Marianne Cerilli has been a trailblazer in Winnipeg, most notably through the naming of the Marianne Cerilli Trail, in recognition of her work to create healthy communities and a sustainable city. As the youngest female MLA when elected in 1990 Radisson Constituency, she led many initiatives, including the rehabilitation of a former contaminate site, protection of tall grass prairie to preventing unsustainable transportation investments and to spark creation of the Transcona Trail Association. The first leg of the trail links the Transcona Bio-Reserve (the former contaminated site) and Bradley Prairie Preserve. Cerilli served in the Manitoba Legislature until 2003, two terms in the Official Opposition and one term in the NDP government.
Her firsts as a young woman began in the 70’s when she was a record-setting athlete and at only 17 was teaching adult fitness classes for the City of Winnipeg Parks and Recreation. She went on to start recreation and fitness programs with high school friends at the East St Paul Community Centre. She showed leadership as a summer student with the Manitoba Track and Field Association, Target Fitness and Mini-University at the University of Manitoba, including as a fitness consultant and coordinator at the Max Bell Centre.
A clerical error that delayed her teaching diploma in 1984 diverted her from teaching to volunteer management and youth services with the provincial government after graduating from the University of Manitoba. Life took a political turn, however. She had been helping on elections since she first came to Winnipeg in 1968 as a kid and had become the president in 1986 for MLA and Deputy Premier Muriel Smith’s constituency association. She was encouraged and mentored by Smith to help manage Glen Murray’s campaign in 1989 when he was first elected to Winnipeg City Council and other election campaigns.
Elected as a young MLA, Cerilli was known for her eco-feminist views and work to address all types of inequalities and environmental challenges. As an “opposition critic” she was not content to merely condemn the government, she saw herself as an elected activist who worked to steer development in a more sustainable direction. She worked for years as Housing Critic, and Legislative Assistant to the Minister of Family Services and Housing, advocating for rent regulation, social and affordable housing, tenant rights, and public investment into poverty reduction through quality affordable housing, and innovation into energy efficiency. Many of the policies she championed later were implemented.
After leaving the legislature, Cerilli was determined to bring what she had learned about government to the grassroots in communities. She started Marianne Cerilli – Change Agent, consulting in community development. She became an advocate mentor at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre and mentored local women in advocacy particularly in securing their rights through the creation of the HOMES Program.
She ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 2006 coming second to incumbent Sam Katz.