Winnipeg students picked Murray in mock election

Glen Murray, the runner-up in the Winnipeg mayoral race, had been the favourite to take the reins at city hall among students who participated in mock elections this week.

In the lead-up to official polls closing Wednesday, more than 9,400 learners from 78 schools in the Manitoba capital cast imitation ballots for the candidates they hoped real voters would pick to run the city.

“School is a place to start promoting (the democratic) process, so that as these students come of age to vote, they are standing up for their values and finding people that represent their values,” said Kurt Hangle, a Grade 9 teacher-adviser in the Exchange District.

The Met Centre for Arts and Technology, an alternative high school in the city core, was among the institutions that took part in the Student Vote initiative.

Student Vote — organized by CIVIX Canada, a national charity that turns real-life political events into teachable moments and supports mock municipal, provincial and federal races in schools — recruits youth under the legal voting age to partake in model elections.

Murray, 65, came out on top across city schools in the latest replica race, according to the organization.

The downtown business owner, who served as Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998-2004, earned 16 per cent of all votes cast by students.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Kevin Klein, Scott Gillingham (the mayor-elect) and Rana Bokhari rounded out the top five. These contestants received 15, 13, 12, and 10 per cent of all student ballots, respectively.

The Met campus findings, compiled after about 60 teenagers marked voting slips, were different. Bokhari took the top prize — in part, because one of the pupils tasked with learning about the lawyer’s campaign and educating peers on it for a related project brought in cupcakes, according to students.

Grade 9 student Ben Paulic voted for Ouellette, a former Liberal MP. “He seems to be very passionate about a lot of subjects and the things that he wants to change, and I think just (being) caring is a really important trait for a mayor,” said the 14-year-old.

Students identified pollution, safety and accessible active transportation as priority issues.

“I love biking. If the bike roads and the bike sidewalks weren’t disappearing and reappearing constantly, I would be biking (more), when it wasn’t freezing or snowing outside,” said Dorian Martens, a Grade 9 student at Met.

The mayoral race aside, students across Winnipeg participated in city councillor elections in all but the Old Kildonan and St. Norbert-Seine River wards (those seats were acclaimed by Devi Sharma and Markus Chambers, respectively).

Elsewhere, pupils’ picks were nearly all in line with what unfolded Wednesday.

They selected Jason Schreyer (Elmwood), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Vivian Santos (Point Douglas), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), John Orlikow (River Heights), Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), and Janice Lukes (Waverley West).

The students, however, voted for Shawn Nason in Transcona — a city ward won by Russ Wyatt — and Hal Anderson in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, who was defeated by Evan Duncan.

Kelly Ryback and Shawn Dobson, the latter of whom came out on top for St. James, tied in the imitation race.

Student Vote customizes the ballots it sends to participating schools so their students’ local municipal and school board candidates are listed.

The majority of young Met voters left their school trustee circles blank.

Hangle said he talked to his students about the importance of doing research on candidates, and not simply picking a random name, throughout the Grade 9 democracy unit.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press