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This article was published 20/10/2014 (1342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As part of last month's City Beautiful project, the Free Press documented how civic leaders a century ago had a grand vision for Winnipeg.
While local and global events eventually shaped what our city became, key pieces of that vision remain — the Manitoba Legislative Building, Assiniboine Park, the Exchange District.
As part of the lead-up to Wednesday's civic election, we asked Susan Thompson, Winnipeg's first female mayor, Gail Asper, the driving force behind the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the mayoral candidates what makes a visionary mayor.
Here's what they said:
You have to understand the future requires you looking out 25 years... A dream has to be backed up by a team. It has to be backed up by a plan. And you have to give grace to a dream. You can't poo-poo it. We've all had our dreams — the first year is negativity; you have the naysayers. Then it starts building. You build the team, the financing, the plan. You really have to look for leaders — not just political leaders. Community leaders, business leaders, everybody to have a dream.
I would try to find things we're really good at already and we can really build on. Of course arts and culture, we have a great base and we can continue on that, and we can continue on the human rights theme. But the other thing I would say is if you don't have vision and you're the mayor, then get out of the way of people who do. If you are a politician, try not to crush the dreams of other people who come to you...
My brother has a great phrase — 'CAVERS' — Citizens Against Virtually Everything. His greatest advice is — don't look at the CAVERS. They will get you down. My point, please have a vision if you are mayor and if you don't... when you see a bloody creative idea, get behind it, try to help it.
We've had a lot of discussions about vision and what constitutes vision in the context of this election. The irony about this election is that it has a lot to do in the short term with what we're not going to do. Again, I'm speaking specifically of bus rapid transit.
We are moving into a contractionary phase in government. We're well aware our provincial government has $31 billion worth of debt. We're well aware that they're going deeper into debt... there is going to be less and less and less money to spend.
Vision is wonderful, but vision is money. And if you do not have your financial house in order, you are not going to be in a position to institute a vision. My vision — and I've been accused of it not being particularly sexy — is to get our fiscal and financial house in order. That is going to be step one.
I think a visionary mayor needs to first and foremost look forward. What we're seeing from some of the other folks that I'm running against right now is they're looking back and they're almost campaigning in the last campaign. What we're doing is we're looking forward, beyond not just election night, not even the next four years. We're looking at where does Winnipeg need to go in the future.
In my professional career, I had to look out and see where social media was going before I decided to be a social media lawyer and I think that demonstrated some leadership.
A visionary mayor is someone who really believes in the potential of the city, who understands the importance of solid foundations and that means fixing our infrastructure so we don't leave a legacy of crumbling debt to our young people. A visionary mayor knows how to work with citizens to unleash the potential we have to be even greater than we are. A visionary leader is someone who facilitates and motivates other people. It's not someone who comes up with all the ideas. It's about tapping into the potential of all of our citizens who are the experts. And a visionary leader is someone who knows the importance of good governance and creating the opportunities for citizens to participate in the halls of power.
A visionary mayor is a mayor who can see beyond what is immediately at hand and describe and help move a city toward an improved citizen experience. The visionary mayor facilitates a conversation, an ongoing dialogue with citizens, citizen and special interest groups, staff and those stakeholders all of which help to create an improved citizen experience. He or she is proactive in these efforts and can act from a place of impartiality.
Being visionary literally starts with looking at things differently. There is a saying "A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit."
It also means being able to see and share new possibilities for the future where others don't. That means bucking convention. There are always plenty of reasons not to do something, but "that's the way we've always done it" is not one of them.
I have often said in this campaign that we should tackle difficult issues today so that in 20 years, our children won't be dealing with the same problems. Instead, they will look back and say "that is when things started to change for the better." It means thinking big, thinking-long-term, and thinking beyond yourself.
A visionary mayor is a person, like me, that has wisdom teamed up with imagination, to bring a city into the modern world in financial balance. I have proposed during my campaign topics of stabilization and other new topics that haven't been discussed by other candidates. For example, winter amusement, a tourist theatre, or even siren drills. I see this city as a place that would truly attract from the exterior, economically and residentially. I also see the unification of this city so that we can look at it as being one.
During my campaign, I have not promised you golden sidewalks like my contenders have as if we live in the world of Oz. My vision is being realistic.
A visionary is a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.
(Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity)
Updated on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 7:51 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds videos
8:15 AM: Adds link