May 17th, 2024

Bernard (Bernie) Mbonihankuye: Council candidate running on a community agenda

By Tim Kalinowski on August 11, 2021.

Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski - City council candidate Bernard Mbonihankuye hopes to prioritize economic sustainability and social accountability if elected this fall.


City council candidate Bernard (Bernie) Mbonihankuye says his main priorities if elected would be economic stability and social accountability.
Mbonihankuye says his own experience as a homeless youth on the streets of Lethbridge as well as his two years spent at King of Trade in the business community give him a unique insight.
“When solutions are offered that could work for our community, there is a social media stir which tends to control the decision that is going to make our city better,” he says. “For me, I worked at King of Trade for two years, and I understand the economics of local businesses. Local businesses are struggling. We have had lots of stores shut down. When you are homeless, you cause nuisances. You steal. You do criminal activities to survive: to eat and get more drugs. There is a saying: the rich get rehab and the poor get harm reduction. And that has been the case in Lethbridge.”
Mbonihankuye founded “The Bernie Bunch” to help address the social problems in a hands-on way, whether that be working with the City’s homeless or helping with things like litter pickup.
He says some social activists say we need less policing in Lethbridge, but he feels the problem is we do not currently have enough policing.
“I would advocate for more policing (funding) from the province,” says Mbonihankuye. “We need more policing, and we need a community policing model. We need to protect our local businesses. And not only our local businesses, but our at risk population.”
“When you are a drug addict, and you commit a crime, that is not a mental health issue,” he adds.”You committed a crime, you need to pay the price for it. And local businesses need to be protected from these people.
“(And) there is a lot of organized crime among our homeless community that is not allowing our at risk population to thrive and succeed in life.”
Mbonihankuye says at the same time city council’s role must be to advocate to the province for the housing and social infrastructure needed to really address the underlying social issues facing the city, and have the courage to implement policies which are for the greater good of the city such as much needed social housing initiatives.
“We need to rezone,” he states. “We don’t need to listen to social media. We need to do what is right for our community.”
Mbonihankuye says he would also propose a five-year municipal targeted tax break for small to medium sized businesses throughout the city which would see the first two years helping businesses with debt and costs coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the last two years incentivizing new hiring in the city. His main capital spending priority would be revitalization of areas of the city such as 13th Street North, and more bike lanes downtown. He also thinks an e-scooter industry in Lethbridge would help create more traffic for local businesses.
“It wouldn’t be a big capital project that might bring more (economic) return, but it also wouldn’t cost much money,” he says. “The time you invest in a big theatre, another recreational centre, we already have those. We have the University of Lethbridge and we have the Yates Centre. I do not think we need to build more new theatres, but we can build and invest in new (cultural) programming.”
Mbonihankuye, who prefers to be called “Bernie,” says he is running for city council because he wants to give back to the community that was there for him when he passed through his own troubled adolescence.
“I am not running to create a career for myself,” he says. “I am running on a community agenda. We need social stability, and we need economic stability for our local businesses. And we need to be tough on crime.”

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