Why I Voted the way i did for Mayor

An Open Letter to My Colleagues

  (As to be published in the Canstar Herald, 2018-10-17) 

Dear Colleagues,

At first reaction, it’s natural for people to be shocked, or even disappointed by how I voted for someone who is self-described as 'right wing'. But, it has been said by someone you can trust, the most unfortunate aspect of her candidacy is just that, her self description. Because, in context of the current political climate at City Hall, there’s really no difference, it’s mostly a difference of presentation. If she had called herself right of center or something like that , it would have affected perception.

I did not intend to reveal who I voted for, but endorsements by others, with whom I am affiliated, gave the perception that I was supporting Brian Bowman for Mayor. It would be disingenuous, at that point, not to set the record straight, as I had voted against the Mayor’s agenda perhaps more than any other councillor. As well, Jenny Motkaluk’s platform incredibly matched my voting record this term, and I stand by my record, on BRT vs buses, water rates as a BRT tax, Louise Bridge replacement, less pressure on EPC to tow the line. 

In the absence of what we would consider a progressive candidate we had to make a choice. The question is whether it’s simple or obvious. I ask you consider some things, before you make your final decision on my faithfulness to the principles by which I was encouraged to run, was endorsed and that I represented all term.

This term has seen the highest increase of taxes, rates, fees, fines and levies in the history of modern Winnipeg. Yet we continue to borrow money. The astonishing rate at which the poor and working families have increased their proportional burden is the highest in modern history. It’s at a new rate of acceleration of disparity, worse than Sam Katz, worse than Susan Thompson. And what do I need to tell you about how City Hall is run? 

To Peter Bjornson, who’s political orientation and outlook I believe I saw evolve before my eyes from, UofM Education Faculty president to cabinet minister; Yes, ouch, it hurts a bit when we can’t comfortably agree on a candidate, when there otherwise could be room for a candidate of our consensus. But what is it about this term that make it obvious that status quo is the preferred outcome of the election? When you were in government, did you bring in a tax, borne so disproportionately on the poorest citizen, as the frontage levy? A tax, based on the width of your lawn, that a North End home owner or renter pays the same rate as a house in River Heights? People live in the North End because they feel they need to save or because they have no choice. I feel this tax goes against the spirit of fair Canadian taxation. Don’t you?

What about how an accelerated increase of our water fees multiplied by an increase in the dividend that goes toward general revenue, paying for the difference that has to be made up as construction contracts increase at rates beyond our GDP increases, let alone increases of poor and working family incomes. People have reduced their water consumption in the last decade. The result on their wallets is their water bills went up anyway. A commodity of such necessity taxed equally to the poor, to pay for BRT?

And there lies the great difference between you and the intent of this government, Peter.

To Carlos Sosa, who is the only person who showed up specifically for a City budget open house forum that the department of Public Engagement put on in Elmwood, where everyone else was there for a prescheduled seniors lunch. Did I disappoint you when I voted against the extra multi-million dollar increase to the City’s pre-existing multi-million contribution to the True North Project? where the private developer/owner, who was not increasing its partnered share, would not reveal its projected profit margin, but we gave extra money beyond expectation anyway? 

Were you disappointed that Ross Eadie and I voted against it? Or were you disappointed that only Ross Eadie and I voted against it? But I’m the Councillor who disappoints you? Considering all that has gone down in this term, that I have fought against, sometimes by myself, is it not possible that I disappoint you less than any other councillor? 

I was glad you were there that day - Ross and I didn’t have to feel so alone. You saw what happened, and then the media reported the whole travesty as if the vote was about affordable housing! I have to deal with that all the time at Council, Carlos. I ask that you consider that.

To Basia Sokol and Gord Delbridge; I am pleased to state publicly that I feel I have have forged a strong sense of trust and understanding with you – one of the brightest highlights of my term. But politics can be complicated and unpredictable, especially during an election. I admit I do not know what I would do if I had your responsibilities. But I have my own, and I stand by a record you endorsed, and I am being as consistent and up front as any councillor. And if I cannot defend my own record on all these issues, what am I doing running, and why did you re-endorse me, with my fiscally-conservative minority-of-one view? I never turned my back on you, and what can I say if there is another mayoralty candidate that clearly most reflects my municipal standing? Pretend otherwise? That would be a mockery of my time on Council, so why run?

To Zach Fleisher; We need to clear the air, and I know I owe you a greater explanation than is in this letter. I just truly believe that we do not have the budgetary capacity to accomplish both more buses and BRT at the same time. It is no a stunt for me to value buses more, especially in the shorter forecast. It comes from the same intent with which I represented working people all term. But I admit, for the issues that we have to deal with, I ought to reach out and you deserve not to have your patience tested on that.

And to the one, among this group, with whom I share the longest history of political activism, Darryl Livingstone; You know very well that there would have been only a few of us that would have been able to get through the incredible system of arrogance, denials, and coverup that almost had ECRC suckered into the other lease. Your skepticism of how ECRC was being steered by other interests was the orientation I needed. You were a source of information and motivation to ensure that Lillian Thomas’s intentions were realized . That was to get the money for the renovation of ECRC’s new home to go into a public asset, not a private contract where there was no guarantee that the public would not lose the entire renovated facility after five years. Even after, are you certain status quo at City Hall is worth it? Or might I have point? Look at the place, Darryl. At least we stopped it at ECRC, but there is more of what you thought of back then that is yet to be realized. I ask you support me for one more term to accomplish your idea.

To dismiss any candidate as merely too 'right wing', in context of our current municipal environment, is simply over-simplistic. Who, exactly, are we comparing her to. Her fiscal conservatism could only moderate the increasing debt load on the poor and the increasing disparity of wealth in our society. It would only be to a degree, and wouldn’t stop it, but these are our choices due to a lack of other options. Not my fault, not yours.

But, until we actually effect how we manage infrastructure development spending, and come to terms with construction inflation, we are spinning into greater disparity.

In an era of breathtaking tax, fee, rate, fine and levy increases on all fronts, effecting mostly the poor and working families; when we continue to borrow money which enhances, further, the burden on them, then the fiscal conservative candidate ends up being the most moderate. 

That’s all I’m saying. I hope that sounds sensible to you. I’m just being consistent with everything I know about City Hall today, and how I’ve represented what I believe are our basic shared values - with a record which happens to be unusually reflected by the platform of a particular mayoralty candidate.

If I can’t get a consensus of confidence on my own record this term, from the people addressed in this letter, then I should question my involvement in progressive politics. But before that, I ask that you ponder deeply everything I just said, and ask whether I have strayed from those shared values, as I seek re-election, and I put forth that I represent you best.