Response to a Lengthy and Well Informed Resident Letter

Winnipeg, Man. (September 17, 2022) - The letter below is my reply to a detailed and well informed email a resident sent requesting information about proposed solutions to several key City issues.

Aligned with my commitment to transparency and public participation - and in acknowledgement that the resident correctly identified concerns which the whole City should learn about - I have posted the reply to the resident on my website.



My response is as follows, answering in order of the many important concerns identified in the resident’s email:



Good Day,


As a Councillor and now as a Mayoral candidate, I strongly support a liveable, inclusive, and sustainable city.


Inclusivity


In the first few minutes of my platform launch speech I talk about making Winnipeg healthy again and the importance of inclusivity of all political beliefs, cultures, and diverse backgrounds. Click on the link below to access this part of my speech:


https://youtu.be/SxOvrz2QE7o?t=1025


Sustainability


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:


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/dear-trees-please-coalition-volunteers-and-residents


I will also highlight that I have been very vocal on the electrification of the transit system, and don’t understand why our City continues its plans to purchase new diesel buses well into the future. Especially since we have a major electric bus manufacturer available in our City which supports many local jobs. As Mayor, I will work to eliminate the planned purchase of diesel buses and require all new buses to be hybrid, electric, or natural gas driven.


With regards to financial sustainability. I will highlight that the City debt has quadrupled from $415 million in 2005to $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.


Plus we have inflation of supplies and wage inflation as the various unions renew their collective agreements. Further gas prices have at least doubled, if not tripled from the average prices of the last several years.

I am very aware of these realities and have been the only Councillor to relentlessly push for improved fiscal accountability and debt management over the past four years. I have placed significant pressure on our financial department to be more transparent and accountable with its finances, debt management, taxation policies, and spending.


I was also the first Councillor to demand financial planning to address the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic and introduce the City’s Covid-19 Financial Plan and Recovery Strategy (which another candidate often takes credit for).


Much more will be said about sustainable fiscal management throughout our campaign for Mayor – we already have a plan, however it will be released gradually in easier to understand chunks.


My YouTube channel has many videos that cover my stance on fiscal sustainability, and there are also several press releases on my website. For ease of access, a sample of these are listed below:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xdl744uybI – The Piggy Bank is Being Drained


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KJtG_p5A-0 – Winnipeg Debt Money Troubles


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/a-city-without-a-plan


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/the-city-s-economic-recovery-plan-should-take-a-different-approach


Social and cultural sustainability is also very important for a healthy City. We will continue to support a vibrant and fresh City with arts, sports, multiculturalism, indigenous/Metis acknowledgement and pride. Our City already does a great job with culture and ambiance such as with all the festivals (Folklorama had record attendance this year), however, there are definitely areas for improvement and building new opportunities. Stay tuned to our campaign platform announcements as I release this plan. We want people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy life in this City, especially when they aren’t at work or school. As an example, here is a video I did on promoting local cross country ski trails in the winter:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1y4Lbikp-M


Community Safety


Community safety is extremely important to my campaign. A City can’t be sustainable or healthy if it’s unsafe.


There are many aspects to a safe community. This includes crime reduction initiatives, effective policing, poverty reduction and support efforts led by community groups and social enterprises, mental health supports allied to provincial and federal funding and programs, transit system safety, workplace safety (especially for transit/fire/police/paramedic staff), by-law enforcement of unsafe practices, participation and buy-in of residents and City staff, road/active transportation safety, emergency preparedness, effective emergency response (available fire/paramedic/policing units), and proactive maintenance of infrastructure – proactively preventing structural failures, sink holes, etc...




Over the past four years, I have taken large steps to improve community safety, many which have been voted down or ignored by Council. As Mayor, I will continue to advocate for such initiatives and work with Council to direct the administration to prioritize and modernize community safety practices.


The following is a list of links to various community safety efforts, motions, and videos which cover some of the community safety work I have completed over the past 4 years:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3yR26cApS4Violent Crime Index


https://winnipegsun.com/news/crime/violent-crime-capital-winnipeg-tops-national-list-for-all-the-wrong-reasons - Violent Crime Severity Index


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20859&SectionId=598311&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20859 - Motion for report on transit safety


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/we-cannot-continue-to-ignore-community-safety-in-winnipeg - Press release on safety and transit safety


https://www.facebook.com/KevinKleinwpg/videos/346640524121869/ - Policing Townhall


https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/we-need-to-do-something-councillor-calls-on-colleagues-to-help-fund-main-street-project-s-van-patrol-1.5372949 - Main Street Project



City hall ineffectiveness


I agree with your stance that EPC+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) is a major issue.


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.


