On a warm early August afternoon in downtown Winnipeg, Mayor Sam Katz finally officially threw his hat into the ring to face reelection as Mayor of Winnipeg, several weeks after main rival Kaj Hasselriis had done so. All issues regarding his waiting so long to register aside, Mayor Katz’s early election promises to prune trees, cut grass, clear snow and pick up litter are, to put it mildly, uninspiring. I’d be willing to grant Katz the benefit of the doubt for a more-than lacklustre half-term in office thusfar, preferring to save the big promises for an election for a full four-year term, but, not surprisingly on my part, Katz is preferring to stick to the basics then, and is preferring to stick to the basics now. For a politician who wants the city—Winnipeg—under his charge to be “a vibrant city that attracts young people”, he’s going to have to do more than ensure basic civic services are met to not only attract new young, ostensibly educated and creative, people, but to keep its own creative, educated young people.
Where’s the long-term vision for an exciting city that is not merely a place to grow up in and move on from; for a city that will grow sustainably, smartly and in a way that is attractive to not only its often loyal residents but to those from elsewhere. As one of those young people who has grown up in this city, I am seriously doubting Winnipeg’s future at this point, and especially my future here. I don’t want a city whose mayor’s first priorities are to provide basic services—I can get that anywhere—but a city where the leadership from the top on down gives some civic inspiration for its residents. For a mayor who has a separate “Youth” page on his website, I’m not sure who of my peers Sam is listening to. But listening to those who have actually seen what cities can be—what Winnipeg can be—might upset the city’s large Lowest Common Denominator population from where Sam seems to draw a lot of his supporters. He may have won in a landslide in 2004 based on his name, but there’s thankfully a growing body of public sentiment that’s beginning to think otherwise. And they’ve now got a mayoral candidate to thinks he can lead them—one of those creative, educated and enthusiastic young people who will make people who truly care for a vital urban centre take take a close look at in Kaj Hasselriis. Look him up and compare the election platforms: who has the more interesting, creative and forward-thinking ideas, leading to a better Winnipeg in the long run?
Sam, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do with Kaj, not least of which is catching up with the city’s most valuable asset, the younger and forward-thinking people who really will have a say in how this city grows into the future. Unless, of course, we have too many more years of visionless leadership.
(note: This is not a direct endorsement of Kaj Hasselriis per se – official platforms, debates and discussions have yet to be revealed and proceeded with, but first impressions do count, especially in love and politics.)