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Bowman no longer ‘a rookie’; should push agenda, council power: analyst

Mayor Brian Bowman played the election campaign safe, and gave little notice of what will be his full list of priorities for this term in office, a public affairs specialist said at a business breakfast this week.

Andrew Enns, president of Winnipeg’s NRG Research Group, told the event hosted by the Manitoba Home Builders Association Wednesday that the election results mirrored the sentiment of Winnipeggers in pre-election polling: we’re pretty satisfied with the way things are.

Bowman increased both his number and percentage of votes in this election, compared to 2014’s run at the polls. The mayor received 114,222 votes (compared to 111,504 in 2014) of 214,303 votes cast. The election saw the lowest turnout of voters, at 42%, since 2006.

Enns, who was involved in both of Bowman’s election campaigns although minimally this year, said the election unfolded predictably, given the polling going into the campaign. Bowman polled well ahead of his rivals, including Jenny Motkaluk, the only mayoral candidate who put up a real challenge.

Bowman’s campaign offered a sparse agenda and minimal promises. But that shouldn’t mean a sleepy agenda this term.

Enns noted Bowman’s “no longer a rookie mayor” and Winnipeggers can reasonably expect more from him.

Enns stressed that city council should become more assertive on its policy priorities – council has been deferential to the administration, he said. Bowman can push back, perhaps with some changes to key staff positions in his office to strengthen policy advice.

Among the issues that need attention is land development in Winnipeg. “Land is a big issue,” Enns added, stressing that there needs to be sufficient room for future development.

“If the mayor is passionate about this city’s success, he’s got to be concerned about this.”

The election saw five new councillors in Winnipeg, two or three of whom could be considered right-of-centre.

In the Capital Region’s 17 other municipalities, some incumbents were defeated by large margins, Enns said. Six of 17 mayoral candidates were acclaimed, 4 were re-elected and 7 RMs have new reeves or mayors.

Bowman is expected to announce shortly who he’ll name to the influential executive policy committee, which functions like a cabinet to the Mayor’s Office.

The mayor could work to improve the relationship with the provincial government, which itself is working towards the 2020 election call and would have an interest in making Winnipeg a priority, he said.

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