Questions for Candidates from Designers

On October 22, the citizens of Winnipeg will be electing our next Mayor. Storefront Manitoba and Building Equality in Architecture: Prairies have asked three local design professionals to weigh in on key questions we should be asking mayoral candidates to help us make informed decisions on election day.

 

In the next month leading up to the municipal election, Storefront will be featuring these questions in our Instagram stories. Full questions and context will be posted here, along with any responses we receive from candidates who have been forwarded these questions in advance.

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Somia Sadiq
Principal Partner and Founder at Narratives Inc.

Evan Tremblay
Founder of Atelier 617, Artist/Landscape Designer with Atelier Anonymous Global Landscape Foundation

Johanna Hurme
Principal Architect and Founder at 5468796 Architecture

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Somia Sadiq
Principal Partner and Founder at Narratives Inc.

1. Municipalities across the country are increasingly being delegated the Crown's Duty to Consult Indigenous communities. What steps would you take as Mayor to not just accommodate the Duty to Consult in Winnipeg's administration of lands and resources but do better?

 

2. There are many proven policy options that show great promise for fixing many of Winnipeg's biggest problems and which would result in net savings for taxpayers, such as Housing First, safe injection sites, and  comprehensive Rapid Transit. The problem is that the results are long-term and aren't attractive to politicians on the municipal election cycle. As Mayor, would you pursue long-term objectives that are not likely to bear fruit until after your tenure? If so, which are your biggest priorities?

 

3. As the Mayor of this City, what specific steps will you take to advance Reconciliation beyond what any of the current administrations have done to date?

 

4. As the Mayor of this City, what specific steps will you take to help promote density, affordability, and accessibility for all?

 

5. As the Mayor of the City, what specific steps will you take to address Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and Two Spirited Folkx (MMIWG2S) as well as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Men and Boys (MMIMB)?

 

6. As the Mayor of the City, what specific steps will you take to promote development in our downtown core?

 

7. As the Mayor of the City, how do you plan on supporting Indigenous communities with rebuilding economies that have been lost all these years?

Scroll down for questions...

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Evan Tremblay
Founder of Atelier 617, Artist/Landscape Designer with Atelier Anonymous Global Landscape Foundation

1. Winnipeg bylaws prohibit allowing grass on private property to exceed six inches in height, privileging a particular aesthetic ill-suited to our climate. Should this be changed? What is the balance between ecological health and personal aesthetics? If six inches is a reasonable height, would you amend bylaws to speak of ‘ground cover’ rather than ‘turf’?

2. More than 1 out 10 residents of Winnipeg are Indigenous. At the municipal level, what can be done to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular ensuring access to Traditional medicines and the ability to practice Traditional forms of spirituality in relation to the land?

3. The loss of Winnipeg’s urban forest, which took generations to grow, is accelerating. Its loss represents a rollback in quality-of-life for residents and a decline in many measures of fitness for dealing with extreme weather events. Beyond a commitment to ensuring best-practices in urban forest management are followed and adequately funded, what would you do to transform this loss into an opportunity?

 

4. How would you increase the resiliency of food systems in Winnipeg? What are the current barriers to residents being able to grow their own food, businesses reducing food waste, and the city implementing the long-delayed urban composting program, and how can these be addressed in a reasonable timeframe? 

 

5.  Construction is a fact of life in Winnipeg, but all too often necessary repairs are carried out in a sloppy manner which makes it difficult for people with mobility issues to navigate public sidewalks strewn with gravel, rubbish, and confusing signage. What would be your approach to ensuring all residents are able to move around the city with ease and dignity? 

6.  What strategies would you employ to address growing problems of sound and light pollution? Are there specific cities whose success in addressing these issues can be emulated? Would you support a phase-out of gas-powered lawn equipment? 

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Johanna Hurme
Principal Architect and Founder at 5468796 Architecture

 

Winnipeg is one of the least dense major cities in the World and over 70% of the City of Winnipeg’s annual budget is spent on items directly linked to distance – KMs driven, length of road, meters of utility pipe etc. Our infrastructure deficit is in the billions. 

