Winnipeg election draws big names for open St. Norbert seat

Three candidates want your vote to represent University of Manitoba area at city hall

Photo of Winnipeg City Hall.

The University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus is situated along the north end of St. Norbert ward, meaning many students living in residence and close to campus will have the opportunity to vote for a councillor to represent them at city hall.

Incumbent candidates are notoriously hard to unseat and with the current city councillor, Justin Swandel, deciding not to run again, there is an opportunity for major change in the ward’s representation.

The nomination period closed on Sept. 16, and three candidates are now slated to appear on the ballot for the Oct. 22 election: Joe Chan, Janice Lukes, and Sachit Mehra.

Joe Chan is the owner of the restaurant Cathay House on Regent Ave.; former executive assistant to Coun. Harvey Smith; Liberal candidate for Logan in the 2011 provincial election, where he came in second; and, famously, the man who filed a conflict-of-interest lawsuit against mayor Sam Katz in late 2012 .

Janice Lukes is an active rapid transit proponent, community leader, and former executive assistant for outgoing city Coun. Swandel.

Sachit Mehra is a co-owner and manager of his family’s restaurant, the East India Company; chairman of the Winnipeg Downtown Biz (on leave for the election); and former president of the Manitoba Liberal party . He’s also the labour endorsed candidate in the St. Norbert riding.

The Manitoban interviewed each of the candidates to find out where they stand on issues such as the U-Pass, and how they would represent their constituents and the interests of U of M students as city councillor.

Sachit Mehra

Mehra’s website identifies his priorities as dependable, modern infrastructure; accountable, transparent government; reliable, quality services; and responsible, sustainable growth .

On his website, Mehra’s calls for the creation of an ethics office and lobbyist registry, “support for new and expanded schools and additional child care spaces for families,” and investments in the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market that would include a plan to “address traffic and parking concerns.”

Mehra has taken a strong stance in support of rapid transit and the U-Pass.

“I thought the U-Pass was a great idea as it was presented. I was glad to see how it was implemented. And further, I was happy to see the engagement at the level of the students within that issue – being involved. I think it was absolutely necessary,” said Mehra.

Mehra also suggested that co-operation between different levels of government has been lacking in the last few years and that Winnipeggers have suffered as a result of this.

“I think during my run right now if I’ve proven one thing it’s that I’m very good at bridge-building and relationship-building and getting jobs done. That’s what’s key for absolutely everybody.”

He identified the rapid transit leg through south Winnipeg as “a singular, high-end issue that is coming up.”

“So as far as students go, I can’t imagine an election that impacts them more greatly; when we consider the U-Pass, the rapid transit leg [ . . . ] and I really hope that I’m a part of their thoughts going forward,” said Mehra.

Janice Lukes

Lukes is running as an independent. She says she was asked to run for MLA in the St. Norbert constituency by all three major parties (NDP, Liberals, and the Conservatives) and declined all three.

Despite her reluctance to partner with any political parties, Lukes has a lot of experience on the municipal scene.

She’s worked as executive assistant to the ward’s outgoing councillor, Justin Swandel, and has been extensively involved in community projects in St. Norbert.

Lukes has worked with “over 50 community groups in the ward and brought community concerns to city hall over 60 times.”

Much of that work has been centred on sustainable transportation.

“I’ve been working in the field of sustainable transportation in Winnipeg for the past 14 years focusing on sidewalks, trails, and bike paths – all an integral part of maximizing transit use.”

Lukes says she’s completely in support of the U-Pass and has been working on a variety of other transit initiatives.

“I was a representative on the Phase One Rapid Transit Advisory Committee and provided input into the development of the active transportation component and have been involved in Phase Two development.”

Lukes believes that the U-Pass will have long-term positive economic and social benefits for the city.

“The U of M is the second most commuted to destination in the City of Winnipeg. The cost savings in infrastructure repair alone will be a huge benefit. Students will also use the pass to travel around the city and this will help build the foundation for a culture of public transit in Winnipeg.

“A major benefit of increased ridership for Winnipeg Transit will enable the system to expand and develop into a modern sustainable transit system for the entire city – something Winnipeg is in need of.”

Joe Chan

Chan’s website identifies a series of solutions for creating a dream city.

These include creating mandatory drug testing every two years for anyone working for the city that earns over $50,000, offering free parking for electric cars, bicycle lanes on residential streets, and having the city pay for all of an individual’s student loans if they live and work in Winnipeg for 10 years after graduation.

Like Mehra and Lukes, Chan is supportive of the U-Pass, although he identifies light rail as a desirable alternative to bus rapid transit.

He says he put his name in the running to challenge candidate Mehra.

“I want to stop this guy,” said Chan.

Chan identified Mehra’s time as the president of the Manitoba Liberal Party as the source of his disapproval.

He also suggests that he’s the only candidate ready to challenge Mehra for the St. Norbert seat.

“If you want an angel vote for [Lukes] [ . . . ] if you want a fighter vote for me,” said Chan.

Chan identifies his willingness to fight for people and challenge those he disagrees with, be it the outgoing Sam Katz, Mehra, or anyone else, as his greatest strengths.

“I’m a fighter. I fight. You see my record. I’m the guy who took the mayor to the court. How many people can do that in the city? [ . . . ] I will stand up for the students. [ . . . ] You want a fighter, with ammo? I’m the guy,” said Chan.

Bannatyne and inner city

Although the Fort Garry campus is situated in the St. Norbert Ward, the U of M does have connections to other wards.

The U of M’s Bannatyne campus is situated in the heart of the Point Douglas Ward .

Mike Pagtakhan has held the council seat since 2002.

Pagtakhan is running again, against four contenders. The other candidates are Rebecca Chartrand, Anthony Ramos, Anne Thompson, and Dale White.

The U of M’s Inner City Social Work Program operates out of a facility located at 485 Selkirk Ave. in the Mynarski Ward.

Mynarski’s city council seat is currently held by Ross Eadie.

Eadie has sat as city councillor since 2010. Dave Capar, Greg Littlejohn, and Trevor Mueller are challenging the incumbent.