by Graham Lane
Published in the Winnipeg Sun, January 26, 2018
Should Brian Bowman get a second term as Winnipeg’s Mayor? On his record to-date, no, but that doesn’t mean he would lose. Winnipeg’s electorate need an experienced fiscal conservative to run. The search for one should be ‘on’, now.
A recent Sun poll had over 80% of respondents unimpressed with Bowman. Why? Instead of focusing on reducing excessive costs in administration and operations and cutting property taxes, he defaults to quick and easy ways to balance the City’s books. He raids the water utility, brings in a new damaging development ‘impact’ tax, ups fines, fees and water rates, continuing the pattern of milking the populace with a myriad of questionable revenue raising actions.
Real policy reform is what is needed, and Bowman will never deliver that. Lacking administrative leadership experience, he has let the firefighter and police departments run amok; missed a critical date to file a lawsuit related to an incredibly over-budget sewer plant; has seen critical managers leave; and, over-looked bringing a critical option to the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension to affected property owners attention.
Struggling to balance the Province’s books following a debilitating too long NDP reign, Pallister’s provincial government has taken some austerity measures. One was not to boost its grant to the City for transit services. Instead of diligently employing expense control to live within the revenue available, Bowman and his Executive Policy buddies boosted inflationary transit and parking fees: expect reduced traffic to downtown businesses and continued dismay for those parking during regular hospital visits.
Upon learning the Province wouldn’t increase its transit grants, Bowman began logically with a review of passenger counts on the various routes. The review revealed 22 routes where service could be cut back significantly without truly damaging service. Many of the examined routes have too little usage to justify full daily service. But, when an outcry arose from the left-wing spending lobbies and the transit union, Bowman quickly kowtowed to those concerns with his inflationary meter parking and fare rates while continuing to run those mostly empty buses. .
Bowman’s government is as incompetent as the provincial government when it comes to estimating the costs of major infrastructure projects. With overruns for the new police headquarters, bus rapid transit, and the new sewage plant (expected to cost $1.4 billion), Bowman does no better estimating cost than the NDP were with Wuskwatim, Keeyask and Bipole III.
All of this and his soft-gloved approach to City unions at the bargaining table. Bowman prefers quick and easy revenue increases rather than taking on the hard and difficult task of truly holding down labour costs and improving the productivity of the City’s personnel. Collective agreement settlements remain disconnected from reality – continuing to involve raises for unionized workers while the private sector struggles along in a changing economy.. The recent revelation that the City pays or subsidizes the Firefighters’ union boss’s salary is shocking. Are other union bosses being subsidized as well?
Unfortunately for Bowman, more and more City taxpayers are catching on, meaning Bowman could be beat in this year’s upcoming mayoral race. Winnipeg taxpayers should have seen enough of Bowman to know what to expect if he was to be re-elected.
Hopefully, a sensible and experienced alternative will soon come forward.