Wednesday, October 16, 2019

When The Hashtag Don't Catch On, What's A Mayor To Do?

Councilor Kevin Klein has hammered the way Mayor Brian Bowman has exploited the "strong mayor" model the City operate under, with relentless challenges to what passes for democracy at Winnipeg's City Hall. The rookie publisher-turned-politician has rattled Bowman so badly, Mayor Selfie tried to mount a hastag campaign to derail his opposition. It failed.  

The unlikely subject of wastewater treatment fully exposed the control the Mayor (one vote) wields through his appointed executive policy committee (six votes) and honorary mayoral stand-ins (two votes) and their secret meetings to steer council agenda's. Klein exposes another wrong-headed policy - and it's not so much the policies as the practices - every week.
Klein made a proposal, with Councilor Shawn Nason, for City staff to test the use of Ferric Chloride to reduce phospherus discharge into Lake Winnipeg. It costs about 1% of the projected treament budget. This idea was from outside the Mayor's circle and so for no apparent logical reason, what seemed like an environmentally responsible testing idea was voted down -- strictly along the lines of Bowman's Bloc of 9. 

But this one didn't fly with large swaths of the community and the heat was so bad, the Mayor had his newly emerged attack dog, Public Works chair Matt Allard, pronounce Klein's motion as "dangerous." When challenged to explain, he wimpily pointed to a statement from fellow EPC Councilor Cindy Gilroy which I read 4 times and still didn't see her point to anything actually dangerous either. 

The "danger" was obviously to Bowman's standing with a lot of his core "progressive" supporters and the only reason for council to split 9-7 on a vote about a commonly used wastewater treatment chemical was to show off their power. Bowman then commenced to snipe on Twitter at Klein, labeling those who opposed his direction as  #CollaborationNotDivision. Which got no traction at all.

Klein released a video explaining what was really going on here:

Klein thereafter sent a letter to the Minister of Sustainable Development "requesting the office become engaged with the phosphorus issue at the City of Winnipeg. I will be requesting the Provincial Government officially review the consultant’s report, the supported IISD solution and the City's proposal and timeline as soon as possible."

But between this vote, and Klein's crusade with others (notably Nason and Coun. Janice Lukes) to have a truly fair budget input process involving all council members, the Province should take the hint and get to the root of the problem:

"EPC plus Two Members are not permitted to vote opposed until they properly inform the Mayor in advance. The golden rule that all members must follow is never vote NO to the Budget. Failure to comply will result in termination from the Power Team." Klein explained on Facebook. 

"Have any of the current EPC plus two members ever been responsible for a multi-Million dollar budget? Staff numbers in the hundreds, thousands or higher? Four months to implement a four year budget, is very risky, very risky to taxpayers and our future."
And he also brought up another little-known point: EPC chairs not only get a pay raise, they get control of what is in effect slush money at the Committee level, so wards in the club can get extra's and those on the outs - like North Kildonan, Elmwood and Transcona get no favours. 
That's right, Mayor Collaboration has ZERO representives from the East side of the city in his Bloc. How democratic of him. Klein also said, "I have been told "you don't have enough experience as a Politician to understand why things are done the way they are at City Hall". This is a fact it's been said to me by no less than five fellow members of council." 

The problem is Winnipeg's dysfunction is like an octopus - it touches the water treatment policy and the associated raid on water fee reserve funds while crying poverty to fix the system, the rigged budget process, and is also exposed when Bowman's regime willingly providing free Transit on New Years Eve  but claiming doing so on the federal Election Day - so people can, you know, go VOTE - is too complicated to rush into. And the octopus is spelled E-P-C.

The province has to look deep, deep into what is really wrong, and it's the outdated City Charter. Premier Pallister should restore fairness to the structure of Council and how it does business by eliminating the ability of a mayor to run as his own man, and after the fact rule with a hand-selected, undeclared, political party.

My breaking story about an RCMP investigation into antisemitic hate crime threats by an Alberta suspect is linked here at
The biggest October blizzard since the 1850's rolled through Manitoba last week and as bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse. Thanks for nuthin', Colorado Low.
In Winnipeg there was less precipitation, and less damage to trees, in the northeast quadrant. But when the heavy wet snow kept coming, the removal of picnic benches from parks was abandoned mid-haul.

In mature neighborhoods like St. Boniface, 4 streets in a row turning south off of Despins were blocked by fallen trees. 
In at least one case, BOTH ends of a back alley were blocked, at one end by a fallen Hydro line repair:

At the other end, a hunk of tree ca-RACKED and drooped (but didn't drop) into the laneway:

Investigations, publishing Freedom of Information documents, and standing up for the little guy is what I do.  
I have been covering stories with a citizen journalist approach - holding government and the media to account - for 3 decades. If you are able to donate to support this platform, please go to this page and see how.