A City for People


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:

  1. They didn’t understand the purpose of the audit
  2. They were protecting their own interests
  3. They were looking for Ernst and Young to tell them ‘You are doing good job.’
  4. 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.


Further Reading:

1) Greenspace Master Plan for Winnipeg

2) People Building Better Cities

3) Cities for People: Building the Sustainable City 



About jameswhoddinott

My novel 'When Eagles Dare to Fly' represents my belief that good will always triumph over evil and by developing who we are on the inside we will find our way. My newest novel 'The Fates' was released earlier this year that examines a society that discovers immortality. I have a blog called an 'Author, blogger and his musings' which talks about my writing, political issues as well as other areas of interest like education, art and photography,
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6 Responses to A City for People

  1. Chump says:

    Swandel had one thing right – during the course of the last 2 elections , the underlying current was that we wanted a business oriented environment. What he got wrong and what Eadie got right is that the City isn’t a business. Trying to act like one means we are incurring alot of costs with duplication of standard business practices across every department. We are incurring alot of costs because things get done “ugly ” in business , meaning, behind closed doors, as little paper as possible and same people scratching each others backs.

    I find it comical that now every councillor is saying by implementing EY’s recommendations there will be more accountability. Ahem, those recommendations always existed. But by default, the simple practice of getting 3 quotes ought to have been practiced. I just read that Ross McGowan of CentreVenture has sole sourced contracts to his own company. What in our collective DNA allows this in your face I’m gonna screw you attitude.


    • The City has been in the business and buying a selling property and not just through one mechanism. Many of the policies the Audit speaks of are there perhaps in policy but no longer in practice. Many people ask for a business leader but Government is not a business and shouldn’t be. It is an organizational operation to run the affairs of the city and safeguard the best interests of people. The audits have raised breaches in policy and procedures but not followed or investigated where the money went to who and the issues around conflicts of interest. If I hire a company to build a road and then my house gets a new driveway that is a problem. All land acquisitions need to be investigated including the ones by Centre Venture.


  2. Chump says:

    I can’t bid on most projects the City awards. In fact, I can’t bid on most government projects. At one time the OBS ( open bidding system ) was used by all levels, well, ( not our provinicial crew though ). Tenders were open and you couldn’t “fix” a bid for any particular vendor.

    Now, we don’t even see the bids. I could have saved the City upwards of 30% on the police station, yet, it was closed or a restricted bid – meaning a general was awarded and he picks who he wants without being bound by government bidding policy .

    At one time I’d be able to call Purchasing about the issue. Now , I don’t have a clue who does what anymore.

    The system has really degenerated.


    • That is a huge problem without an open bidding process you stifle the growth of business. We have many creative and talented people in Winnipeg and need to find a good way to have them access/have an opportunity to bid on projects as well as be involved from the beginning where we openly look at what we need and develop a plan to get there.


  3. Mike Bee says:

    Winnipeg has always been an OLD BOYS CLUB and continues to be. We went from old anglo saxon boys club to the jewish old boys club. The more things change the more they stay the same. I am out of this city now.


    • It isn’t cultural thing but rather cronyism where politics seems to be about ‘paying back’ your friends once elected. It is unfortunate since when we favour a small group of people it creates a society that is less vibrant and less creative.


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