City governance overhaul unwarranted

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The recent Free Press editorial City governance due for overhaul (Oct. 29) makes its case for an overhaul of civic governance based upon its exasperation — and that of a number of councillors — with the manner Mayor Brian Bowman has, or has not, exercised the authorities vested in him in a “strong mayor model” of civic governance.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/11/2016 (2156 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The recent Free Press editorial City governance due for overhaul (Oct. 29) makes its case for an overhaul of civic governance based upon its exasperation — and that of a number of councillors — with the manner Mayor Brian Bowman has, or has not, exercised the authorities vested in him in a “strong mayor model” of civic governance.

While many of the decisions made by city council are open to justified criticism, respectfully, nothing in the exasperation with the mayor’s choices warrants the motion to review governance tabled last week by Coun. Russ Wyatt, nor the call for an overhaul of civic governance.

Whether or not a councillor is elevated to or removed from the executive policy committee is, should, and must remain a decision for the mayor to make — the only political person elected at large by a majority of votes cast once every four years with expectations for delivery of promises — and not council.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Mayor Brian Bowman

We may not like how the mayor exercises that authority in his cabinet selection and adjustments during his term in office, no more or less than the premier in his choices, but those choices are best left with the two respective offices.

By extension of the logic behind Wyatt’s motion, would we also call for change in the provincial structure each and every time there is disagreement, disappointment or exasperation with decisions made by the premier? Would there be a clarion call to remove the authority of the premier to select his or her cabinet? Not likely, nor should there be.

The public’s chances to “weigh in” happen regularly in expressing opinion, weighing in on the policy debates as they happen and then ultimately assessing overall performance once every four years in a vote.

We cannot expect leadership decisions and direction from the office of the mayor (or premier) if we neuter that very office of the levers of influence, decision-making and authority. To do so would inevitably weaken the city’s political governance, leading to gridlock or an inordinately powerful bureaucracy.

The Winnipeg Free Press, the public, stakeholders and councillors certainly have every right to express exasperation with decisions and choices made based upon their assessment of the merit of those decisions.

In defending the existing “strong mayor” governance model structure, I am certainly not defending this mayor’s choices. The public is invited, regularly, to express itself on those choices, and his leadership in the most recent matter (development fees) and his record (ie. the True North development, for example).

I had as much opportunity as anyone to voice a point of view — and did — in trying to influence the mayor’s decision on imposing what I believe is a destructive and unfair fee upon new development, but to no avail. That’s life in the evolution of public policy.

None of this, however, justifies weakening the structure we need to function effectively and efficiently.

It may, though, provide reason for those who dislike his decisions to register their discontent at the polls in two years’ time. That is the ultimate check to the “strong mayor” and the council as a whole.

Chris Lorenc is president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.

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