Quebec City is a model for how city planning can be used to
redevelop our landscape, mayoral candidate and U of M professor Robert-Falcon
Ouellette told the BOLD Winnipeg caucus.
Quebec City’s lower town, once populated by homeless people,
drug sniffers and prostitutes, is now, some 15 years later, one of the hippest
areas of that city, Ouellette said, citing how old buildings were turned into
artists’ communes and the university was encouraged to establish a campus
“The homeless people are still around, but there’s better
Walking through Winnipeg’s North End, he saw a community
that had some similarities and that’s what decided him to run for mayor.
“We are a divided city – based on the economy, poverty and
race. Many of the issues are hard to solve, but we’ve got to create change, so
we’re not still talking about those issues.”
He himself grew up in abject poverty – no food on the table
and no father around, Ouellette said, adding that as a child, he was homeless
for five months, camping out in city parks with his mother, who finally decided
she had to go on welfare.
Half a century ago, if you had a strong back, you could get
a job and support your family. Today, you need an education, but there are
those who can’t access an education and that is going to impede the long-term
success of Winnipeg, he said.
He discussed a young mom who was trying to get an education,
but could not take a full-course load because it took her 1 ½ hours by bus to
get to the Fort Garry campus and another 1 ½ hours to get home. She couldn’t
afford to move into social housing near the university and couldn’t afford to
put her kids in daycare.
“That’s a sad indictment of city planning.”
He also talked about how other jurisdictions have seen a
need to educate their politicians and to clearly define the role of elected
“The politicians aren’t the experts. We should allow civil
servants to do their jobs without interference. Politicians should have general
oversight – which way we want our city to go – and then the civil servants, who
are the experts, can do their jobs,” he said.
He also indicated he’s in favour of keeping EPC because the
mayor might have a vision for the city, but needs to have some leverage to
implement that vision.
But a change that he’d advocate for is to increase the size
of council because he feels there’s currently not enough depth.
He’s also in favour of lowering the voting age to 16. In the
Manitoba curriculum, Grade 9 students discuss voting, but they have to wait for
the opportunity to vote, he said.
In keeping with BOLD, he’d also support a different
tendering process, not solely based on cost.
The BRT infrastructure is already crumbling after two years,
he said, indicating he’s been told that some contractors would use less
experienced crews and not as good products to come in at a lower cost.