Couns. Pagtakhan, Wyatt will not seek re-election, Garth Steek to run again

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13 candidates file papers to run for Winnipeg council seats on 1st day of registration

Two long-time Winnipeg city councillors are on their way out of city hall come the 2018 civic election, and a past city councillor is hoping to make a return.

Both Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt and Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan announced Thursday they will not seek re-election in October, while former councillor Garth Steek said he's taking another stab at civic politics.

Pagtakhan — who has represented Point Douglas for 16 years — spoke to reporters after Thursday's city council meeting. 

"It was obviously a very … tough decision, an emotional decision," Pagtakhan said after the moving announcement.

"You never really know when it's time to go, but part of me, I've made a decision. I'll be passing the torch to someone else."

Once his current term is over, Pagtakhan said he hopes to continue mentoring young children in the cadets and return to pottery and his other artistic hobbies. 

The former Manitoba Hydro employee said he will also look for opportunities to return to his old duties in procurement and consultation at the provincial Crown corporation.

But Pagtakhan hasn't totally ruled out a future in politics.

"I don't think you say 'never' to anything," Pagtakhan said.

Political life

The councillor, who lives in the Point Douglas ward with his wife and three children, represents one of Winnipeg's most diverse neighbourhoods. The ward includes the Exchange District and part of the North End.

"When I first decided to run for office, the neighbourhood was kind of up in flames. There were houses burning, like, monthly, weekly. It was unbelievable," Pagtakhan said during the Thursday scrum.

"I think I've left the ward in a really good position."

Recently, as one of four councillors in charge of the cannabis file for the city, Pagtakhan has worked on rolling out the city's plans for new zoning regulations and changes to police enforcement in time for legalization.

He has also been leading the charge to replace the Arlington Street bridge. 

Wyatt bows out

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt's announcement comes on the heels of a roller-coaster beginning to 2018. 

"It's one of the decisions that I've made, amongst many decisions in my life recently, and it's a tough decision," Wyatt said in his announcement. 

Wyatt took a leave of absence earlier this year, missing months of council meetings while he sought treatment for alcohol addiction and substance abuse.

The northeast ward councillor also came out as bisexual on the day of the city's latest Pride parade.

"It's been an amazing journey as an elected official and serving here," Wyatt told the speaker and his colleagues at city hall Thursday.

"Politics is in my blood," he said. "I don't think you can take it out." 

Moving forward, Wyatt suggested he wants to help people with addictions. 

"There's a lot of pain and suffering in our city," he said.                     

"It's something that really affects me — when I help them it helps me, actually. I want to do more of that."

Wyatt was first elected in 2002 and, like Pagtakhan, has served four consecutive terms in office.

He thanked his constituents for allowing him to represent them.

"My community has been very, very loyal to me and I'd like to think that I've been just as loyal as well in return," he said.

"That loyalty I will never forget."

Steek calls for change

Meanwhile, in a speech to councillors at Thursday's council meeting, former councillor Garth Steek announced his plans to run for his old seat in River Heights-Fort Garry.

"In Winnipeg we have the politics of exclusion. We need a change to the governance model," he said.

"Let me be direct and unambiguous — it is my intention to run for the River Heights-Fort Garry ward in the upcoming civic election."

Steek made the announcement while speaking to council as part of a delegation critical of an internal audit that largely exonerated Winnipeg CAO Doug McNeil and Coun. Marty Morantz of wrongdoing in connection with the public furor over the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension project.

He said what he described as the mishandling of plans for the extension of the southwest Winnipeg road gave him the impetus to run.

Steek told councillors Thursday morning he's also fed up with what he calls an imbalance of power at city hall, and said he will run for council on the platform that councillors should be elected to chair committees, not appointed by the mayor.

He said Calgary and Edmonton both have models where councillors are elected to committees.

Steek was councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry from 1995 until 2004, when he stepped down to run for mayor — a race he lost to Sam Katz. 

More changes come October

Pagtakhan and Wyatt are not the first city councillors to announce their exit from city politics this cycle.

Jenny Gerbasi, who sat alongside three mayors over 20 years and is currently council's longest-serving member, will not seek re-election in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry.

Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge Coun. Marty Morantz said last month he will run as a Conservative MP in the 2019 federal election if he succeeds in his bid for the nomination in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

In addition, the newly renamed and redrawn St. Norbert council seat will be wide open, as South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes announced in January she plans to seek her second council term in the new Waverley West ward.​

The 2018 municipal election is Oct. 24.