With an election just over two weeks away are any of the new candidates capturing the voters hearts and minds. Conversations and promises seem mired in right or left-wing politics or paying homage to the support of special interest groups. Is it any wonder we have lost faith in a system that doesn’t seem to have a clear vision to create a better city for the people of Winnipeg. It is hard to imagine that in the next 16 days any of the candidates will capture the imagination of an increasingly disenchanted electorate. There is no doubt we need a change at City Hall and the change needs to be more than a new mayor. We need to understand the purpose of our municipal government. We need to change the way we run our city.
First of all we need to understand that City Hall is not a business. The role of the mayor, councillors and the civil service is to provide cost-effective services to assist our city in providing the infrastructure required for sustainable growth for the city and its people. The city typically has only one way to get money and that is through taxes. Those taxes can be through property taxes or money from the Provincial or Federal Government which comes from taxes.
Lately we have been using the sale of land to gain revenue. That however is the selling of an asset. You do receive revenue for the sale of the asset but once sold, the asset is gone. You can increase your revenue by the sale of the asset through increased revenue from taxes or it can increase your expenses if you need to provide services in order for the sale of the land to generate revenue. Urban Sprawl developments require increased infrastructure costs and actually cost the city money rather than generate income. So not all land sales are the same.
Research may vary but here are some key components successful cities need to have.
What are we working towards as a city? We need to have a plan for provision of services, parks, libraries, roads, transportation.
Which Candidate has a plan? A plan we can believe in. A plan that will move our city forward.
During his 42 years in politics, Tommy Douglas proved himself as an outstanding Canadian leader. He is largely responsible for our central banking, old age pensions, unemployment insurance, and our universal Medicare. When asked why he stayed with the NDP when he could have done better with a more powerful party, Douglas simply replied,
” I have watched politicians for the last forty years drop their principles in order to get power only to find that those who paid and controlled the party which they joined prevented them from all the things they really believed in.”
To the end of his days Tommy Douglas was true to himself, to what he stood for, and to the people he represented.
Do any of our potential candidates have the leadership we need? Are any of the prospective mayors free to make the right decision or do they owe someone a favour for their support?
Structures and Routines
It isn’t sexy and certainly lacks the panache to get voters excited but for our Municipal Government to work we need our new mayor and council to understand process. Many people think that ‘Red Tape’ prevents growth. It can slow down the approval of a project but it is essential in order to ensure public money and public trust is safeguarded. It ensures that favoritism or perceived favoritism does not occur. The tendering of projects can actually enhance growth if it allows everyone access to development opportunities. Processes can increase creativity rather than inhibit.
When our structures are done consistently they become routine.
Do we have a candidate capable of bringing back public trust? Who will ensure we get value for our money? Will growth be planned or tainted by politics?
Change is Good
When I look at the current polls it makes me wonder if Winnipeg really wants a change. We seem to be stuck in a mindset of doing politics as usual. We sit and watch prospective candidates garner support from special interest groups from either side of the political spectrum.
Can we really get a municipal government that is independent to make the necessary decisions that are required for sound policies when their positions are owed to others.
Is there a candidate that is Independent of political wrangling? Can change occur if we keep things the same just change the person?
We have a lot to think about over the next few weeks. It will be tough to vote as we are in need of a change but it appears we will once again be run by a leadership more interested in being elected than governing our city.
Next 4 years should be about retiring this generation of buffoons who have their positions by default . Its all about management this time around. Shelve the visions and dreams. Find out who really wants to work for the City. Get rid of the rest. Streamline operations. Identify core responsibilities, attack the provincial parties for a new no strings attached Funding Formula, go as far as developing and writing a Winnipeg Charter that defines what this City wants for itself – NOT what provincial or federal MLA’s and ministers who dole out what they want when they want.
I’ve just about had it. We can and should do better. But we need to show ourselves as responsible.
When I speak of vision it is about a clear articulated plan. Indicating as you say the core responsibilities of the municipal government. A plan and vision that takes us to the Winnipeg we need and want.