The chaos of the messy mayoral race, just what the city needs



Oh, what a glorious mess the Winnipeg mayor’s campaign has become.

Even though Election Day is almost six months away, the campaign to replace Brian Bowman – who is no longer running – officially began on Sunday. And less than a week later, the field fills up and promises to create a fascinating and fiery race.

On Wednesday, entrepreneur and political analyst Shaun Loney registered his name, fulfilling a promise made last year. Former Liberal MP and mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette confirmed the speculation and threw his hat in the ring on Tuesday. Com. Scott Gillingham (St. James) and Wilderness Supply owner Rick Shone entered the race on Monday.


RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayoral candidate Shaun Loney (left) stands with his wife Fiona Muldrew after registering his campaign at City Hall on Wednesday.

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RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayoral candidate Shaun Loney (left) stands with his wife Fiona Muldrew after recording his campaign at City Hall on Wednesday.

They were all passed on the way to the starting line, however, by consultant and former mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk, business owner Don Woodstock and grocery store worker Chris Glacio. This trio of enthusiastic candidates registered on Sunday.

There are others hiding in the tall grass.

Former mayor Glen Murray, who spent a decade in Ontario provincial politics, is back in town doing all the groundwork for a possible race. Murray plays his cards very close to being acquired; in recent months, he has made no definitive statement about his candidacy. He might just be enjoying the attention that comes with being a “potential” candidate, but informed political observers believe he’s building a campaign.




<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Robert Falcon Ouellette.</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Robert Falcon Ouellette.</p>
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<p>Com.  John Orlikow (River Heights) has been promising to sign up for some time.  Tory Minister Rochelle Squires is also said to have tested the waters to see if there was support for a race.			</p>
<p>With seven already registered and a few more likely to come, what can Winnipeg voters expect?  Lots of promises, some of which will be completely unrealistic, and the general mess when it comes to holding debates and forums.			</p>
<p>This chaos reflects the fact that in many ways, a mayoral election — especially when there is no incumbent on the ballot — is the most accessible political campaign in the country.			</p>
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<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Jenny Motkaluk is running for mayor of Winnipeg.</p>
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<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Jenny Motkaluk is a candidate for mayor of the City of Winnipeg.</p>
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<p>The financial hurdles are quite low, especially if you don’t spend money on polls, signs, buttons, and campaign offices.  And many of the candidates in the field this year will participate in simple races that rely mainly on earned media coverage.  That is to say the free publicity provided by the media.			</p>
<p>If you’re a long-time candidate who relies heavily on gaining media coverage, you should do everything you can to get the attention of cameras and reporters.  Candidates facing this situation could do worse than study Don Woodstock’s 2018 campaign.			</p>
<p>The irrepressible Woodstock was a constant source of energy during the race, even if that energy sometimes boiled over into incomprehensible chatter.  At one time or another, he complained of being excluded from mayoral forums and debates or, when he was allowed to participate, of storming off the stage when he did not like the answers provided by the other candidates.			</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Scott Gillingham after registering for the mayoral race at Winnipeg City Hall on Monday.</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Scott Gillingham after registering for the mayoral race at Winnipeg City Hall on Monday.</p>
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<p>At one point, Woodstock proudly wore an ‘Order of Canadians’ medal given to him by the Urban Knights, a group that advocates for the homeless, in recognition of his work organizing a patrol community safety.  However, three days later, after a <em>Free press</em> history of the medal, the Urban Knights demanded its return, claiming the group no longer worked with Woodstock and were not authorized to use the medal as a campaign prop.			</p>
<p>No matter how you look at it, Woodstock’s brave decision to race again is an interesting development.			</p>
<p>Just as interesting as, say, the expected showdown between Gillingham and Motkaluk to garner support from the business community and right-wing voters.			</p>
<p>Both are well known in Conservative politics federally and provincially, and both hope their profiles – that of Gillingham at City Hall and that of Motkaluk in the grueling 2018 campaign – will give them an edge.  Both, however, will seek support from the same constituency, and if neither stumbles, they could be knocked out of the race.			</p>
<p>Similar issues exist for Ouellette if Murray enters the fray.  Both would try to position themselves as progressives and both maintained deep support networks.			</p>
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In many ways, the craziest wildcard is Ouellette, who exploded onto the Winnipeg political scene in 2014 when he finished a surprising third behind Bowman and runner-up Judy Wasylycia-Leis. The young and charismatic Ouellette succeeded so well that he caught the attention of the federal Liberal Party.

The four years he spent in Ottawa did not translate to re-election in Winnipeg Centre, but it gave him the opportunity to hone his political skills in retail, an area he clearly struggled with. during his first attempt to seize the town hall.

Take the seven registered candidates, add a few more interesting personalities, and you have the potential for a frenetic race, the outcome of which will be virtually impossible to predict.

After eight years of Bowman winning two elections by extremely comfortable margins, a little uncertainty is just what this town needs.

[email protected]

Dan Lett

Christy J. Olson