Winnipeg, Man. (September 23, 2022) - The letter below is my reply to a set of questions proposed by a coalition of 26 environmental groups about solutions to several key environmental issues (the group includes: Biz For Climate, CPAWS Manitoba, Environmental Health Association of Manitoba, Functional Transit Winnipeg, Green Action Committee of Unitarian-Universalist Church, Little Mountain Park Conservancy Group, Inc., Little Mountain Park Pet Owners Association, OURS-Winnipeg, Save Our Seine Environment Inc., Sustainable Buildings Manitoba, University of Manitoba Students Union, and others).
Aligned with my commitment to transparency and public participation, I have posted my reply to the group on my website. I was also invited to a debate hosted by this group at the University of Manitoba on September 26th. Unfortunately, I had already previously confirmed attendance at a conflicting event and will not be able to attend the debate.
The reply below shares my responses and perspectives in detail, as although I am unable to attend, I place strong priorities on protecting the environment as Mayor - which I have also demonstrated by my 4 year track record as a Councillor (see below).
My response is as follows:
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your forum. Thank you for ensuring our environment is a key issue in this critical election. Unfortunately, I have a previously scheduled commitment with a community group and will not be able to participate in the forum. I have attached to my reply the answers to your questions.
I would also welcome the opportunity to meet with your organization and others if you wish.
Kevin Klein – Mayoral Candidate 2022
Reply to Environmental Forum Survey
1. The City of Winnipeg's Community Energy Investment Roadmap (CEIR) calls for an investment of $23 billion over the next 30 years to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Do you support this goal?
I support the overall concept of the CEIR. I’m strongly for sustainability especially as it relates to 1) the environment and 2) financial management (fiscal policy).
For details on the portfolio of environmental sustainability initiatives I have already raised at Council over the past four years, please take time to review all the motions summarized in the following link:
We also have to make city finances sustainable to ensure we have the ability to achieve environmental objectives such as the CEIR.
I will highlight that the City debt has quadrupled from $415 million in 2005 to $1.6 billion in 2020/21 (numbers directly taken from the City’s Financial Annual Reports). Simultaneously, in the past year the City has emptied it’s financial reserve accounts by $88 million – almost a 25% drop in savings over a 1 year period. At the beginning of 2021, the City’s Financial Stabilization Reserve fund was at $120 million and is now forecasted to be at $20.1 million by the end of 2022 – that’s a 85% drop, and $57 million below the City’s legal limits. Even while the City has had extra payments from other levels of government for pandemic support, and with an almost 20% increase in tax rates (2.33% a year) over the past 8 years. The huge debt levels and defunding of the reserve accounts make it very difficult to finance the various areas of importance to residents whether it be infrastructure, city services, or local culture and the environment.
Currently the City brings in about $800 million in property taxes each year. So mathematically it isn’t feasible to achieve an investment close to $1 billion a year as proposed by the CEIR.
Not saying we shouldn’t invest in the CEIR or other City objectives, rather that more collaborative innovation is required to realistically reach the desired targets in a creative way (such as encouraging private sector investment and attracting investments from other levels of government) rather than relying solely on City finances.
Please remember the words: collaboration, innovation, and creativity. These are the methods that we need to work on and enhance in order to find and implement solutions to our City’s issues.
2. How much funding should be allocated to this goal during your term in office?
See Answer 1. Above
3. To support the transition to net zero, please describe your plan, how you will fund it, when you will implement it, and why you chose this approach.
Achieving net zero is a massive undertaking. Every level of government – from local to national to international (global), as well as all the residents, cultures (such as indigenous, settlers, and new Canadians), and also businesses (from small shops to multinationals) have a role to play. No one group can do it on their own. At the municipal level, we can make a difference by preserving the remaining green space and natural areas, while simultaneously taking innovative, collaborative, and creative steps to the ways we plan, develop, and grow our city. This will include more environmentally friendly construction practices, transportation systems, solid & liquid waste management practices, and green upgrades to other basic city services. To do this, we need to start by making the city more accountable with its decisions and current fiscal abilities. To do this I will work with the new council and with the province to eliminate the Executive Policy Committee + 2 (the undemocratic concentration of power to 9 members of Council, hand selected by the Mayor, which can unfairly control the outcome of all votes - without input of the other 7 Councillors) from the Winnipeg Charter and council governance process.
I have argued this point obstinately over the past four years, have made countless videos and press releases, had coverage by the media, and spoken out during many Committee and Council meetings.
Do you remember the first year of the multi-year budget process, and the attempts by the City administration and Executive Policy Committee (EPC) to cut funding to a large variety of environmental and cultural programs – all without accounting for any of the benefits those environmental programs bring to the City?
I have made it very clear in many public comments, press releases, media conferences, and videos that the current budgeting process at City Council is a disaster.
Anyone who attended the multi-year budget meetings in 2020 knows how painful it was, and how the City tried to cut funding to many community organizations. The City tried to close libraries, pools, arenas, recreation facilities, sell off golf courses, eliminate transit routes, reduce service schedules, eliminate the UPass program, defund community centres, and much more.
Subsequent budgets have had little time for review and comment by residents and Councillors. Most decisions are made in advance, behind closed doors, with the budget working group that was hand selected by the Mayor.
The resulting policies and budget approvals are rammed through Council by the Executive Policy Committee voting bloc.
In short, public participation and ideas are largely ignored – which contradicts the City’s own Open Government Policy:
At my campaign launch and during my first campaign announcement (video links below) I made it clear that that: on day one, all Councillors will be participants in the budget working group, all Councillors will have equal access to information, and I will put an end to closed door meetings of the Executive Policy Committee where other Councillors are excluded.
Campaign Launch Speech on EPC:
First campaign media conference, announcing commitment to the participation of all Councillors on the Budget Working Group:
Winnipeg Free Press article on Budget Working Group:
As Mayor I will work with the Council to direct a zero-based budget review and increase the public’s knowledge of the City’s financial status and align this with the public expectations.
Accountable finances, fully transparent and easily interpretable by the public, will allow the public to analyze and determine whether certain departments have enough funding, need more, or are wasting it and need to be reined in.
· Winnipeg Trails and Bike Winnipeg have continuously proven to council through solid fiscal analysis that the City needs to invest more in building and promoting active transportation.
(Winnipeg Trails Association Submission to Council – December 4th 2019)
(Bike Winnipeg Submission to Council - March 18th 2020)
· Save our Seine has continuously proven the cost savings to the city of having clean and healthy rivers for residents to enjoy and learn to connect with nature. The return on investment of this work is much higher than what the City can currently provide on its own. This work must be recognized better, rather than threatened as cut.
· The various university student associations have clearly demonstrated the financial benefit to the city in retaining and expanding the transit system UPASS program.
· OURS-Winnipeg has successfully shown the value of retaining green space, and underscored the poor green space metrics of the City in comparison to other jurisdictions across Canada.
(OURS-Winnipeg - Comparative Park Statistics)
This information needs to be better communicated to the public so they can see the value for their tax dollars. We need to funnel this positive energy of the various environmental non-profits to achieve more. It was an embarrassment to see the various groups trying to defend their funding in the 2020 multi-year budget. Wouldn’t it have been much more beneficial to use this energy to attract more resources, more investment, and buy in from Winnipeggers and other levels of government – rather, than waste the energy of the volunteer base on defending cuts?
As Mayor, I will reintroduce transparent and accountable financial decision making processes, such as cost/benefit analysis and return on investment analysis, prioritization, and other methods so that the un-redacted facts are available to Councillors, the pubic, and other levels of government.
We will prove to other levels of government that City finances are best value for City and agreed upon. The Provincial and Federal governments will hand out money if they see proof of value, and little arguments over its spending. The City needs to set the conditions for this, through improved fiscal processes and inclusive decision making.
It is through this improved fiscal transparency, accountability, and collaborations that the City and environmental groups will be able to attract the support and resources from other levels of government and the private sector (P3) in order to finance the plan to reach net zero.
I have also already taken steps to try and reduce City fuel usage and carbon emissions. Such as this motion on reducing fuel usage:
And this motion on aligning with the fuel and natural gas reduction goals of the International Energy Agency (IEA):
(IEA Playing My Part Report – April 21 2022)
4. The CEIR report calls for the full electrification of road vehicles, including Winnipeg Transit, and increasing the share of trips made by transit or active transportation. Do you support these goals?
Yes, I support these goals. Here is my previous policy announcement:
"Winnipeg, Man. (September 16, 2022) - The letter below is my preliminary commitment to Active Transportation and Electric Vehicles for the 2022 City of Winnipeg Mayoral Election.
1. Double annual funding to Active Transportation Department - which as been cut 70% from 2018 funding levels ($5.7 million to less than $1.9 million in 2023 budget), by the current Council - budgets which I did not support.
2. Initiate continuous improvement processes to improve active transportation network safety and reduce pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities.
3. Fund and implement a Road Safety Strategic Action Plan.
4. Revise the Winnipeg Zoning Bylaw to incentivize high quality secure bicycle parking, including reduction of the automotive parking ratios (make tradeoff options available to developers).
5. Establish formal policy and actions to deter bicycle theft within the City.
6. Revise by-laws to require bicycle parking to be enclosed and monitored by camera or security personnel at large facilities such as hospitals, colleges/universities, shopping centers, large sporting/fitness/entertainment venues, and hotels/motels.
7. Require meetings of the Active Transportation Committee to be clerked and transparent to the public similar to all other Committees.
8. Update the Winnipeg Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies in conjunction with the next update of the Transportation Master Plan to ensure that future roads investments requiring AT will be reviewed and analyzed prior to making road investments.
9. Major bicycle network upgrades targeted to be funded and started within 8 years:
· Pembina Highway
· University Crescent
· Sherbrook St.
· Stradbook Av
· River Av.
· Marion St.
· Fermor Av.
· Arlington St.
· Templeton Av.
10. Major sidewalk network upgrades targeted to be funded and started within 8 years:
· St. Mary’s Rd.
· Kenaston Blvd.
· Logan Ave.
· Jarvis Ave.
1) Implement electrical vehicles incentives, previously voted down by council (modifications to original motions may be required, with similar intent).
a) Motion for reduced parking rates for electric vehicles: https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20859&SectionId=598309&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20859
b) Motion for reduced taxi/rideshare licensing fees for electric vehicles: https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20971&SectionId=604493&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20971
2) Incentivize electric vehicle ownership to encourage technology uptake.
3) Reduce city vehicular fuel consumption and gas usage within facilities, in accordance with my previous Council motion:
4) Modernize development bylaws to account for the transition to electric vehicles, including the implementation of charging stations and planning for increased power infrastructure.
5) Require all new transit bus purchases to be electric or hybrid type, rather than diesel (such as the 43 new diesel buses the City is currently seeking approval for at a cost of $40 million plus tax - which I do not support). "
5. How much funding should be allocated to this goal during your term in office?
As Mayor, I would dedicate the necessary funding for these items. Again, see my answer to question 1 to gain more understanding of funding difficulties and the innovation, collaboration, and creativity to find solutions which go beyond the typical funding of city operations via property taxes.
I will highlight that large transit projects and the purchase of electric buses are quite costly ventures. For example, I cannot commit to immediate replacement of the whole transit fleet with electric buses due to the extremely high costs. However, if buses are requiring replacement, I can commit to replacing them with electric – so that over time, the whole fleet is eventually electrified.
I will note that currently, the City consumes about 25 million liters of fuel in a year. At $1 a liter, this amounts to $25 million a year on fuel. At $2 a liter (which is closer to where we are now), this is $50 million a year on fuel. You will notice that electrification becomes quite cost effective to the City with such high fuel prices, and the potential for long term savings is immense.
6. To support the transition to more sustainable transportation, please describe your plan, how you will fund it, when you will implement it, and why you chose this approach.
See Answer 1. and 5. Above
7. The OurWinnipeg 2045 Development Plan calls for more greenspace and natural areas in the City of Winnipeg to protect and enhance the natural environment and mitigate climate change impacts. Do you support these goals?
To be clear, I am committed to protecting Winnipeg’s greenspace and natural areas. Over the past four years as a City Councilor, I have worked hard to protect City green space and trees. Including successfully preventing the sale of the John Blumberg Golf Course, adding 1000 acres of park space, various tree protection efforts, bird-friendly development, composting, fuel/GHG reduction, electric vehicle incentives, and other environmental initiatives.
Four motions I made to protect greenspace are located at the link below (most were successfully adopted in the OUR Winnipeg Planning document):
I also made the successful motion to add 1,000 acres of park space from the June 24 2021, Council meeting:
“That Item 1 of the Report of the Executive Policy Committee dated June 16, 2021, be amended by adding the following new recommendation 1.A. i.d. “1.A.i.d. A commitment to increasing the public reserve land within the City of Winnipeg by taking steps to add another 1,000 acres of public park space in addition to the already existing public reserve lands.” – Moved by Kevin Klein on June 24, 2021
Please view this video of the accountability for public trees cut on Roblin (eventually resulted in planned replanting):
I also made a motion for bird-friendly design guidelines:
I made a motion to stop the sale of John Blumberg golf course and to retain as greenspace:
8. How much funding should be allocated to this goal during your term in office?
I’m absolutely committed to adding 1000 acres of new greenspace, above our currently existing greenspace levels. Over 25 years, this amounts to adding 40 acres a year. How we achieve this will take working with environmental organizations and residents to select and prioritize areas of the city which should be protected.
If we have a solid and multi-stakeholder agreed on greenspace expansion plan, we should be easily able to leverage all the funding necessary for the required protections of the associated land. There will be financing, as long as we work collaboratively and have our plans aligned.
The year to year commitment of funding may vary, but I’m confident it would be significantly enough to achieve the targeted objectives.
As mayor, I will need help from environmental groups to help define the plans and prioritizations moving forward. It’s clear that areas such as Lemay forest, and the lands south of Assiniboine forest are already of large interest for protection.
9. To support a greener city, please describe your plan, how will you fund it, when will you implement it, and why you chose this approach. We also welcome comments on any or all of the the points below:
Please take time to review the Trees Please Pledge which I have taken, and all the associated links and motions I have shared via this hyperlink:
I have also committed, as requested by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), to work to establish the Assiniboine Forest as a national park. As mayor, I would also take steps to protect the adjacent lands.
On August 12th, I was one of the first (possibly the first) mayoral candidate to commit to the Trees Please Winnipeg #SaveOurCanopy campaign to plant, maintain, and protect. Details on my commitment are found here: https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/dear-trees-please-coalition-volunteers-and-residents
Please review my answers to questions 4, 7, 8, 10 and 12 for other commitments.
I will also be announcing the following environmental commitments in the coming weeks:
a. Urgent development and implementation of tree protection bylaws for Major Open Spaces, and a tree protection by-law for areas which are not considered Major Open Spaces, similar to the City of Vancouver’s Tree Protection Bylaw 9958 and Street Tree Bylaw 5985 (Motion defeated by Committee on June 10th 2022)
b. Develop a plan and dedicate funding to the previously approved Council target to add 1000 acres of parkland within the city
c. Funding the urgent development of the Greenspace and Natural Corridors Plan By-law and the Biodiversity Policy previously requested by Council
d. Funding and urgently implementing the Winnipeg Parks Strategy
e. Funding and urgently implementing the Winnipeg Recreation Strategy
f. Enhance the winter utilization of greenspace and golf course lands.
g. Enhance the criteria and utilization of the Land Dedication Reserve Fund
h. Establishing light pollution bylaws and building design standards.
i. Achieve Nature Canada Bird Friendly City Certification
j. Incorporate CSA Bird Friendly Best Practices into the Building Code
k. Issue incentives for developers who incorporate green and nature friendly building practices.
l. Develop an expert committee to find solutions, prioritize, and speed up the process of preventing sewer overflows into the Winnipeg river system.
10. OURWinnipeg 2045 Development Plan includes the goal of good health and well-being. Do you support public health measures to address climate change and foster a healthier and more resilient Winnipeg?
I have previously made motions to support the uptake of composting, specifically encouraging onsite composting: