1 in 5 Winnipeg council candidates don't live where they're running

Eleven out of 52 Winnipeg council candidates who will appear on the ballot on Oct. 24 do not live in the wards where they are running.

In Fort Rouge, candidate who lives part-time in rural Warren complains rival lives in River Heights

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry candidate Stephanie Meilleur rents an apartment in Winnipeg's West Broadway neighbourhood and has a home in Warren, Man. She says her family is transitioning to city living and spends half her time at either residence. (John Einarson/CBC)

A Fort Rouge council candidate who criticized a rival for living outside the Winnipeg ward says she spends half her time living in rural Warren, Man.

A third candidate in the same ward lives almost seven kilometres outside its boundaries.

And two out of three candidates running in Point Douglas don't live within the ward.

These are among the geographic quirks of Winnipeg's municipal election, where roughly one in five council candidates list primary residences outside the wards they seek to represent. 

CBC News gathered the home addresses declared as "primary residences" in the official nomination filings by every candidate running for Winnipeg city council. Those addresses were then compared against the wards where the candidates are running.

Of 52 council candidates appearing on the ballot, 11 do not live in the wards where they are running. Some of those 11 only live a few hundred metres from their chosen wards, while a handful live kilometres away.

Ward residency has already emerged as a campaign issue in this election. On Friday, Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry council candidate Stephanie Meilleur issued a press release drawing attention to the fact one of her rivals, Sherri Rollins, lives in the River Heights-Fort Garry Ward.

"Sherri Rollins doesn't even live in the ward!" Meilleur stated in the press release. "In fact, she lives in a mansion in Crescentwood/River Heights. Yet somehow she is supposed to know what is best for this ward?"

Rollins, a Winnipeg School Division trustee, lives 386 metres from Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, in the Crescentwood neighbourhood. She said she knows Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry well because she lives within two blocks of it and all three of her kids utilize recreation services in the Earl Grey and Riverview neighbourhoods.

"When you have three small kids, you're heavy users of community centres," Rollins said Friday in an interview. "That's why parents in Fort Rouge and East Fort Garry urged me to step and run."

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry candidate Sherri Rollins lives 386 metres outside her ward. She says her kids use community centres in the ward. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Meilleur, the director of the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone for the past seven years, lists her primary residence as an apartment in the West Broadway neighbourhood. She said she started renting that apartment seven months ago.

Land titles also show she owns a home in Warren, Man., 34 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, which she described as a "dream home" in a Dec. 16, 2017 Instagram post about renovations to the property.

The exterior of Meilleur's apartment in West Broadway. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Meilleur said she divides her time "probably 50-50" between the West Broadway apartment and the Warren home and that her family is committed to living in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, likely in the Wildwood or Riverview neighbourhood.

"We absolutely love it. This is where I'm passionate about. We absolutely love it. We've currently have been here for seven months," Meilleur said Friday in an interview, referring to Fort Rouge.

"We have a family home in Warren, Man. and we've been out there for several years. And now we're ready to make roots again here in the city," she said. "We're making the transition to moving into the city full-time."

Eligibility to run as candidate

Ultimately, nothing prevents council candidates from running in wards where they don't live. Candidates don't even need to live in Winnipeg, as long as they pay property taxes to the city. 

Under the City of Winnipeg Charter, candidates are eligible to run for a Winnipeg election provided they're 18 years of age, are a Canadian citizen, reside in Manitoba, are not barred from running due to conflict and meet the definition of being a "voter" under the The Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Act.

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

To be considered an eligible voter, the candidate must either have been a resident of Winnipeg for at least six months, or have owned land in Winnipeg for at least six months prior to the day of the election.

Candidates swear an oath they live in their primary residence and must produce documents that demonstrate they do in fact live at that residence, said city clerk Marc Lemoine, who's also Winnipeg's senior election official. 

Running kilometres from home

There are candidates that live much further from their chosen wards than Rollins does.

A third Fort Rouge-East For Garry council candidate, Harry Wolbert, has the distinction of running further from his home than any other Winnipeg council candidate.

Wolbert lives in North Kildonan, 6.96 kilometres from the northeastern edge of Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry.

"The seat was open," he said when asked why he chose to run in the ward, which was represented by outgoing Coun. Jenny Gerbasi since 1998.

Wolbert said he grew up in the ward, where his father ran a convenience store.

Eleven Winnipeg council candidates list their primary residence outside the wards where they are running.

Wolbert is not alone in living kilometres from his chosen ward. Brad Gross, a real estate agent who ran for mayor in 2010, is running in Old Kildonan even though he lives 4.9 kilometres to the southeast, in St. Boniface.

Peter Koroma lives in St. Norbert-Seine River but is running 3.7 kilometres to the north in the hotly contested Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward.

Coun. Janice Lukes, who has been acclaimed as the councillor for the new Waverley West ward, lives 1.2 kilometres outside her ward in St. Norbert-Seine River. The returning councillor's case is unique, as she lived within the former South Winnipeg-St. Norbert ward before the city's ward boundaries were realigned for this election.

2 out of 3 Point Douglas candidates live elsewhere

Point Douglas council candidate Vivian Santos, the executive assistant to outgoing Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, is another council candidate living kilometres from her chosen ward.

Santos lives 2.5 kilometres outside the ward, in Old Kildonan.

"I personally don't feel that it matters that any candidate lives in the ward they're representing, as long as they know the issues about the ward," she said in an interview, noting she is intimately acquainted with Point Douglas because her family grew up there and thanks to her work at city hall.

"Stepping into this as a candidate and hopefully becoming a city councillor, it's just going to be a seamless transition for me," she said.

Point Douglas candidate Vivian Santos live 2.5 kilometres outside theward. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

One of her Point Douglas rivals, community activist Kate Sjoberg, also lives outside the ward — 327 metres away in the North Point Douglas neighbourhood, which is part of Mynarski ward.

Sjoberg said many residents of Point Douglas ward, which stretches from downtown to new neighbourhoods near Winnipeg's border with Rosser, are confused about where they live for municipal-voting purposes.

"Even if you live in the ward, can you really know the entire ward?" she asked.

Kate Sjoberg, a community activist, lives 327 metres outside Point Douglas. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Sjoberg said her work has made her acquainted with issues that predominate much of Point Douglas, including poverty, racism and access to city services.

Dean Koshelanyk is the only Point Douglas candidate who lives in the ward.

"I sure don't like it very much. It's on my brochures," said Koshelanyk, who ran against Pagtakhan in Point Douglas in the 2006 and 2010 elections. "I've been living and working and volunteering at many levels for so long."

Koshelanyk asked why his rivals don't run in their own wards.

How many council candidates live in the wards they hope to represent?

4 years ago
Duration 2:24
52 candidates are running for city council seats this year. CBC News looked at their primary residences and found eleven of them live outside the wards where they are running.