A budget was be passed at City Hall, but why did it pass? It wasn’t because of the fiscal prudence it exhibits, or by addressing the top priorities of all residents and our future. It will pass because it was already decided behind closed doors.
Those with any financial acumen realizes this is not a budget that addresses the priorities of our residents. It doesn’t exhibit true fiscal responsibility or outline clear fiscal objectives. However, it adds more to our ballooning debt, and it makes cuts to residential services and to Public Safety.
A budget should address the priorities of residents, reflect what’s best for our city and form a solid foundation for the economic viability of our city, today, tomorrow, and beyond. A one-time 9.5 million in spending that will focus on political optics is not actually a feasible economic plan as it doesn’t grow or stabilize our future.
I believe we should have debated what fiscally responsible actions are needed to sustain the city & residential services. The budget should have considered the pending new wave of the pandemic and how that will impact residents and our economy. It should have factored in the increasing inflation rate and what impacts it may have on expenses and capital projects. As I have said for three years, a zero-based budget review is crucial.
The budget should have included all elected officials. This is not a budget I can defend because I had no input. I don’t know what was said behind closed doors. It is NOT how I would prepare a budget.
Over the last several years, City Council has been divided by design. A majority group of Council members are appointed by the Mayor and referred to as “EPC plus two”, which represents a voting majority of Council.
This EPC plus two model creates division, and it is most evident during the yearly City of Winnipeg operating and capital budget process. Members of City Council have publicly shared multiple times their disappointment with the lack of openness and transparency of the budget process where members are provided with less than two weeks to conduct proper analysis, scrutiny and due diligence on a budget that is over $2 billion dollars.
The Councillors who are not members of the EPC plus two are typically disregarded under the current strong mayor model and are provided minimal opportunity to engage in the budget debates and ward specific requests. As uncovered and reported in a Winnipeg Free Press Article “Closed-door majority - Winnipeg mayor's unofficial 'EPC+2' puts him at unfair advantage: critics” dated Dec. 20, 2019.
In 2014 the Winnipeg Free Press interviewed then candidate Brian Bowman who told them that EPC has traditionally been a breeding ground for patronage and comfortable top-ops that fosters division on council and mistrust among the public. It was true then and it is true today. Nothing has changed.
This budget process favours a few and fails many because many corners of the city are not fairly represented.
Our city needs a vision. People want elected officials to provide them with confidence in their leadership and in the future. They want safe neighbourhoods, and they want to be proud of the city. They don’t want back room deals.
This budget brags about investments into roads, and the treatment plant renewal, which are merely requirements because of poor fiscal management and budgeting since 2014.
What this budget doesn’t mention is the following:
There is a 6% cut to Public Safety when we are poised to break the record for homicides and violent crimes in our city again.
It doesn’t address the issues with 311.
It doesn’t improve snow clearing operations in the city.
It doesn’t implement a 20th century water and sewer billing system.
It doesn’t address transit safety, which is the main reason people are not using the bus.
It doesn’t address the dire need for more public trash and recycling receptacles.
Most concerning is the fact there is NO contingency fund for the several legal challenges this leadership faces. Just one, the Parker Lands dispute, could cost taxpayers $30 million alone.
Councillor Gillingham’s budget didn’t pass because it’s a budget that address all the issues residents care about most. It passed
because of the dysfunctional strong mayor model of EPC plus two.
My ward will be ignored & punished to teach me a lesson. These petty games only hurt residents. They don’t impact me personally. I will fight for the best interests of my ward, not for inner-circle popularity.
Councillor Gillingham’s budget will have the legal department asking for more money for court battles. The police service will need more to address the violent crime in Winnipeg, which has grown each year since 2014 and continues to remain one of the highest in the country.
This is not a budget that the people of Winnipeg asked for. It’s for politicians running for higher office.