St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding has all but formally declared his candidacy for mayor in 2014 -- and is calling for a referendum on the $600-million city-provincial rapid-transit proposal.
The two-term councillor said this morning he is close to making a decision on whether to run for mayor next year as a fiscally conservative, small-government candidate who believes in term limits and referenda on major infrastructure projects.
"If you ask me right now, I think I'm going to be in," Fielding said in an interview, adding his formal campaign launch may not take place until May.
Fielding promised to spend the next few months outlining what he described as a plan to renew trust in the City of Winnipeg.
For starters, he said, voters must have a chance to grant their blessing on a proposed $600-million Fort Garry infrastructure project that includes the completion of the Southwest Transitway, the reconstruction of the Jubilee Avenue underpass on Pembina Highway and combined-sewer replacements in the Point Road/Lord Roberts area.
Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger announced a funding agreement for the project on Tuesday. Fielding said he believes the money may be better spent on roads and wants Winnipeggers to weigh in, perhaps on a referendum ballot next October.
"Let’s be frank, both the mayor and the premier are some of the most unpopular politicians in the province right now. Giving the citizens a say in how they should spend $600 million is a good idea," Fielding said.
Councillors should make decision: Katz
Katz said at a press conference Fielding was exaggerating the cost of rapid transit, noting the $600-million figure includes the underpass and sewer replacement. The mayor, who has never supported the idea of referenda, also said council must make decisions.
"The referendum that you have is when council makes a decision. Everything is subject to council approval. You’re elected to make a decision—they’re not always easy decisions. Quite often they are very difficult," Katz said.
"Councillor Fielding has been against rapid transit from Day One. That’s his opinion, that’s his prerogative."
For now, the 2014 mayoral race only has one declared candidate: former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves.
Fielding and fellow council fiscal conservative Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) are also mulling mayoral runs, along with Katz, lawyer Brian Bowman and former mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis.