiction problem are still people. We're not opposed to the Grace Hospital being in the area because it leads to sick people in the neighbourhood. We accept that it helps people get better.

What do you think about the opening of the Portage and Main intersection to pedestrians

Shawn Dobson: It's silly. We shouldn't be doing it. We have a lot of other higher priorities than opening Portage and Main. We could spend that money on, go figure, potholes or roads — anything.

Scott Gillingham: The Portage and Main topic does matter to the people of St. James. I am not in favour of seeing Portage and Main open, and if I had to vote on it today I would not be in favour of opening Portage and Main to pedestrians. I did support the plebiscite vote that will enable residents and voters to have a direct say on this issue. From what I've heard at the door, people are overwhelmingly opposed to opening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

Kurt Morton: I do indeed support the opening of Portage and Main. If elected, I would honour the results of the vote, because that's what voters have chosen. I would continue pushing for better public education and consultation on the issue, so essentially rather than letting people who are opposed to it, because it's a change, frame the debate, we need to show people why that change is a good thing. I would be happy to support a pilot project opening one portion of the crosswalk to show that it doesn't cause a traffic issue. 

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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