The first major reform to the decision-making process at city hall in 15 years was proposed at city council today.
Mayor Sam Katz wants to change how appointments are made to the powerful senior executive policy committee. Currently Katz appoints six members to EPC; they chair the standing committees at council.
He proposes allowing all of council to appoint three members, with the mayor appointing the other three.
"This way it gives council the opportunity to contribute and I think that’s exactly what council would love," Katz said.
Katz has often been criticized for controlling decision-making at city hall with his power to appoint committee chairs. The EPC is often compared to the cabinets in provincial and federal governments – a comparison that Katz said is inaccurate and misleading.
EPC members receive a salary premium and that is considered by critics to be a way for a mayor to control votes on council.
But Katz always denied he controlled the votes of EPC members.
"When you’re in power and you decide what you want to do without consulting anyone, then you have a cabinet. You’ve heard those analogies."
Katz not concerned about weakened mayor role
Katz’s proposed reform harkens back to the days of Susan Thompson and the mayors before her, when council controlled committee appointments and mayors were often labeled ineffectual figureheads.
That process changed in the late 1990s, when Winnipeg city council was restructured to give the position of mayor the power to appoint committee chairs and influence the agenda at city hall.
Katz said the old system of council appointing EPC members was "just fine" and he isn’t worried that it will weaken the role of mayor.
"I don’t think there would be anything wrong whatsoever with having council participate to 50 per cent and I don’t think it weakens the mayor whatsoever."
He said his proposed change would make for "a really good balance" and added that he has discussed the change with some members of city council.
Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) told reporters that he’s against a strong mayor model.
"There’s too much power, no matter who the mayor is," he said. "A lot of the problems we’re seeing today and the challenges we’re seeing in the city is because power rests in only one or two hands."
Katz gave notice that council will have the debate on the motion at next month’s meeting.
The provincial government would have to approve the proposed amendments to the City of Winnipeg Charter.