Winnipeg Free Press Reporter on Religion, John Longhurst, sent me an email with questions.
I am the freelance religion reporter/columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. As you think about your campaign to become Mayor, have you given any thought to how you will engage Winnipeg's faith community? I ask because the faith community is active in so many ways in addressing issues facing the city—homelessness, operating food pantries, providing free space for youth, women’s and addictions programs, helping arts groups, etc. At the same time, they provide community for many—something that enhances mental and emotional health.
I asked faith community leaders what questions they would want to pose to mayoral candidates about faith and running for that office; find them below. I will publish your responses in an upcoming article before the election. Thanks!
Below is my response to John's questions:
First, thank you for reaching out to the candidates to address these challenges within the Faith-Based community. I imagine that over the years you have tried to reach out to those in power to achieve meaningful discussion and have received many empty promises. I will try to answer based on my proven track record and personal history.
1. There is a culture at City Hall that fears the repercussions of allowing religious groups to participate and receive funding for social issues in Winnipeg. I find this disappointing given how much help religious organizations give to the vulnerable. Every organization who provides service should have a seat at the table. There is a massive amount of funding that goes to organizations in the city but no accountability as to where the funding is going or what kind of results are achieved. When elected, I will open the opportunity for funding to any non-profit organization who is willing to help and will require more accountability from those already receiving funding to ensure that funding is being used wisely and prudently.
2. I am fortunate to have made many personal connections within both the Jewish and Muslim communities during my time in Winnipeg. I value them as friends and advisors and will continue to maintain these connections and listen as Mayor. I believe these connections with community leaders will enable me to be aware of issues quickly and I would rely on their input to treat them with the cultural sensitivity that they deserve and provide them with the assurance that their safety is crucial.
3. While church buildings are private property and do not fall under the purveyance of the city, I believe that we can still help make upkeep and renovations easier by making them less costly. During this campaign I have committed to reducing the cost of permits for non-profits by 75%. When elected mayor I would work with council to help them understand the importance of preserving these aging buildings within the communities that they serve.
I hope that I have answered your questions clearly. As a child I was often one of the vulnerable who relied on the charity of others, so I understand how important religious organizations are to the community.
Finally, I am reminded of a story my father-in-law (a retired minister) tells of how important it is to serve the community.
Their church building was next door to a middle-school and the kids who smoked would come hang out on the church steps as they couldn’t smoke on school property. Graffiti, destruction, and garbage became a huge issue. As opposed to forcing them off the property, the ladies of the church began a lunch program and invited the kids in for a free meal every week.
Not only did the graffiti and destruction stop, but years later my father-in-law would run into these kids who told him how that small act of kindness encouraged them to make different choices in life.
Thank you for your time,