By Marshal Hodgins
Residents of Riel want their district’s candidates to focus on the election’s big-ticket issues—healthcare, crime, and education. They voiced concerns about healthcare program cuts, safety in their neighbourhood, and expanded parental rights in schools.
The Riel electoral district is located in south central Winnipeg. The district begins at Abinojii Mikanah (formerly Bishop Grandin Boulevard) and stretches down to its southern border that runs along Warde Avenue, Southglen Boulevard, and Redview Drive. The district spans as far east as St. Anne’s Road and ends to the west at the Red River.
The district is named after Louis Riel, leader of the Red River Rebellion, and is home to Riel House National Historic Site. Riel lived in Riel House for two years during the Red River Rebellion.
The Riel area is mostly residential, with several schools and personal care homes within its borders. St. Vital Shopping Centre, Dakota Community Centre and the Jonathan Toews Sportsplex are some of the district’s community hubs.
Since the Riel district’s creation in 1969, the riding’s leadership has swung between the New Democrat Party of Manitoba and the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party.
Minister of Families and current PC candidate Rochelle Squires has won the seat twice since 2016. A Manitoba Liberal Party candidate has yet to be elected in Riel.
LéAmber Kensley – Manitoba Liberal Party
- First time running for office
- Kensley grew up and went to school in Riel
- Currently works as a rehabilitation counsellor with Spinal Cord Injury Manitoba
- Slogan: “Real change for Manitoba”
Mike Moyes – NDP
- Ran for MLA in Riel in 2019, finishing second with about 35 per cent of the vote
- Lives in Riel with his wife and two children
- Currently works as a teacher at Glenlawn Collegiate
- Slogan: “Make life better. Together”
Rochelle Squires – Progressive Conservative (incumbent)
- Squires was first elected as Riel’s MLA in 2016
- Received about 44 per cent of the vote in 2019’s election, and 51 per cent in 2016
- Previously worked as a reporter for the Winnipeg Sun before entering politics in 2011
- Slogan: “Rochelle Squires is fighting for Riel”
The incumbent, Rochelle Squires of the Progressive Conservatives, was first elected in 2016. Her predecessor, Christine Melnick of the NDP, held office across three elections from 2003 to 2016. Current NDP candidate Mike Moyes ran against Squires in 2019 and finished 990 votes behind her.
Riel has a population of 22,610, according to Elections Manitoba’s profile of Riel which uses 2021 census data. Canadian citizens over the age of 18 account for nearly 75 per cent of the population. Men and women make a fairly even split of Riel’s population, with just 3.4 per cent more women in the area. Families occupy over 66 per cent of Riel’s homes, and about 15 per cent of the district’s residents are children under the age of 14.
Over 40 per cent of Riel households bring in a yearly income above $100,000. The most common occupations among Riel residents are in the healthcare and social assistance industries. The area is also home to many retail workers and people working in education.
Riel voters discuss what they believe the candidates should be talking about leading up to the election:
Grace Van Dyck, 65, is a retired hospital pharmacist who worked in healthcare for 45 years: “I think the NDP has hit a button with healthcare, but the concern is do you dismantle every emergency department, shunt all these people off somewhere else, and now we want to rebuild them all again?
“We need our party leaders to engage not just with select individuals, but with bigger groups of frontline staff, so they can actually say ‘this is what I would need to do my job better, this is what I would need to feel rewarded in my career.’”
Natasha Busc, 27, is a teacher in the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine and recently moved to Riel about a month ago: “I want them to keep inclusive education in mind, especially with the rally that happened a few days ago (referring to the 1 Million March 4 Children protest). I’m just a little worried about the implications of all of that. I just want my students to feel safe and happy at school.”
Marianne Wiebe is a retired nurse who worked in ambulatory care and hepatitis clinics at Health Sciences Centre and Mount Carmel Clinic: “The healthcare system is broken, and they need to start fixing it. There’s been so many programs that have been cut, huge wait times for specific programs and specialties—right from infant pediatric up to geriatric.
“There’s been too much of upper management people who don’t have any frontline experience making all the decisions. They’re not going to the frontline staff. It’s extremely frustrating. Get rid of the overpaid executives and let them hear from the people who are doing the day-to-day work.”
Kevin Brown has lived in Riel for about 40 years. Before he retired, he worked in computer operations for Bank of Montreal for 35 years: “Number one would be crime. It’s all over the city. Even in the Riel area, including the mall. The city’s got a bad reputation. Even The Forks downtown, it’s in bad, bad disrepair.”
Ayden Bruce, 18, has lived in the Riel district his whole life: “My mom just passed away a couple days ago. She’s been in and out of the hospital for the past few years now.
“There’s not enough waiting rooms, not enough hospitals. Not to mention the healthcare workers that are all stressed out all the time. They’re having to work double shifts and they’re not going to be able to provide the level of care they’re supposed to provide.”