City council candidates Justin Swandel and Louise May are keeping University of Manitoba students in mind as election day draws near.
In an attempt gauge what community members would like to see from their civic leader, May has been holding a series of town hall meetings and discussions concerning crime and safety as well as health and civic policy.
“Holding group discussions is very important because it gets people out and it gets people talking about the issues,” she said.
Andrea Rounce, a political science lecturer at the U of M, feels that although such events are not always effective, they are nevertheless valuable because they encourage people who might not have been active otherwise.
“It’s often a matter of mobilizing votes where you might not always have mobilization,” explained Rounce.
“It’s really interesting to a see a candidate [being] active doing those kinds of community based discussions.”
Swandel said his team is working on several unique strategies for the weeks ahead.
To date, his campaign has mainly been focused on advertising, as well as door-to-door campaigning and arranging media interviews.
Heather Laube, University of Manitoba Students’ Union president, encourages students to be aware of who the candidates are.
In the coming weeks UMSU will be working on a “Get Out and Vote” campaign in order to ensure students understand why it is important to vote in this year’s civic election.
“Additionally, we are attempting to get candidates involved and answering student questions through a forum,” she said.
Laube said UMSU expects the city councillor for the St. Norbert ward to be supportive of the University of Manitoba campus community and to keep students in mind when making major decisions.
“Our city councillor should understand that the University of Manitoba is a city in itself that is very unique, and a commuter campus,” says Laube.
UMSU believes that easier access to transit services for students should be made a priority.
Swandel stated that city council is “committed to continuing to enhance the city’s transit system.”
He explained that city council plans on bringing more elements of bus rapid transit to Winnipeg’s transit system, pointing out that the city has included a major bus terminal at the university as one of its infrastructure priorities.
“People realize how much work the current council has done in the last four years and while there will always be people who want something different, the vast majority are supportive,” said Swandel.
Swandel said the St. Norbert ward has seen significant investment in the last few years, including but not exclusive to the $12 million indoor soccer complex at the university, a new basketball court at Dakota Community Centre and millions of dollars in new trails and active transportation infrastructure.
“While I am proud of what we have accomplished, we need to do more,” he said.
If re-elected, his plans for the future include a wellness facility at the university that would be open to the public, along with an expansion of Dakota Community center and more investment in local parks, according to Swandel.
Swandel says the biggest challenge he has faced has been having the new Bomber stadium deal land in his ward so late in his term as councillor.
“It has been difficult to communicate to the residents how their concerns are being addressed,” he says.
Decisions on Winnipeg’s new football stadium on campus ground haven’t yet been finalized. However, the 30,000-seat facility, originally said to cost $115 million, has been the cause of major discontent among residents of the St. Norbert ward.
Despite the controversy, Swandel sees the stadium as a positive investment.
“We can all argue about the location or size, but no one can argue the economic sense of this move,” he said.
Strategies created for the “Event Day Management Plan,” which aims to address concerns raised by St. Norbert and Fort Richmond residents have about the building of the new stadium, will be showcased on Oct. 7.
Swandel explained the plan is to ensure that neighbouring communities are not adversely affected by events at the stadium
“This is by no means the end of this process, as it will need to be tweaked as events begin at the new stadium,” he said.
However, his opponent felt that the building of the stadium was being rushed.
“This is a major capital project and there are a lot of issues that are still very grey about how the financing is going to work. I simply cannot support it with its present plan,” said May.
Winnipeg voters go to the poles Oct. 27. Citizens can find information on candidates and voter registration at www.winnipeg.ca.