Mayoral candidates voice unanimous support for curbside organics collection, differ on plastic bag ban
Forum on environmental policy kicks off debate season for 7 out of 8 candidates running for mayor of Winnipeg
All of the mayoral candidates present at the first forum of the 2018 election campaign support curbside organic-waste collection in Winnipeg —.but there's a split among the field when it comes to cycling infrastructure and a plastic-bag ban.
Only hours after eight candidates completed the mayoral nomination process at city hall on Tuesday, seven sat at a table at the University of Winnipeg's Eckhardt-Grammatté Hall and offered their thoughts on environmental policy.
Incumbent mayor Brian Bowman and six of his challengers — police officer Tim Diack, entrepreneur Umar Hayat, engineer Venkat Machiraju, business consultant Jenny Motkaluk, musician Doug Wilson and former Winnipeg Transit driver Don Woodstock — voiced their support for organics collection, which Winnipeg has yet to provide residential households.
The city contemplated an organic-waste collection study in 2016, but put it off after some councillors balked at the projected $55-to-$100-per-household annual cost of curbside organics collection.
The task of deciding whether to proceed with organics was then left until the next council, which is poised to receive a report recommending a new Winnipeg waste-reduction strategy.
The unanimity on organic-waste collection, however, did not extend to other questions posed to the candidates, whose ranks did not include filmmaker Ed Ackerman.
All except Hayat and Motkaluk expressed support for a plastic bag ban, although Bowman qualified his answer by noting the province would have to lead such a ban.
Bowman, Hayat and Motkaluk also opposed the idea of prioritizing cycling and pedestrians over cars as part of the city planning processes, while Diack, Machiraju, Wilson and Woodstock supported the idea.
Only Motkaluk opposed the idea of devoting cash to winter maintenance of bike lanes.
All of these ideas were posed to the candidates as yes-or-no questions. Candidates were also given the opportunity to offer environmental ideas of their own.
Bowman said he'd like to expand recycling to more city parks. Woodstock pledged to ban not just plastic bags in Winnipeg, but plastic straws as well. Machiraju said he would remove fluoride from Winnipeg drinking water.
Motkaluk repeated her campaign pledges to buy more Winnipeg Transit buses and ensure all of them are electric — and noted she is the only Winnipeg mayoral candidate to have made environmental policy pledges during a six-month campaign where few candidates have made any promises prior to the past week.
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Candidates were also asked how Winnipeg could invest more in transit. Woodstock and Hayat pledged to reduce transit fares but offered no means of replacing the lost revenue. Diack suggested making commuters from neighbouring municipalities pay a surcharge for using the city's infrastructure.
The mayoral hopefuls also offered few concrete ideas for combating climate change. Bowman pointed to a new long-term greenhouse-gas-reduction strategy heading to council on Thursday, while Wilson suggested Canadians find a novel use for oil.
"The petroleum that we pull out of the ground is so special, we should not be burning it. We should be using it wisely," said Wilson, who served as Morden's mayor from 2006 to 2010.
The candidates were also asked an entirely novel question: How to protect vulnerable Winnipeggers from future heat waves.
Diack suggested subsidizing air-conditioning, especially in Winnipeg's core, and received support for the idea from Woodstock, Machiraju and Bowman. Motkaluk suggested using more indoor spaces to cool off Winnipeggers and asked why the city doesn't have more water fountains.
After the forum, some university students in attendance said they were most impressed by Woodstock, who convinced Winnipeg to change the name of 'garbage day' to 'recycling day' when Sam Katz was mayor.
"He's already been advocating to the city hall and kind of has actually gotten things done such as increasing capacity for recycling [and] advocating for promotion of reusable bags at shopping malls," said Mathew Scammell, a University of Manitoba student.
Advance polls for mayor and council candidates open on Oct. 1. Winnipeg's election is slated for Oct. 24.