Updated: Mar 16
Communication is a key ingredient of success in cooking, sports, science, medicine, business and government. Think about it, without communication how can you teach kids to play a sport? How can a doctor learn more about your concern or describe how to take medication? Steve Jobs used communication to make the i-phone possible. Job's kept asking his team to make the main chip smaller and smaller. They could clearly see his vision, not all believed in it, but they could articulate it.
Government has not done a good job of communication. I have spoken to many people that tell me they don't mind paying taxes (No, it's true people have said that) they just want to know where the money is going. It's one of the reason I decided to put my private life on hold and enter public life.
In the two months since I have been in office I have found it difficult to obtain a true picture of the City's financials, that's unacceptable. For example, I Like you, learned transit had an $8 Million dollar surplus via a media report, how can that be? As a former CEO of a large organization and someone who spent over 15 years as a senior executive, I just can't accept a number that is not supported by detailed financials.
This lead me to start asking questions of various people in City Hall about the budget process. What I have discovered thus far is unacceptable and unfair to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Winnipeg. It appears that members of the EPC, the Deputy Mayor, the Assistant Deputy Mayor and the Mayor are the only elected officials in the room working on the budget. That's nine votes in favour of the budget, enough to pass without the support of five other elected officials representing taxpayers in the City of Winnipeg. This group agrees behind closed doors then it is presented for a "vote" at council, knowing it will pass. Full disclosure, each of them is paid more money while they sit on EPC, how does that sit with you?
I won't use this forum to discuss what qualifications each of the nine individuals have to review a multi-million dollar budget. Many of these people are becoming friends and I appreciate what they do for their communities, but business is business. Such a group must have the skills to force a drill down of expenses, find questionable increases. An experienced group would want to ensure any reduction is service staff was coupled with a reduction among Senior Administrative staff. What was the senior executives payroll at the City in 2010 and and what is it today?
A budget working group should know how to read a balance sheet, catch anomalies year over year, understand the risks associated with delaying repairs or upgrades. Understand the impact and requirements of a CBA. Experience to ask for further detail on contractural obligations. I've said this many times, City Council is the Board of Directors for the City, one of the largest employers in the province, each Board Member should be at the table.
The fact five elected officials, chosen by taxpayers, do not have any input to spending your money is not right. The people of Transconna have the same right as the people of Fort Rouge - East Fort Garry, don't they? The representative they elected must be offered the same access to information as any other elected official at the same time, is that not democracy?
Already, we learned of a three year contract worth over $1.2 Million per year was renewed because the City forgot about a clause that automatically renewed it. Granted, mistakes happen I accept that, but we would not have known that had Councillor Nason and I not asked a number of questions. Neither of us are on EPC or permitted to interview Administration Officials about spending.
I want what's best for the City of Winnipeg, I believe each person elected to office wants the same thing. The right thing is to have everyone at the table (all I hear is the importance of inclusion, I guess not everywhere) asking questions and learning the facts. Then being asked to vote as an equally informed elected official as those behind the closed door.
As of today, I can not look any resident in the eye and honestly say the budget is the best the City of Winnipeg can do. I don't see how anyone could stand and be counted in favour of a budget they have NO detailed knowledge of. I can't do that I won't. I've spoken to my advisory board members and not one told me to vote yes, they were very concerned how their money is being managed.
Would you vote yes to a backroom budget?