With less than one week to go before Winnipeg elects a new mayor, The Winnipeg Foundation’s Youth Vital Signs Mayoral Forum held last night at The Winnipeg Art Gallery may have been the candidates’ last chance, in person, to win over voters to their cause.
Earlier this year, The Winnipeg Foundation published a report on young people in Winnipeg called Youth Vital Signs (YVS). It was a survey filled out by 1,864 youth in Winnipeg aged 14-29. The Winnipeg Foundation designed the report to create a snapshot of the issues that are important to the city’s young people.
The forum was mediated by Noah Erenberg, Convener of Community News Commons, and consisted of questions from youth in the community, presented both in person and via Twitter, assigned to the candidates by random ballot.
While many of the previous mayoral debates have focused on infrastructure and downtown, the YVS report card showed that the largest concern among Winnipeg’s young people is poverty.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette said during the forum that his personal experience with poverty would aid him greatly if he were elected.
“I grew up in abject poverty,” said Ouellette, “I saw my mom cry some nights because she would have to choose between feeding herself and feeding her children.”
Brian Bowman said in an interview after the forum that he believes part of the problem can be solved by the city working more closely as a community.
“Really, we have symbiotic relationships amongst all our communities,” Bowman said. In response to the separation expressed in the YVS report card, he said, “You want people to learn from each other and prosper from each other.”
Live questions from the audience kept the candidates on their toes all evening. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, David Sanders, Michel Fillion, and Paula Havixbeck, along with Bowman and Ouellette, were asked to weigh in on issues ranging from personal safety in the city to the growing arts culture in Winnipeg.
Gord Steeves was the only candidate not in attendance.
Michael Redhead Champagne, 27, a volunteer with Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, said that while he heard many positive things at the forum, one thing was missing.
“Details! It’s important for us as young people to understand what they’re promising us, of course,” he said in an interview. “But when I asked, very specifically, what their first action would be (for getting youth involved in politics if elected) I got four or five answers.”
Redhead Champagne said he believes that if young people want to make a difference in Winnipeg, they need to start getting involved and learning how the systems actually work.
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.