Watching the City Council meeting as they examined the results of the Ernst and Young Audit was interesting to say the least. Before you say ‘Get a Life’, here is why. If there was any more evidence required for the people of Winnipeg to see why our current “Municipal Government’ is not working it was clearly on display for all to witness.
Listening to many councillors; including our mayor; it was fairly clear:
They didn’t understand the purpose of the audit
- They were protecting their own interests
- They were looking for Ernst and Young to tell them ‘You are doing good job.’
- Trying to find blame as long as it wasn’t the councillor who spoke
The Ernst and Young Audits has exposed a system that isn’t working, The audits are showing everyone our current Municipal Government and Public Service lacks clear policy and procedures. When you couple the lack of policies and procedures with a lack of a plan, a vision for our city, it is no wonder we see the problems that are plaguing city hall. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.
Our city needs a change. That is stating the obvious. Our systems are no longer working, the voice of the people is not welcomed or asked for but most people have lost the hope what they say matters. We are selling off our City’s assets (land) in order to pay off debt, over-expenditures or mismanaged projects. Our developers seem to be pawnbrokers who are able to pay less for something than it is worth and then profit off of the assets we have given away in hope to balance our budget or not raise taxes. This perhaps could be forgiven if the land the city was selling was being developed to improve the lives of people. To fulfill a vision. That however is not the case.
Our councillors want to consider themselves successful because a piece of property was sold or a building was built. Success is not measured that way. If we look at the example of the new proposed development in River Heights as an example: We are taking a ‘Green Space’ in a residential neighbourhood and building more houses. The positive would be at least it is not another ‘Urban Sprawl’ development. The negatives however are the people of the neighbourhood have lost a park. A park they had, other people are asking for, so they can play with their children, walk their dogs, exercise and build community. Research clearly states the positive effect ‘Green Space’ has on physical and mental health. There is also evidence in the reduction of crime. It is about improving our lifestyle. It is about recognizing cities are not about buildings they are about people.
In the end the root of our problem is not just the lack of policies, procedures and a clear and transparent vision, but a belief that cities are about things not people. Unless we change that belief, unless we make our Government about designing policies and visions that are focused on people and improving quality of life for all, we will continue to have results that are moving our city backwards instead of forward. Policies should be asking ‘How will this make life better for people?’
I am not sure how someone runs for Mayor on a campaign of changing ‘Policies and Procedures’ or bringing back democracy and giving people a voice that matters. We need to create a more ‘Inclusive Society’ where the quality of life of people is what matters. People want quick fixes and it is obvious the fixes our city needs will not happen overnight. The changes we need are systematic and a renewal in our belief that the most valuable infrastructure of any place is people. That change is going to be hard and take time. That change can not be done by a Politician but must be done by someone committed to serving their city, their community, rather than worried about the politics of their decisions. It will require courage.