Canstar Community News - ONLINE EDITION
Time for change has arrived at city hall
The 2010 mayoral campaign has presented voters with a choice between staying the course or taking a chance.
Incumbent Mayor Sam Katz and former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis are the frontrunners of four candidates vying for the city’s top job — and despite initial speculation that the mayoral race would be a battle of right against left (the Conservative-supported businessman verses the veteran NDP politician), many of the platform planks announced by Katz and Wasylycia-Leis in recent weeks have been remarkably similar; evidence, perhaps, that people with differing political ideologies can still recognize a good idea when they see one.
Both Katz and Wasylycia-Leis have promised increased investment in community centres. Both have pledged to create more multi-level, mixed use parkades downtown in an effort to decrease the number of surface lots. Both support the establishment of a vehicle-free pedestrian mall. And both have committed to tackling crime with more cops and increased levels of inner-city programming.
Beyond the common ground, however, are other issues which should serve to guide undecided voters as they prepare to cast their ballots on Oct. 27.
Wasylycia-Leis has said she will end Winnipeg’s 13-year property-tax freeze if elected with a plan that will see 2% annual increases for the next four years — a risky pledge for a candidate on the hunt for votes to make, yet one that has helped differentiate her from Katz, who thus far has refused to say if he’d do the same.
On the issue of rapid transit, Katz has come out in favour of light rail — a far costlier, if sexier option — while Wasylycia-Leis remains committed to bus rapid transit, at least until the BRT corridor currently under construction to Jubilee Avenue is extended all the way to the University of Manitoba.
Then there is transparency at city hall to consider. Wasylycia-Leis has repeatedly accused Katz of promoting a culture of secrecy during his tenure as mayor, citing council’s recent decision to enter into a 30-year sewage-treatment plant contract with Veolia and the public backlash against new active transportation infrastructure investments as proof that Winnipeggers are not being properly informed about civic issues which directly affect their day-to-day lives.
It is on this topic that Katz, as incumbent, is vulnerable. Arguably, after six years at the city’s helm, people who might once have forgiven the occasional procedural misstep or questionable policy decision as growing pains from a rookie politician will be less inclined to cut him the same slack now. While Katz can rightfully lay claim to some accomplishments (the aforementioned property-tax freeze, the reduction of business taxes, the introduction of CrimeStat and additional funding for police), his entire record — both good and bad — now speaks more than any campaign promise.
Simply put, Winnipeg voters must decide if Katz has done enough to warrant being rewarded with another term as mayor. Offered a viable alternative in Wasylycia-Leis — a candidate with considerable political experience who, in addition to supporting some of the initiatives pledged by her opponent, has also championed workable, grassroots solutions to local problems — it’s reasonable to suggest citizens might now be ready for a change in leadership, if only to see what someone new can bring to the table. In fact, if Wasylycia-Leis can deliver on her promises, that change could prove to be a sound choice for the city.
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