By Megan Benedictson (@YWGMDB)
WINNIPEG — Robert-Falcon Ouellette may have come in third place in the race for Winnipeg’s mayor, but the crowd packed inside his Provencher Boulevard headquarters welcomed him as though he had won.
“Robert, Robert,” they chanted as he entered wearing a wide smile, followed by “Falcon, Falcon.”
Ouellette, the Calgary-raised program director for the University of Manitoba’s Aboriginal Focus Programs and father of five, summed up the reason for the celebratory mood in his speech, describing how a campaign that started on the “fringe” grew to a group of “contenders” and “game changers.” He also said how it united people across political party lines, and aboriginal and non-aboriginal people from across Winnipeg, to work for a common cause, while inspiring people who hadn’t previously voted to engage in the political process.
Supporter Valerie Giesen said she wasn’t disappointed by results, which saw Ouellette receive 15.70 percent of the vote, because “People got to know Robert and who Robert is… and he’s one of the best, I think.” Giesen hopes he will run again. “Because I think Robert is down to earth… and he’s a people’s man. And the youth, seniors, everybody likes Robert, when Robert walks around, everyone comes running to him.”
After his speech, Ouellette told media he is open to another attempt. He was also blunt about what he thinks was the winning candidate’s edge, describing Bowman as “very strong in networking, in the business community.” Ouellette also said more money, and more time, would have made the difference. “I honestly think if I could have had another two weeks, I would have won this one.”
Ouellette says his decision to run for the mayor’s office again will depend on how Brian Bowman performs during his term. “If he does well, I probably won’t run. If he doesn’t do really well, expect a huge challenge from me.”
When asked, Ouellette said he also wouldn’t rule out running for other levels of government. “I don’t close any doors. What I really care about is trying to make an impact in our society. Like that’s why I’m running, because I didn’t see anyone else talking about the issues the way I’ve talked about them in this campaign.”