December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
The relationship between the City of Winnipeg and the province has been tense for decades as both governments quarrelled over issues of jurisdiction and funding, but their ability to resolve disputes has rarely been as weak as it is today.
The two sides do not even appear to be on talking terms, as evidenced by a recent series of announcements on funding for roads and infrastructure. The province hasn't invited the city to its press conferences involving civic projects, while Mayor Sam Katz has increasingly attacked Premier Greg Selinger for ignoring the city's needs.
This is not an uncommon occurrence among major cities in Canada today.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, for example, has engaged Alberta's government in a series of verbal jousts over civic powers and new ways of raising revenue. A provincial official called Mr. Nenshi a "politicking peacock," while the mayor accused the province of treating the city like a country bumpkin.
The relationship was so bad, in fact, the two sides agreed to a memorandum of understanding last year to, among other things, show "mutual respect" while working out their differences. So far, it hasn't made much of a difference.
Politicians will be politicians, but the risk in dysfunctional relationships is that vital issues could be set back.
In Winnipeg, progress has stalled on the second leg of the southwest transit corridor because the city and the province aren't able to sit down and work out some of the funding glitches.
Mayor Katz said last month the project might not move forward because the province was refusing to provide a letter of support to the federal government for funding. The two sides also disagree on the funding arrangements, but the difference is only about $20 million, a relatively minor sum for a $350-million project. As the dispute spilled into the open, a cabinet minister told the mayor to stop "shouting his mouth off." Mr. Katz responded by calling the premier "pathetic."
The importance of rapid transit has increased with the opening of the new stadium at the University of Manitoba, but it could be delayed for many years if the city and province can't develop a working relationship.
The mayor and the premier don't have to like one another, but they have a duty to work together for the common good.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2013 A8