Getting to Know St. Norbert Ward City Councilor Candidates

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Many Chinese residents of Winnipeg live in the St. Norbert ward. This area is geographically close to the University of Manitoba and Fort Richmond, and consists of most of south Winnipeg. As part of the Manitoba Chinese Tribune municipal election series, I interviewed three registered city councilor candidates who are running for election in the St. Norbert ward, and I hope this interview will help you understand and decide which candidate you would like to choose on October 22nd.

The current ‎St. Norbert councilor Justin Swandel is not seeking re-election, leaving three new candidates to compete with each other. These three candidates are not new in politics though.
East Indian restaurant owner Sachit Mehra is the first candidate among three who contacted me before the nomination period opened. He has been a successful businessman in downtown and has been leading downtown development as the president of the Downtown Winnipeg Biz. He said he is running for city councilor because he wants to improve the lives of families and children in St. Norbert, e.g., he has served as a director on the King’s Park Child Care Board. He explained that Winnipeg’s population is growing to 1 million, and we need to make decisions today to plan for the next 10 to 20 years. He believes that we need to plan now for future generations. He said that we need to make decisions for the city, and not for special interest groups. Mr. Mehra is also in favour of the bus rapid transit route that will connect downtown to St. Norbert and the University of Manitoba. While there is some controversy about whether or not to build bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT), Mr. Mehra believes that we need to build the path regardless of whether we want LRT or other rapid transit plans because the longer we delay, the more it will cost.

As a business owner in downtown, Mr. Mehra values the business in St. Norbert too. Through his position as the President of Downtown Biz, he created a connection between Downtown Farmers Market and St. Norbert Farmers Market. To help new comers, Mr. Mehra believes that we need to consider a wide range of issues, including housing prices, jobs, and accessibility.

Former Winnipeg Trails Association director Janice Lukes is also running for St. Norbert. She is an experienced fundraiser who works with community groups to apply for funding from various levels of government for infrastructure projects. She emphasized that her strengths, and what she sees as the big difference between herself and the other candidates is that she makes idea into reality (this is why she uses “Results” in her campaign slogan), she has made numerous changes for the community in St. Norbert, for example, École St. Avila School Natural Playground and Drainage System, Pembina Highway sidewalks, Ryerson School Playground Redevelopment, St. Norbert Farmers’ Market – Community Park Upgrades, St. Norbert Sidewalks and Trail Development. The reason she wants to run for city councilor in St. Norbert, she stated, is that city hall now has an opportunity for change (because many former city councilors are leaving), she wants to continue her work to improve the community.
When asked about what she hopes to achieve as a city councilor, Ms. Lukes seems to have many thoughts. First of all, she hopes to achieve better value and efficiency for our taxes, which means better governance in city hall. Secondly, she hopes to improve transportation in the Ward, e.g., roads, sidewalks, paths, infrastructure upgrades, and bus routes. Thirdly, she said many candidates talk about their “visions” for the development of Winnipeg. We have had a good vision already – “Our Winnipeg”. She hopes to implement “Our Winnipeg” to make Winnipeg become more sustainable.
Ms. Lukes is for rapid transit and promises to make sure it stays on budget. She is also for tax increases because “you get what you pay for”. But she believes city hall needs better communication to inform people what taxes use for. She thinks we need more females in city hall.
When asked what she would do to help new comers to be better included in the social fabric in St. Norbert, Ms. Lukes wants to include from providing more multi-language services (e.g., she worked with a Chinese group to create a walking and biking map of St. Norbert in Chinese), opening a cultural community centre, she said, “one of my priorities is to make my ward become a gathering hub for various communities”. She would like to see more childcare spaces as well.

St. Norbert Candidate Joe Chan said we need a city hall that knows how to manage people’s money. He said there are too many management problems in city hall right now.
Joe Chan came from Hong Kong. His family owns a Chinese restaurant, Cathy House in east Winnipeg. Mr. Chan is not new to politics. He ran in the 2011 provincial election as a Liberal candidate for Logan and came in 2nd place. He has been an assistant for current city councilor Harvey Smith for many years. He recently brought current Mayor Sam Katz to court for a conflict of interest allegation involving allegations that Katz held a Christmas party for city councilors and staff at his own restaurant, and billed it to the city. Mr. Chan laughed about that situation, and said “it is up to the voters. I am the only guy who took Mayor Katz to the court”.
Mr. Chan is for LRT, and he wants to see people only spend ten minutes from St. Norbert to downtown. He believes that Winnipeg already has the rail infrastructure for LRT, and that using it will save hundreds of millions of dollars. When asked about his opinions on taxes, he said he supports freezing property and condo taxes, and lowering business taxes. He said that the city has money for projects, but that it has just been wasted in previous years.
To help new comers to be better adapt into the society, Mr. Chan wants to establish a New Comers Welcome Settlement Service to help them find living places, and reserve some jobs for them.
In my interviews, all three candidates are energetic. They all have long-term experience as a business owner. It will up to the voters to choose the best candidate who works for residents in St. Norbert. (Jennifer Chen)