Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big-picture leadership should be mayoral candidates' aspiration

Without growth-generated revenue, proper social-program funding impossible

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We should challenge those aspiring to be Winnipeg's next mayor to demonstrate their leadership qualities. Let them lay out a fresh vision with an accompanying definition of "opportunity" and show why voters should give the candidate an "opportunity" to be mayor. Here are some areas against which to test both their ability to lead and association with "opportunity."

Winnipeg has undergone significant positive transformation over the past 10 years, benefiting from growth that continues to tease its horizon. Without sustained economic-growth-generating revenues to governments, proper funding of social programs is impossible. Growth requires big-picture leadership. Therefore, the best candidate is the one willing to challenge the status quo, seize economic opportunities and accept accountability for results.

Winnipeg is part of the capital region that produces nearly 70 per cent of the provincial GDP. The best candidate will demonstrate a vision embracing a capital region economic-growth strategy, harnessing its advantages from which Winnipeg and the region benefit.

Trade is important to Manitoba's economy, directly or indirectly employing upwards of 240,000 Manitobans with most living in Winnipeg. CentrePort Canada -- Canada's first inland port -- has the potential to grow the region's global trade profile. Economic Development Winnipeg's 'Yes Winnipeg' seeks to attract external investment. Establishing the Port of Churchill as Canada's northern trade gateway can potentially generate billions in new trade by which Manitoba, Western Canada, Winnipeg and the capital region would benefit. The visionary candidate will understand and embrace such initiatives.

Winnipeggers need a candidate who understands the pivotal relationship importance between Winnipeg's mayor and capital region counterparts. There should be a commitment to position Winnipeg for a leadership role for the good of the capital region.

Further, the best candidate will demonstrate critical capacity to park political differences and effectively collaborate with the premier (a two-way street) around regional economic-growth strategies, transportation systems and core infrastructure service delivery. The underpinning objectives must be to support sustained growth, jobs, career and investment opportunities for those here and yet in school.

Winnipeg needs to be a heard voice at the national level. We need our mayor to play a far greater leadership role with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and influence municipal priorities with the federal government. Governance at city council is overdue for a review. The right candidate must demonstrate an understanding of civic governance and an ability to lead its change. Councillors should act more as a "board of directors," setting thoughtful policy and direction and not pretend to act in place of department directors or managers.

The mayor and council should expect policy implementation and hold accountable those responsible for failure to deliver its priorities. To inject accountability, council requires support from an arm's-length treasury branch that oversees all financial matters, and an independent policy branch enabling research and policy options without the inherent bias of internal thinking. This would inject competition between ideas -- a true strength of democratic governance.

All of us elect the mayor at large to lead our city, including responsibility for shaping executive policy committee (EPC), the cabinet of civic government. No candidate should accept being hamstrung by a misguided notion council will tell the mayor who to appoint to cabinet. We want to keep the ability at elections to reward the mayor for success, or hold them accountable for failure to lead.

Term limits nurture the importance of elected public service and the associated opportunity to make a difference to one's community. Elected public service should not be restricted to those with the advantage of incumbency. Three consecutive four-year terms as limits upon the office of mayor and councillor enable greater access to more people to offer their service to the public. The preferred candidate will champion the good-governance opportunities associated with term limits.

Our infrastructure is broken and we want it fixed. It platforms our economy, allows our commerce to be productive and products less expensive. Winnipeg's next mayor should demonstrate an understanding sustained and strategic investment in infrastructure grows our economy and therefore commit to linking investment to principles. We propose these six: a permanent program; focused on economic growth; embracing innovation; harnessing private-sector partnerships; transparently funded by dedicated revenue streams; and subject to mandatory public reviews for adjustment.

And most importantly, Winnipeg's next mayor must reframe budget thinking at city hall from "how do I raise money," to "how do I harness" the operating and capital budgets to leverage investment and economic growth ultimately enabling the funding of our quality-of-life programs.

There are many other important areas such as social policy, recreation and safety to name a few. The points raised above, however, are essential, because they enable all other concerns the chance of consideration. No leadership? No governance. No economy? No revenues. No revenues? No programming.

What do you say candidates? Are you interested in earning the 'opportunity' of being mayor? Let's hear from you.

Chris Lorenc is president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association and Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 5, 2014 A9

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