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.


https://youtu.be/SxOvrz2QE7o?t=1489 – Campaign Launch Speech on EPC


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZjDfQVgw2U- First campaign media conference, announcing commitment to the participation of all Councillors on the Budget Working Group


https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/2022/08/16/klein-plans-to-overhaul-civic-budget-process-if-he-becomes-mayor


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.


Much more will be said about these plans as the campaign roles out – again in smaller easy to understand chunks.


Your concern that house taxes must increase


This is not a point which I necessarily agree on. Something must be done to address the City’s fiscal issues, but what exactly must be done needs to be investigated further.


Besides seeking funding from other levels of government, the City has the ability to find financing through developing new revenue structures, eliminating waste or finding efficiency, and increased or decreased taxation.


Such decisions are complex, and will not be treated lightly or arbitrary.


The first step is to conduct zero based budget reviews and increase public knowledge of City’s financial status and align this with the public expectations. I have called for such budgeting processes for 4 years, and plan to introduce them as Mayor. Zero based budgeting is proven to save other cities millions of dollars in unnecessary expenditures.


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.


To increase taxes, the City needs to prove to the public it’s managing current resources well and requires tax increases directly to address service improvements, in alignment with public expectations/demands.


As an example, I have argued for years that the Planning Department, which determines the future of hundreds of millions of investment dollars and the City layout, is completely underfunded. As a result City planning and new developments are full of issues for residents, headaches for developers, and lawsuits. We finance the department at less than 1/3rd other major Canadian cities, yet it’s one of the departments that brings in the most non-property tax City revenue. Wouldn’t we want to increase funding to this department to increase value to residents, improve quality, reduce resident issues to find developments that work for our City, and also expand this revenue stream? This is not handing out a blank cheque to the department. There will be accountability for improvements from invested dollars, however, we can’t expect progress without strategic long term investment.


There are other departments which, in my opinion, are underperforming and require waste reduction and efficiency improvements. The savings found can appropriately be redirected to better finance underfunded departments, or can be put to better value within the existing department.


This data will be brought public, so that the City can prove how it’s managing its resources and whether it really needs to have taxation increases, or perhaps a tax decrease.


There are limits to tax increases. Residents may move to surrounding RMs or other provinces to find lower taxation, resulting in lower overall tax collection. Inflation is impacting resident’s budgets as are global economic conditions. There are many factors in setting appropriate rates.


If I have the opportunity to become the next Mayor, I will work to end the arbitrary tax increases based on guesswork and politics. Taxation should be linked to data, well managed finances, and alignment of public expectations to reality.


The more we analyse and share, the more solutions we can find together.


For example, I like the idea of rebating taxes to efficient businesses and residents who can demonstrate they are saving the City on expenditures. Here are two such motions I raised, related to the reduction of City waste management costs through on-site composting:


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20859&SectionId=598310&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20859 - Tax rebate motion for home based composting


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20911&SectionId=600772&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20911 - Tax rebate motion for composting commercial kitchens and restaurants



The Police Budget and Policing


This is a complex issue. There have been many who have said the police are over-funded, or need to be completely defunded, or need large funding increases. These are all over-simplifications which do not consider the details of current policing capabilities, areas of expertise, and program funding details.


The City of Winnipeg has grown significantly in land area and population over the past several decades, and policing resources have not expanded accordingly. The City Council needs to conduct more analysis on how the Police are funded and where that funding is spent. Similar to my previous response, detailed fiscal analysis in combination with goal setting and alignment of public expectations will guide the City Council how to set the police budget. As well as establishing fiscal coordination with other levels of government. I hope to release more information on this within in the coming months.


Vacant Houses and Bylaw Enforcement


Over the past four years as Councillor, I have put forth several motions to address vacant houses and derelict buildings. I will continue to pursue these and other policies if elected Mayor. The following links are samples of such policies I have put forth:


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=21976&SectionId=656101&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/pd/2022/a21976 - Reducing vacant building fires


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=21388&SectionId=623589&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a21388 - Examining vacant building fees


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=21388&SectionId=624025&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a21388 - Non-resident speculation and vacant houses


As Mayor, I will work to increase by-law enforcement capabilities. If we have by-laws we should enforce them, especially in areas of public safety.


On the topic of short term rentals and associated by-law enforcement, I have formally raised with the planning and legal departments questions on why certain bed and breakfast property owners require permits and conditional uses whereas others do not. As Mayor, I will continue to hold the City accountable for fair application of by-laws for all residents and businesses. We will not treat people differently based on where they live or type of business.


