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under heavy workload Is it time to expand the number of councillors?
geting process is frustrating in the extreme with councillors up against a system that is loaded against them. All you have to do is to look at the organi- zation chart for city council to see that many of their decision- making opportunities have been blocked by the insertion of boards and commissions to which civil servants report rather than to councillors. Hav- ing this third party in the way of financial decisions makes it tough to manage. In so many ways, the city is
O Dorothy Dobbie
held in thrall to the province. Three years ago, the province in its wisdom, inserted a po- lice commission in the city’s system. It’s hard to understand the philosophy behind this
decision, but the effect has been to emasculate the finance committee, even though the two city councillors on the po- lice board serve as chair and vice chair. There are also two provincial appointees and three citizens. Apparently, the act that created this board also mandates
that the police report to the board rather than directly to city council. So, how can a conscientious finance committee get complete and comprehensive answers to questions let alone manage that part of the budget? Answer: they can’t. In fact, there are at last count 42 boards and commis-
sions, plus ad hoc committees, appointments by virtue of office, six public service (which includes the BBB Stadium Inc.), and 16 BIZ districts. The list of boards and commis- sions includes heavy duty organizations such as the police commission, the taxi board, the board of revision, economic development, CentreVenture and other big players. It also includes a number of museums, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There are one to three or more councillors ap- pointed to most of these, plus the councillors have respon- sibilities for [representation duties on] special operating agencies such as the parking authority and a score of other time-consuming obligations, including the need to attend social events in the evenings on behalf of City Council or the mayor. Consider this: there are 31 MLAs covering the city of Winnipeg, but only 16 councillors (including the mayor), whose wards are almost as large as federal ridings. Each councillor has just one assistant to help them through all this – an assistant who often works 12-hour days trying to keep up with the paperwork and constitu- ency needs. Councillors spend their hours in meeting after meeting, barely getting time to study the issues or do the re- search they need to do to ask intelligent questions and deal with increasingly complex matters affecting city operations.
ur new city council is not so new anymore, and councillors are struggling to come to grips with some mighty big and systemic challenges. The bud-
Do we have enough city councillors at city hall to effectively deal with a city our size and all its challenges?
Yet somehow they are supposed to respond personally to the needs of, in some wards, as many as 60,000 citizens. It is simply impossible. All this is just the tip of the iceberg – and I have to hand it to all of them. They deserve our unreserved support for the job they are trying to do. More on this in upcoming issues. The federal election
We are still three weeks away from election day and no
closer to making a decision – the polls show voters in a dead heat. But cracks are appearing here and there – NDP support is sliding in Quebec under pressure from that wily campaigner, Gilles Duceppe, and to some degree from the Conservatives. Steven Harper appears tired and almost bored by the process and rumour has it that he has told his caucus that he would step down if he doesn’t get a majority. But will Justin Trudeau benefit from this? Not according to what campaigners are hearing at the door – many Tories are turning to the NDP, at least here in Manitoba, and I see some disaffected Liberals supporting the Green Party. It couldn’t be more fascinating. Don’t trust the polls though. They have been drastically wrong in the past few elections – who predicted the orange wave in Alberta? It does look like a minority government unless something unexpected happens in the next few weeks, and no doubt the final decision will bring with it more changes to the po- litical landscape. Which losing leader will step down? Surely one or more will have to go if they have failed to galvanize the electorate. If Steven Harper is as disillusioned as he would appear to
be, will he step down? If he does, who will be the lame duck leader to take on the party next? Will he be Progressive or Reform-based? And what does Reform mean today when they have been in power for the past 10 years? Is the new Reform movement the old Progressives? Stay tuned for the next chapter in this exciting political
Curtis Brown of Probe Research on October 13
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