Mayoral candidates talk transit, education in lead up to Winnipeg election

Bowman, Ouellette, Wasylycia-Leis, Havixbeck, Sanders share views on BRT, U-Pass, post-secondary school

The Manitoban recently interviewed five of the seven candidates running to be Winnipeg's next mayor regarding issues that are important to university and college students in the city.

During the lead-up to the run for mayor in the Winnipeg election, the Manitoban attended various forums and sought out each of the mayoral candidates.

Each of the candidates who were available for interview was asked three to four questions along these lines:

What is your position on bus rapid transit (BRT) and the U-Pass? What is the value of a university degree in our city, in the context of the current job market and economy? What is your position on lobbying the provincial and federal government about post-secondary education funding and related issues?

Here is what the candidates had to say.

David Sanders

David Sanders holds postgraduate training in political science, urban land economics, business administration, and law, completing his most recent degree in law at the University of Manitoba. In the 1960s, he was an editor for the Manitoban. He has also taught at the university for many years more recently, and has 45 years of experience in public administration, management, and real estate consulting.


Sanders’ position on the U-Pass is to “go forward, pointing out that the provincial government will contribute half of the net cost of the scheme [ . . . ] It should be in place now, there’s no reason to wait longer.

“As soon as the referendum passes, then we need to put [the U-Pass] in motion.”

David Sanders

David Sanders

As the last candidate to announce his run for mayor, Sanders told the Manitoban, “I am all in favour of [the U-Pass]. I think it’s an excellent idea, and hopefully it can expand to other post-secondary institutions [beyond] U of W and U of M.”


“Forever, I have been in favour of and a supporter of public transit, in favour of rapid transit in the city, and in favour of the downtown-to-U of M route being first priority.”

He also explained, “I am not in favour of the present route through Parker Lands, which is a terrible misuse of this project. I refer to it is as a $1 billion boondoggle.

“I pledge to stop this project in its tracks right now – no need to spend any more money on a design on the wrong route [ . . . ] Review [the plan] to see if it is possible, if not to have [light rail transit (LRT)], then to at least plan for and provide for eventual conversion to light rail, because that really is rapid transit. What we’re talking about now is a glorified express bus.”

Sanders continued to express his disappointment in the current process of and plan for rapid transit. He told the Manitoban that his campaign slogan is “‘overhaul city hall’ because we need to change the senior management that has led to that type of blunder.”

Value of degrees

“The value of education is the nature of our humanity; is that we learn and are curious and seek out the truth,” said Sanders. “The role of university in our society is to find and tell the truth when so many others can’t and don’t.”

He went on to say “It’s important that people have a much broader viewpoint than they might otherwise have that results from a university education.

“But you ask ‘What is the value of a degree?’ [ . . . ] From time to time different training has different value in this society, but that’s not the only reason for university education.

“I would encourage people that it’s about lifelong learning.”

In reference to the value of a degree from the U of M specifically, Sanders said, “U of M is second to none in terms of the quality of education, the faculties we have, and the research we’ve done, that we should be very proud of it.”

Access to university

“A long time ago, I managed to get a referendum passed to get universal access to education. I’ve been in favour of viewing the intellectual student as an intellectual worker – our society needs to fund them while they’re young and old.

“Check the archives,” Sanders told the Manitoban about the successful referendum vote, stressing how important it is to “ensure that university is accessible to all.”

He said education is mostly a “matter of provincial jurisdiction,” but that for “mayors in the city, there are certainly things [that] the city can do to facilitate the universities.

“Lack of student aid—financial aid—is a serious problem that deserves attention – not likely by city council.

“I look forward to working with representatives of [the Canadian Federation of Students] and other [student associations],” said Sanders in reference to addressing issues in post-secondary education and lobbying other levels of government.

For more information about David Sanders, visit his website at

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Wasylycia-Leis moved to Winnipeg in 1982. According to her campaign website, “For nearly three decades, Judy has worked to make Winnipeg a better place to live as a provincial cabinet minister, a federal member of parliament, and a tireless community activist and organizer.” She stepped down from her seat in parliament to run for mayor – calling on change in city hall. She has worked to protect essential services in Winnipeg’s North End, and as opposition finance critic to secure federal funding for services that Winnipeg families need.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Judy Wasylycia-Leis


“My position is: let’s complete the southwest transit-way. We’ve got a half-built corridor now. Let’s complete it, and use it as a base for establishing further rapid transit lines in the future, with proper consultation and any new technology that comes along.”

