The 6 Winnipeg wards to watch as election season enters new, busier phase
Registration for council seat hopefuls starts Saturday morning; new blood guaranteed, due to vacancies
This Saturday morning is not just the start of the Canada Day long weekend. It's also the moment Winnipeg's election season enters a new and busier phase.
June 30 marks the first day candidates for city council wards can register their campaigns, a move that allows them to raise and spend money in the hopes of landing a seat on council on Oct. 24.
Who registers on Day 1 also provides an indication of what the council races will look like on election night, where no fewer than three of Winnipeg 15 wards — and as many as five — won't have incumbent candidates.
A combination of ward boundary changes and retirements has guaranteed city council will have an influx of new blood in October, even if no incumbents are defeated.
The city clerk's office will open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to process the paperwork for the first council hopefuls.
"We've been fielding inquiries from all 15 wards in the city and I would expect to have a busy day," Winnipeg elections manager Sherwood Armbruster said Friday.
Candidates for mayor must also submit nomination papers in September.
Before the first candidate even registers, here are some of the wards to watch this election season:
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry
For the first time in 20 years, this south-central ward is up for grabs, thanks to the impending retirement of five-term councillor Jenny Gerbasi.
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry is an socio-economically diverse ward that encompasses the southern third of downtown, inner-city West Broadway, Obsorne Village, the Corydon strip, Lord Roberts and several Fort Garry neighbourhoods that sit east of Pembina Highway.
That diversity presents the potential for candidates from all over the political spectrum. They've had months to prepare for a run, as Gerbasi made her intentions clear back in March.
Incumbent Mayor Brian Bowman will be watching this race closely, as Gerbasi was one of his closest allies on city council. A less-progressive councillor in this ward could make it more difficult for Bowman to retain control of council.
Unlike Gerbasi, who bowed out of the 2018 race early, Coun. Mike Pagtakhan waited until 10 days before registration day to announce he won't be seeking another term.
This places anyone who wasn't privy to Pagtakhan's plans at a relative disadvantage, as it's tough to prepare an election campaign in less than two weeks.
Bowman will also be watching this ward closely, as Pagtakhan was another close ally on council. The ward will be wide open for the first time since 2002, when Pagtakhan won his first race.
St. Norbert-Seine River
The realignment of Winnipeg's ward boundaries created this new-ish council seat, whose territory is carved out of the southern chunks of what used to be St. Vital and South Winnipeg-St. Norbert.
The race for this new ward will also be wide open, as St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes is staying put and South Winnipeg's Janice Lukes has opted to run in the completely new Waverley West ward.
Given that most of the voting population lives in large, suburban homes in relatively new neighbourhoods, St. Norbert-Seine River will be the least urban of Winnipeg's wards. Logic suggests a small-c conservative candidate will prevail here.
Along with creating Waverley West, the realignment of Winnipeg's ward boundaries dissolved St. Charles, making Coun. Shawn Dobson effectively homeless.
Assuming he runs in the newly expanded St. James-Brooklands, Dobson will square off against another incumbent this fall in Coun. Scott Gillingham.
A battle between two incumbents is unpredictable. Gillingham enjoys a higher profile, thanks to his position as a member of executive policy committee.
But Dobson has run for office five times and has more experience mounting a ground game.
For anyone aspiring to run for council for the first time, this is the least appealing seat in Winnipeg.
While Coun. Marty Morantz has not abandoned city hall yet, he has one foot out the door and his other is approaching the threshhold.
Morantz won't seek a second term in Charleswood-Tuxedo if he wins the federal Conservative nomination in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.
That task may be even easier now that independent MLA Steven Fletcher has been rejected from the Tory race.
In other words, this ward should also be decided by a wide-open race. Historically, it has elected conservative councillors.
And just like Point Douglas and Fort Rouge, Charleswood is a crucial seat for Bowman, as Morantz was also a very close ally to the rookie mayor.
Given his reputation for volatility, Coun. Russ Wyatt didn't surprise anyone at city hall when he declared on a Thursday he would retire from council, mused about a mayoral run the next day and then suggested his resignation announcement was premature at the end of the weekend.
Wyatt, who spent months away from city hall undergoing addictions treatment, is not a sure bet to do anything in particular. That's why new candidates ought to be clamouring to run in Winnipeg's easternmost ward.
Wyatt does have time to decide, but not too much. When an ambivalent North Kildonan councillor Mark Lubosch waited until the late hours of the 2006 election to register, he wound up getting trounced by challenger Jeff Browaty.
Bowman, however, would likely welcome anyone in this ward who is not Russ Wyatt.