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Mayor proposes sharing appointments to EPC

Mayor Sam Katz

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayor Sam Katz Photo Store

The first reform to the decision-making process at city hall in 15 years is on the table.

Mayor Sam Katz wants to change how appointments are made to the powerful executive policy committee.

Katz appoints six members to EPC, who chair the standing committees at council.

He proposed allowing all of council to appoint three members, and he would appoint the other three.

"This way it gives council the opportunity to contribute, and I think that's exactly what council would love," Katz said Wednesday.

Katz has often been criticized for controlling decision-making at city hall with his power to appoint committee chairmen and chairwomen.

EPC is often compared to the cabinets in provincial and federal governments -- a comparison Katz said is inaccurate and misleading.

EPC members receive a salary premium, and that is often considered a way for a mayor to control votes on council.

But Katz always denied he controls 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's proposed reform harkens back to the days of mayor Susan Thompson and the mayors before her, when council controlled committee appointments and the mayors were often labelled as ineffectual figureheads.

That process changed in the late 1990s, when Winnipeg city council was restructured, giving the mayor the power to appoint committee chairmen and chairwomen and influencing the agenda at city hall.

He said the old system to appoint EPC members of council was "just fine" and he isn't worried it will weaken his role as 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 he has discussed the change with some members of city council.

Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) asked for a notice of motion but told reporters he's against a strong-mayor model.

"I feel the strong-mayor model is, 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."

Wyatt said he wants to look more closely at the changes to the charter before the motion passes.

The provincial government has to approve these proposed amendments to the City of Winnipeg Charter.

Katz gave notice council will have a debate on the motion at next month's meeting.

danelle.cloutier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 B2

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