Homelessness and poverty


Excellent suggestions. I have taken a strong position on Council to advocate for better housing solutions for our most vulnerable residents. This includes requesting a review of vacant City buildings to be shared with poverty reduction organizations. I was the first Councillor to suggest the use of City property to establish community safe spaces (which many others are now calling for):


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/a-new-way-of-thinking-for-empty-space


As you have mentioned, I was able to work closely with the Homes for Heroes organization to help them succeed in the uphill task of navigating City politics to gain the ability to purchase land for their new development project. This project is geared towards addressing homelessness issues amongst the veteran population.


https://winnipegsun.com/news/news-news/plans-for-veterans-village-officially-unveiled


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFUneCyO2kg - Campaign launch speech, Homes for Heroes


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsWcMRZZW9U – Homes for Heroes – CJOB Radio


I have strongly advocated for emergency public meetings of Council to address transit system safety, which includes the use of City bus shelters as temporary homeless encampments. We need to address safety for both transit system riders and for those living in the bus shelters. We need to restore some common level of dignity for the places people refer to as their home.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRBeQJRWDwQ – CTV News – Letter for special meeting on transit safety


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/klein-calls-for-special-meeting-on-transit-safety - Press release special meeting for transit safety


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOJa5mdIhMQ – Transit safety letter follow-up


As Mayor, I would have the ability to direct and ensure that these special meetings on homelessness, poverty reduction, and community/transit safety occur.


There will be no more delays. From day one as Mayor I will book these meetings and invite all stakeholders including: poverty reduction experts and organizations, public health experts, residents, community advocates, local businesses, members of the police/fire/paramedic/transit unions and anyone else who has interest to attend and collaboratively work to develop solutions, and take the responsibility to implement them.


The link below is a frank conversation I had on this early in 2021 with Jamil Mahood - Executive Director of the Main Street Project - on overall poverty reduction strategies:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpYLGpKzsbc- Main Street Project, poverty reduction


I have also taken steps and made a motion to increase the accessibility of those experiencing assaults and violence to attend City Council meetings anonymously, so that we can give them a voice, learn from them and find solutions directly from those impacted. See this motion here:


https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/providing-victims-safe-access- Accessible and Anonymous Council meetings for assault survivors, news release


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=20859&SectionId=598312&InitUrl=/DMIS/Documents/ac/2021/a20859 - council motion


There is a solution to these poverty and homelessness issues. It is through collaborative teamwork towards commonly agreed on poverty reduction goals.


As I mentioned in my campaign launch speech, I plan to establish an inclusive advisory group consisting of all stakeholders to drive a multi-faceted approach to poverty reduction and improvements to community safety and health.


We – the public service, business leaders, poverty experts, and residents will adopt a shared vision and a shared sense of responsibility to building a better Winnipeg.


Attracting New Residents and Retaining Existing Residents


Community wellness, safety, and poverty reduction are huge priorities in the Kevin Klein for Mayor campaign. If we don’t make the City safer and healthier, then it will be difficult to attract new residents and retain current ones.


Statistics Canada data shows over 29,000 people left the province (mostly from Winnipeg) over the past 4 years.


If residents, especially the vibrant youth, keep on leaving the City then the local economy and local businesses will undergo immense hardship. We must admit that this is an issue and take steps to restore Winnipeg to the “Chicago of the North” as it was once called, through building opportunities for the growth and development of hard working residents (investing in people) while ensuring the community is safe and healthy for their families.


There are many aspects to attracting and retaining residents such as improving community safety, making the City greener and cleaner, adding parks and recreation infrastructure, and supporting local cultural events. I have strongly advocated for these aspects as a Councillor and will continue to do so as Mayor.


Stay tuned to our Platform releases. We have a whole category dedicated to “New Opportunities for Residents and Businesses”.







Annual budget process, collaboration with the Provincial and Federal governments


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:


https://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/DocExt/ViewDoc.asp?DocumentTypeId=2&DocId=7074


I could write much more about the shortfalls of the City budget process – stay tuned to the campaign as I continue to discuss such items.


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.


https://youtu.be/SxOvrz2QE7o?t=1489 – Campaign Launch Speech on EPC


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZjDfQVgw2U- First campaign media conference, announcing commitment to the participation of all Councillors on the Budget Working Group


https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/2022/08/16/klein-plans-to-overhaul-civic-budget-process-if-he-becomes-mayor


As mentioned in a point above, as Mayor I will work with the Council to direct a zero-based budget review and increase the public’s knowledge of 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.


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.


Here is one more historic video link on the budgeting for ambulances and the million dollar “oops”:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9kEvoKg_Lo


And we wonder why we can’t obtain provincial and federal buy in.



Thank you


Thank you for your detailed and meaningful email. It shows you care for the City and want to improve quality of life for yourself, friends, and family.


It shows you have been engaged beyond simply voting, have taken time to inform yourself on the issues, and that you care about the policy and real results.


This is why I responded in such length. A well worded, researched, and polite letter deserves such a response.


Please keep engaged and encourage others to do the same.


Thank you – Chi-Miigwetch – Merci,


Kevin Klein

Candidate for Mayor of Winnipeg 2022

Winnipeg City Councillor serving – Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood