Winnipeg, Man. (October 3, 2022) - I am the only Mayoral Candidate who will implement transparency and accountability at City hall, including through eliminating the undemocratic concentration of power of the Executive Policy Committee and through allowing ALL councilors to participate in budget development and the budget working group starting day one.
The root cause of almost all resident issues is a result of inadequate accountability of the performance and actions of elected officials and the administrative management at City Hall. Top level managers, who make annual salaries over $150 k or over $200 k aren’t even subject to adequate performance reviews.
The reason a lack of accountability has developed, is due to a failed system of organization governance commonly referred to as EPC or EPC + 2.
EPC stands for Executive Policy Committee. It is a special group of councillors who are hand selected by the City mayor – the group is not elected by all of council, only chosen by the mayor.
EPC + 2 refers to the EPC plus two other members of council who are hand selected by the mayor: the deputy mayor and the acting deputy mayor. The members of the EPC are appointed by the mayor to chair the main committees of council. Through the EPC, the Mayor and the select membership has control over the agenda of items considered by the council – the topics dealt with, when, and how. Councillors who are not on the EPC have limited ability to influence or add items to the working agenda.
The EPC + 2 members also have significantly higher salaries and higher expense accounts, which reinforces their additional power.
The hand selected EPC councillors also have superior access to information. They have the ability to communicate with and have questions answered by the administration.
Often, such as before meetings of the full Council, the EPC are given exclusive briefings by the administration where all other councillors are barred from attending.
This has been well reported on by retired Winnipeg Free Press journalist Aldo Santin, who through access to information requests determined that in an 8 month period the “EPC + 2 met 58 times in closed-door, private meetings in the mayor’s office” – with all other councillors excluded.
The EPC + 2 also form a majority voting block of 9 people, amongst the 16 member council. Which means that agenda set and the decisions made behind closed doors by the EPC + 2 can result in an undemocratic concentration of power, which can unfairly control the outcomes of all votes without input of the other 7 councillors - who represent almost 50% of the city’s residents.
This results in unnecessary division, internal conflict and political games within the council – and the development of a two party system. Votes often proves this is the case, with 9 councillors voting in favour with 7 against. One such example was the police pension plan:
The intent of the Winnipeg Charter was to establish a Council or board of directors for the City - with equal power shared amongst all 16 members, so that they could equally represent and achieve outcomes for their residents.
With EPC +2, the intent of the charter has been broken and 50% of residents are left without a voice at the table.
Without this voice, and with the time wasted by the internal conflicts caused by the EPC + 2 model, and with a lack of ability of the non-EPC councillors to access and hold accountable the administration, it‘s no wonder why certain resident issues occur and are left unresolved (especially in non EPC councillor wards).
Over the past 4 years, Brian Bowman and Finance Chair Gillingham have set policies to enhance the power of the EPC by creating another exclusive group of councillors called the Budget Working Group (which to no surprise consists of EPC members).
This exclusive group works with administration for months on developing the budget and defining where city tax dollars are spent – with other councillors kept out of the meetings.
Councillors external to the budget working group do not see the hundreds of pages of budget documents until only a few weeks before they are required to be voted on (and accordingly passed by the voting block of EPC + 2).
Over the past 4 years as the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood I never sat on the EPC, EPC +2, or on the budget working group.
Since I was not considered an exclusive member of the club, I had to exert unreasonable levels of action to gain access to information and have any of my residents concerns and policies passed through council. I ended up in a quagmire of endless political games which city residents would be shocked by.
I have spent the past 4 years closely documenting these undemocratic and inefficient council practices. I have made countless videos and press releases, had coverage by the media, and spoken out during many Committee and Council meetings.
On multiple occasions, I made motions to require all councilors to be appointed to the budget working group. These motions were always voted down by the EPC and by Mayoral candidate Gillingham:
At both 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 EPC where other Councillors are excluded.
Campaign Launch Speech on eliminating EPC:
Under the pillar of Real Leadership I made a commitment on August 16 that as Mayor, I will immediately appoint all members of Council to the Budget Working Group; and
· Direct the Winnipeg Public Service to provide any necessary budget information to all members of Council and respond to questions from Councillors with respect to the formulation of the budget within 72 business hours.
· Present the draft capital and operating budgets with separate recommendations for each department for consideration and discussion by all of Council.
· Present the proposed Capital Project Summary listing, as separate recommendations for consideration by consent, organized by department, and that:
· Any member of Council may identify projects in the listing which will not be considered consent items;
· Items which are withdrawn from the consent listing shall be deliberated and voted on by Council separately.
In the news, commitment to all councilors participating in the budget working group:
Under the pillar of Accountability I also made a commitment to eliminate the EPC. I have reproduced this press release and video below:
Further, as mentioned in my campaign launch speech, I will work with the administration to introduce new policies and procedures which makes it acceptable and respectable for City employees and for residents to locate and admit mistakes without fear of punishment/repercussions or subject to being ignored by the establishment.
City employees, and the public, shouldn’t have to face an uphill battle to bring forward problems and suggestions and improvements, especially if they find errors in data.
I will work with the City to establish processes to take corrective actions and make improvements based on the identified issues raised by employees and residents.
This should make large strides in addressing the various issues raised in your questions such as the waste reported within the traffic signals branch, the pushback against the gift of flashing amber lights in school zones, performance of managers and staff, improvements to 311, and various other areas.
As Mayor, I would work with Council to introduce modern management practices which will improve value for each tax dollar and transparently hold departments accountable - not only for their spending, but for the quality of their operations.
Under the pillar of Accountability, I have also made the following commitments to improve transparency of process:
a. Require all Committees of Council, including all subcommittees and boards, to be transparent clerked meetings open to the public – as required by the Winnipeg Charter.
b. Require meetings of the Transit Advisory Committee to be clerked and transparent to the public similar to all other Committees.
c. Require meetings of the Active Transportation Committee to be clerked and transparent to the public similar to all other Committees.
d. Act on the findings of the City Governance Review, including elimination of power imbalances between certain groups of Councillors.
e. Increase funding to the Clerks Department to develop improved educational and informative resources for the public and City staff to learn about the City Governance, the democratic process, the public hearing and meeting process, and utilization of the Decision Making Information System.
f. Work with the Province of Manitoba to conduct a review of the Winnipeg Police Board and its effectiveness, relation to Council, and the ability for Council to effectively participate in public safety and obtain safety related statistics and information.