“There is a significant divide in this city between the rich and the poor,” said Paula Havixbeck. “We need to do more. We need to help each other succeed, working with people. Over 50,000 people in the city have a food hamper every month.”
Havixbeck tied the issue of poverty to the lack of affordable housing. She said, she believes that downtown housing could be more readily available with lower taxes.
Havixbeck was at the forum, along with Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Brian Bowman, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, David Sanders and Michel Fillion. Gord Steeves was not present.
“I don’t like that the answers that were given were not specific at all,” says Karen Ferris, 22, a student in attendance. “All the right questions were asked, but none of them answered the way I hoped they would. Bowman and Ouellette touched on the issue of poverty the best, but still didn’t describe it in the detail I hoped for.”
“I’d like to see legal rooming houses have incentives and increase the standard of living for residents,” said Bowman. “There are many people living without homes, who are sleeping under bridges. They are not criminals. These are human beings and they need help.”
Ouellette took a more personal approach to the issue.
“I grew up in abject poverty,” said Ouellette. “I know what it’s like to go a day without breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Too many Winnipeggers go through that every day. It’s very difficult.”
He said that the way to solve this issue is through economic opportunity.
“To do business with the city you need to have a good job and good wage,” said Ouellette. “Wages have not kept pace with the price of housing.”
He proposed to tax the vacant parking lots of downtown as if they were four-story buildings.
“The idea for the land value tax downtown is to force more developers to go downtown,” said Ouellette after the debate. “We need to force developers to pay a price if they don’t do anything.”
Registered voters will have a chance to vote for the next mayor of Winnipeg on Oct. 22, 2014.
All photos by James Turner
Click here to see the series of CNC articles by Red River College Creative Communications students who covered the Youth Vital Signs Mayoral Forum.