Harwood’s departure shakes up University ward
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This article was published 28/09/2018 (1584 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For the first time in 12 years, the residents of University ward will be sending a new councillor to City Hall this year as a pair of political neophytes look to earn their seat at the council table come election day this October.
The University ward seat was left vacant after Coun. Jeff Harwood announced in early May that he would not seek re-election after 18 year altogether on council.
Harwood first served from 1986 to 1992 as the councillor for Rosser ward, before being elected for three consecutive terms in University ward from 2006 on.
Campaigning in University ward are Shaun Cameron, current secretary to the board of governors of Assiniboine Community College and head of his own production company, and Karen Peto, the long-time executive director of YWCA Brandon, both first-time municipal candidates but eager to make their mark in their own way.
“I got into the race to represent what I felt were the needs of the community,” said Cameron, who will be 39 next week. “It was a good opportunity. I was born and raised in this ward, my wife Karol and I call the University ward home, so it was important to me because these people are my neighbours.”
Peto, 66, said she had considered running before, but with her job at the YWCA, she felt it would be too much to take on.
“I’m looking at retiring in the next few months, so I … think I can give the time that’s needed and the attention to that position that’s needed, and it would keep me involved in the community,” she said.
“I’ve basically been a community advocate for many years and I really would like to stay involved in the community.”
Cameron was the first to announce his candidacy, launching his campaign in Coronation Park in late May with more than 20 supporters in attendance. Peto officially entered the race in August.
Born and raised in Brandon, Cameron previously served as chair of the Brandon Downtown Development Corp., formerly known as Renaissance Brandon, from 2011 to 2014.
He was an educational assistant in the student support program at Vincent Massey High School, working mostly with students in the youth justice system, and is board chair of the Valleyview Community Centre and secretary for the Central Council of Community Centres.
He has been married for 10 years and is the father of two daughters, ages 9 and 6.
Although he ran unsuccessfully for a trustee position with the Brandon School Division in 2010, looking ahead to council, Cameron said the main planks of his platform will be substantiality and public safety.
“I think it’s really important to look at increasing the tax base to build sustainability and that’s from attracting people to wanting to make Brandon home or continuing to make Brandon home,” he said.
When it comes to the opioid crisis, Cameron said he would like to see funding increase incrementally so police can do their jobs on the front lines and prevent crime, while ensuring residents see value for their investment.
Part of this means sharing the responsibility with the province and making sure taxes are both predictable and affordable, he said.
“When I’m gone, I want folks to feel as if I’ve done something to help benefit the community and I think ultimately, that’s everyone’s goal. You hopefully leave it better than you found it.”
As the executive director of YWCA Brandon for 20 years, Peto is a well-known figure in Brandon, in part from her in organizing the annual YWCA Women of Distinction event and its Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign.
She said her experience dealing with some of society’s more serious issues, such as homelessness and domestic violence, will guide her work and bring a different perspective to the council table.
“Not everyone has that perspective,” she said. “Many people have more of a business perspective … and I believe everyone needs to be represented.”
Born in Sudbury, Ont., Peto has lived in Manitoba since she was six years old, growing up in Thompson and running a farm and seed plant in Emerson with her late husband before moving to Brandon 24 years ago, where the couple raised their three children.
One thing she hopes to talk about more this election cycle is cultural diversity, or more specifically, how council should keep the city’s changing demographics in mind when making decisions — taking into account the many languages people speak, for example.
Peto will also focus on maintaining the city’s infrastructure, so Brandonites aren’t faced with “huge fiscal responsibilities,” and keeping Brandon’s green spaces and recreation facilities up to date.
Above all, Peto said she would like voters to know about the experience she will bring to council should she be elected.
“I have a long history in Brandon of working with the YWCA, the YWCA being a well regarded organization and I think I myself have been well regarded as the leader in that organization, and I think I bring experience and knowledged to the position, and I’m a very determined person.”
» Twitter: @mtaylorlee
• Total population: 4,937 (2016 census)
• 48 per cent male/52 per cent female
• Average age: 37.5
• Dominant age group: 20 to 24 (459 or nine per cent of the ward)