 

Between 1971-2019 WPG’s population increased by 37%, while its land area increased by 96%. From 1971 – 2011, Winnipeg as a whole grew by 129,000 people, but population in Mature Communities declined by 88,000 people – hollowing our city at its core. This growth trend results in every Winnipeg citizen receiving less and less quality and service in exchange for their tax dollars.

 

Good urban design vision and specific planning strategies provide key solution to the issue, economically, environmentally and socially. 

 

1. What specific policies would you would you as a Mayor advocate for and put in place to address Winnipeg’s unsustainable footprint and to reverse its growth pattern?

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City of Winnipeg famously lost its court case on impact fees to Developers in 2020. Development charges or levies offset the cost of new infrastructure, enabling municipalities to use their limited capital funds to pay for the maintenance and upgrading of existing infrastructure. Properly structured, impact fees could have been used as a planning tool to direct development in desired areas. 

 

As Aaron Moore, an associate professor in political science at the University of Winnipeg, an adjunct professor in city planning at the University of Manitoba, and a fellow at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Government, University of Toronto, points out, the City of Winnipeg lack the clear authority to levy such a charge in the first place. Unlike other municipalities across MB and Canada — big and small — who enjoy such authority almost uniformly, the City of Winnipeg is exempt from most of The MB Planning Act, including Section 143 that would grant the authority to charge levies and the Winnipeg charter provides no similar option. Moore further speculates ''that the province omitted such a tool from the charter as a result of lobbying from the city's powerful development industry’.

 

It’s not a secret that sprawl is expensive, and regardless of the developer lobby slogan, 'development pays for itself’, multiple peer reviewed studies have proven otherwise. In a 2015 report for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute and London School of Economics, transportation scholar Todd Litman analyzed the total cost of suburban sprawl in the US. On average, Litman estimates the annual, per capita cost of sprawl is “approximately $4,556, of which $2,568 is internal (borne directly by sprawl location residents) and $1,988 is external (borne by other people).” As Litman points out, the costs are not equitably distributed, and in the long term, the negative impacts leave everyone worse off. 

 

2. As Mayor, would you be willing to take on the suburban development lobby to curb sprawl and to ensure that the every other Winnipegger is not going to be left holding the bag? If so, what would you do specifically to address the economic, social and environmental impact of further greenfield development?

 

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Winnipeg is projected to grow by 160,000 residents by 2040 and requires about 82,000 new residential units. The Halifax Regional Municipality calculated that annual services of an suburban household cost over $2,000 more to taxpayers than an urban household. If we apply the same math to Winnipeg, and if we directed all of the new growth expected over the next 25 years into our mature city, we would save about 4 billion dollars in just municipal service costs.

 

The newly adopted Our Winnipeg 2045 + Complete Communities Secondary Plan identifies "Targeting at least 50% of all new dwelling units to be built in the existing built-up area of the city.” This target exceeds the current practice by mere 5% – and leaves 50% of all future development to be located in greenfield areas, further exacerbating sprawl.   

 

3. Do you think this target should be amended? As Mayor, what percentage of infill would you support?

 

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One of the key deterrents of increasing infill development [aside from fear of change by existing residents] is lack of City wide Utility Assessment that would determine the capacity of existing utility lines in mature and existing built-up areas. 

 

4. As Mayor, would you be willing to commit the necessary budget for conducting such a study and to create data base that would serve to inform future development and guide much needed upgrades? 

 

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City of Winnipeg is governed by 15 city councillors elected through a ward system with district representation. Many other cities have an at-large electoral system, or a hybrid system, where voters choose city councillors and the mayor from an exhaustive list of candidates. It’s understood that councillors elected at-large will promote policies generally in line with the average voters preferences, whereas policies advocated by ward-based councillors will be more closely tied with particular interest groups in their districts. As a result, ward councillors will be more focused on their districts whereas at-large representatives will be more attuned to the general interests of the city. Number of sources accuse the ward-system of being responsible for fragmenting the city, leading to vote-trading, and standing in the way of a unified vision. 

 

5. Do you think any at-large or hybrid system would result in more sustainable, unified or ambitious outcome for the City of Winnipeg? If yes, why? If no, why?

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