According to Wasylycia-Leis, “the biggest debate” in this election is regarding rapid transit.

“From one candidate ‘kill it,’ to another candidate ‘all rapid transit complete by 2030’ – that’s impossible.

“My position is: finish this one line, find a way to reduce the cost—if possible, bring it in line with what the city can pay—but let’s not kill the project or delay it anymore.”


“Yesterday at the transit meeting, based on all the movement at U of W, U of M, the federation [ . . . ] and a lot of motions passed at city hall – we’re almost getting it accomplished, and I don’t want to get in the way of it. Now, I think just the students have to basically finish their referendum. It’s a great initiative, and I hope that it’s a step forward.”

Wasylycia-Leis said the City of Winnipeg has serious bus services issues that have gone unattended thus far.

The biggest concerns that people have raised with her are that the city “need more buses”; buses are “overcrowded”; there are a lack of “buses going to certain areas”; and there is a lack of “space” available for bikes and other accessibility devices on buses.

“Basically, I think the importance is improving our service for more accomplished and effective, reliable service.

“But, what it will take is [ . . . ] a plan at city hall,” said Wasylycia-Leis.

Value of degrees

“A university degree is not just about getting a degree. It is about lifelong learning and personal development. However, we do know that graduates are having a heck of a time getting jobs. I think that in this city, in the modern era with the modern transportation system; in a wealthy sized city with public spaces and public art; and with a more efficient city [ . . . ] it would be an ideal place for graduates.

“I wouldn’t redirect anyone from getting a degree – I would call on all levels of government to make it more affordable.

“[University] is about developing skills that you can actually apply to the community and impact change in a positive way,” said Wasylycia-Leis.

For more information about Judy Wasylycia-Leis, visit her campaign website at

Paula Havixbeck

Paula Havixbeck is a university graduate with a bachelor of arts in economics from the U of W and master of business administration from the U of M. With her experience as a councillor, she holds various posts in the mayor’s cabinet. She has also worked in strategic business and market consulting.

U-Pass and BRT

“I’ve supported [the U-Pass] in my time on council, so I’m very supportive of it. You know, there was a lot of question of whether students really want it and that’s for you folks to handle.

Paula Havixbeck

Paula Havixbeck

“As a city, we need to support you.”

On her view of the mayor’s role in improving the bus transit system, she said, “The transit department is constantly monitoring where to put more buses on and they sort of determine what the threshold to increase is. So, I defer to them to know if we have the right numbers [ . . . ] but if there’s continuous waits, or people who can’t get on, they’re monitoring it closely so that they can get more buses to support it.”

Value of degrees

“Well, it’s huge,” said Havixbeck.

“When I finished in 1990, there seemed to be a lot more higher paying, good quality jobs and students are graduating now with record debt. I see this next mayor as critical in trying to attract the businesses and the industries here that offer those high paying jobs. It’s great that [Winnipeg gets] Ikea and Four Seasons, but those are retail jobs and earning minimum wage or just a little bit above or commission is not what a university graduate should be doing.

“I also think things like business incubator models that we’ve got going on are tremendous things for our city, and in fact, I would push for that even further, [as well as] ongoing dialogue with the presidents of organizations to make sure that we’re graduating people [for those jobs].

“As a student, you just hope there is something in your field relevant to where you want to be in your career.

“You just want to know there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Access to university

“In my time on council, I talked to—more specifically—the U of W president, who sees a lot of newcomers and a lot of [those in the] aboriginal community that just cannot afford [university]. The universities—in the last two budgets that the province has had—have been really stretched, so you either need to increase the funding or allow the university to increase tuition.

“Unfortunately the second option is not great for students, but if you can’t offer programs to students who are ready to take them and you have a market available, then you’re really doing a disservice to our city.

“I think the city needs to take a lead in pushing the province for other things, too.”

For more information about Paula Havixbeck, visit her campaign website at

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Robert-Falcon Ouellette currently holds a position at the U of M as the program director for the Aboriginal Focus Programs. He has earned a bachelor of education, master of music, master of education, and doctorate in educational anthropology. He formerly served in the Canadian Armed Forces and has “extensive experience in administration earned with the military.”

