Ahead of our Mayoral Debate– The Future of Our City– on October 21, we will be sharing our conversations with mayoral candidates in the order of which we met with those who accepted our meeting request to help you make the most informed decision on voting day. Read our full statement.
Winnipeg Chamber President and CEO Loren Remillard met with Rana Bokhari at the corner of Portage and Main.
Rana’s platform is very clear and she has made it easy for Winnipeggers to know where she stands on the issues. Rana’s website lists the following priorities:
- Crime: Rana believes the root cause of crime in our city is mental health and poverty. She has pledged to reallocate 10 per cent of the Crime Prevention (policing) budget to social service groups. She has also pledged to create a safe injection site in Winnipeg. She also highlights the need to decriminalize addiction.
- Transit: Rana has pledged to reduce the cost of a monthly bus pass over the next four years to $20 per month, increase the frequency of buses and accelerate the Transit Master Plan. If elected Mayor, she will also work with surrounding municipalities to create more park-and-ride opportunities and increase suburban bus service.
- Housing: Rana has pledged to seize derelict housing and make it available for non-profit groups. She will also impose the City’s accommodation fee on short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb)
- Water and sewer: Rana pledged that she would fast-track sewer upgrades by increasing the annual budget for the Combined Sewer Outflow plan from $45 million to $60 million. She will negotiate with the federal and provincial governments and invite them to match that funding level. Rana has also pledged to fast-track upgrades to the north End Sewage treatment plan and has identified a completion date of 2032.
- Age friendly city: Rana has outlined a five-point plan to make Winnipeg the most accessible, age-friendly city in Canada. The five points of the plan are; inclusive housing – new multi-unit residential builds will be required to include main floor allocations for seniors and other universal design measures; Accessible spaces – consideration of personal mobility devices will be mandatory for community parks and sidewalks; Expanded library programs, including a library delivery program for seniors; Supportive and enhanced transit – move forward with Winnipeg Transit Plus recommendations; and Create a community volunteer program to match volunteers with seniors who need assistance with home maintenance.
- Downtown and Parking: Rana has pledged to reduce the number of parking spots the city requires businesses to maintain, regardless of their proximity to street parking and implement an annual levy on surface parking lots – where the revenue will be dedicated to active transportation upgrades. Rana has also pledged to remove the barriers at Portage and Main.
- Transparency and governance: Rana said that she will increase transparency at City Hall through direct engagement with citizens. Rana also pledged to create a $1 million fund for training and development of public servants focusing on leadership, digital accessibility, reconciliation, and mental health.
Vision for Winnipeg
When asked about her vision for Winnipeg, Rana spoke about the need for a strategic plan with three pillars; prosperity, community and sustainability. Rana said that systems thinking – seeing the connections between the parts – is essential to understanding our future and how we can create a better city for everyone. Rana would like to see Winnipeg “dream big” and break out of the belief that we can’t change or try something new because we have always done it a certain way.
Responding to the Playbook
When asked to respond to the Winnipeg Chamber’s Performance Playbook, Rana spoke about the need for infill housing. In Rana’s view, the root cause of crime is poverty, addictions, and mental health, so we need to create more opportunities for those who are homeless to have stable housing opportunities. Rana also spoke about the need to move forward with servicing Centreport and expanding available business lands, which she sees as a key enabler of economic growth.
When asked about downtown, Rana spoke about the basic human right to be safe, and that she clearly sees the need for a safe injection site in Winnipeg. Rana was very careful to say that a safe injection site should not provide safe supply, but rather a safe place, staffed by appropriate medical and social service personnel. In Rana’s view, unless we as a city provide designated safe places, the problem of drug use will continue to happen in places that are potentially unsafe, such as bus shelters and in places where the activity makes others feel unsafe, such as adjacent to businesses.
When asked about the importance of relationships, especially since some of the things that Rana is proposing to do fall outside the mandate and jurisdiction of the City of Winnipeg, Rana said that she conducts herself with integrity and always enters negotiations armed with data, facts, and evidence. Rana pointed to the urgency of the moment, where our relatives and fellow citizens are being harmed while we try to figure out which level of government is responsible for making change. Rana believes this is the essence of leadership – the ability to see a different path and inspire people to try something new.
Revenue and competitiveness
When asked about what Winnipeg needs to do to modernize its revenue and budgeting systems, Rana responded that tackling the root causes of many of our most difficult challenges (homelessness, addictions, and mental health) will produce savings that can be repurposed. Rana spoke about the need to be upfront with Winnipeggers about how their money is being spent, but also what the cost of our current systems and approaches are. For example, Rana said that a portion of the public safety budget should be rededicated to social services, which will produce long-term financial gains.
Rana is a big-picture thinker who is most concerned with addressing the root causes of the issues we are facing. Some of her policies align with our Performance Playbook, such as the importance of transit, the need to develop a transportation strategy and the need to eliminate parking minimums. Most of her ideas though are beyond the scope of what we think is needed and cross into the jurisdiction of other levels of government.