Scott Gillingham wins Winnipeg mayoral election with smallest vote share in city’s history

Scott Gillingham celebrating his Winnipeg mayoral victory

Scott Gillingham walks into the jubilant crowd at his election night party at the Clarion Hotel in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Gillingham beat out 10 other candidates to win the city’s mayoral race. (Mike Fazio/CBC)

In the beginning of the 2022 Winnipeg mayoral election, Scott Gillingham wasn’t close to passing Glen Murray in polls.

 

However, the two-term city councillor defeated the former Winnipeg mayor with a fully costed platform and a vision that raised eyebrows. The election campaign provided citizens a wide range of ideas to solve the city’s problems from 11 candidates, and voters chose the one who appeared to offer the most realistic platform on Wednesday night.

 

The chair of the University of Winnipeg’s politics department says he wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

 

“The few polls that were made public” in the campaign’s last weeks “suggested that Glen Murray had sort of hit a plateau, and we saw other candidates that were surging,” said Aaron Moore.

 

Murray, who served as Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004, entered the campaign as the favourite to win, according to polls.

 

“There were so many undecided voters too, that there was a possibility for a candidate like Scott Gillingham to pick up and surpass Glen Murray.”

 

The earliest poll in the race, released in the middle of the summer, gave Murray a large lead, with 44 per cent of decided voters favouring him – 28 points ahead of second-place Gillingham.

A Gillingham supporter cheers at his victory party

A Gillingham supporter cheers at his victory party in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Gillingham won the mayoral race with 27 per cent of the popular vote, the smallest share of any mayor in recent memory. (Mike Fazio/CBC)

As the campaign continued, that lead slowly dissipated, as Murray fell to 28 per cent in an October poll commissioned by Gillingham’s campaign.

According to unofficial results from the City of Winnipeg, Gillingham pulled in 27.54 per cent of voters on Wednesday to Murray’s 25.29 per cent — a difference of just 2.25 percentage points, making it the closest mayoral race since 1977.

Gillingham’s share of the vote is also the lowest popular vote percentage of any mayor in recent memory. In 1995, Susan Thompson had the second-lowest percentage, with 38.3 per cent favouring her victory.

And with voter turnout at 37 per cent, Gillingham has one of the weakest mandates in modern Winnipeg history.

Murray’s fall in the polls followed a series of stories about his time as leader of the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based clean energy company. Former employees alleged poor management and sexual harassment by Murray, who worked with the institute in 2017 and 2018.

Gillingham’s promise

Between Murray’s plans to rearrange the city’s finances, Loney’s innovations for tackling social issues, and Kevin Klein’s focus on crime and reducing city spending, Gillingham’s policies may offer the steadiest path forward.

Murray said he’d push the province for an new provincial funding arrangement by replacing the city’s operating grant with one percentage point of the provincial sales tax.

Gillingham, however, declared a tax increase and connecting the operating grant to growth in the PST or urban gross domestic product.

Klein wanted to use cadets in police stations and sheriffs in hospitals to place more uniformed officers on the street, while Gillingham proposed using statistical analysis and reinstating a criminologist-in-residence position with the police service.

Loney wanted to experiment with social enterprises to leverage the private sector to deal with social problems like homelessness, while Gillingham said he’d use existing city land to provide temporary shelter.

Glen Murray speaks to supporters after his loss in Winnipeg's mayoral election

Glen Murray speaks to supporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday night. He started the race with a seemingly insurmountable lead in opinion polls, but that seemed to erode over the course of the campaign. (James Turner/CBC)

Pledge to raise taxes

Financial topics became one of the clearest dividing lines between candidates in this election.

Murray’s pledge to freeze the property tax, while raising the business tax and pushing the province for a slice of the PST, was perhaps the most radical idea to fix the city’s finances, although many observers and rival candidates called the idea unlikely and even irresponsible.

Gillingham and Loney both proposed to raise the property tax — by 3.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively — up from the 2.33 per cent increase currently in the budget.

Gillingham’s plan also included a $1.50-per-foot increase to the frontage levy, a point Loney repeatedly criticized.

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