U-Pass and BRT

In terms of the U-Pass, Ouellette told the Manitoban that it is the students who will decide on the fate of the U-Pass, and that he will support their decision. He also spoke about how the city needs to be more practical and creative in approaching infrastructural projects, especially those related to transit.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

“I’m in favour, obviously, of public transportation; I think it should serve the people.

“But I also think about a young lady who attended the U of M. She was on welfare, [and a mom, and worked several jobs]. It was very difficult.

“It would take her an hour and 15 minutes [to get to university],” Ouellette explained. “I feel like public transportation is not efficient enough.”

Ouellette told the Manitoban about the first part of his plan for a more efficient, centralized transit system.

“Buses come every 15 minutes; the idea is that you just stand outside,” he said. “You wait outside and buses come along in short order.

“The goal is the rest of the buses [meet up with the centralized system] so that you can get around the city.

“The second part,” he said, “is about rail relocation.”

Ouellette explained that this meant moving the existing rail traffic outside the city. In speaking about the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act, he said that at least half of the financial contributions would be on “the federal government’s bill.”

“They’re already doing it in Regina, Montreal, and Calgary.”

The third part is that the city might want to think about their capacity to “build the LRT system, which is even more ambitious than BRT,” said Ouellette.

“Even with rapid transit, you don’t shorten the bus rides.”

Ultimately, Ouellette wants more buses on the road as part of a more efficient system.

Value of degrees

“We know that people who have a bachelor degree make more than people who don’t,” Ouellette said to the Manitoban. “There is a correlation between level of education and ability to [earn more].”

He explained that sometimes students will go to university to strive for certain jobs, and then they get their degree and “those jobs no longer exist.

“It’s a little bit more difficult,” he said. “And that’s why we see a large number of people going to get their master’s degree [ . . . ] hoping to get better employment.

“The problem that we have with education today is that it’s not diversified enough.

“We’re offering post-secondary education at the U of M that is very theoretical; and Red River [College] is very practical. Is there a way to fit the two of these together so that people can be a carpenter, but also be able to—and happy to—run his own business and think about how he manages people and deals with human resources ethics?

“I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”

For more information about Robert-Falcon Ouellette, visit his campaign website at

Brian Bowman

Brian Bowman obtained two degrees from the U of M, including one in history, and formerly worked for the Manitoban. Bowman has experience as a lawyer, and served as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

U-Pass and BRT

Bowman told the Manitoban that he has been “consistently involved in consultation with U of M, U of W, and Red River College” and understands “how important it is getting a U-Pass deal done.”

He spoke of his vows to finish bus rapid transit, and his plans for “how to pay for it” and how to achieve “full rapid transit development [by 2030] for long-term economic development.

Brian Bowman

Brian Bowman

“I don’t look at it as a charity,” Bowman told the Manitoban about his positions on the U-Pass and BRT.

“I look at it as being an investment, and I want to build on it [ . . . ] Unlike all of my other opponents, I am fully committed.”

Value of degrees

“There is value in education, whether or not you get a job immediately afterwards. [With] higher learning, you grow as a person; you challenge yourself.

“In terms of the new jobs of tomorrow, university is not for everybody. I see university as a huge economic [investment] for the community.”

Bowman explained that with the U of M being an “economic cornerstone” in our city, he had “announced a post-secondary education-oriented policy to ensure that we are leveraging university.”

Access to university

Bowman believes that university education is “fundamentally important to the development of Winnipeg.

“When it comes to lobbying the government, one of the things that I’d like to see is giving back to [students].

“One of the things that I did as a student leader was to work with the private sector to raise billions of dollars so that we’d have a pool of funds to get students out of debt so that when you graduated, you didn’t have to work in the industry. You could actually move back to Winnipeg or northern communities where you’re not going to make a lot of money.”

He explained that students’ common goal to contribute to the industry in order to earn immediate steady income becomes less of a priority “when you don’t have massive debt.”

Ultimately, Bowman committed himself to “help students to get a university education.”
For more information about Brian Bowman, visit his campaign website at

Other candidates

The Manitoban was unable to arrange an interview with Gord Steeves or Michel Fillion prior to publication.

Information on Gord Steeves’ campaign can be found at Michel Fillion referred the Manitoban to his YouTube presence.

More information about all the candidates running in the Winnipeg election can be found on the City of Winnipeg’s website or by following the Manitoban as we continue to report on the election.