Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Sep 12 2015, Page 14

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - September 12, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE A15 IDEAS œ ISSUES œ INSIGHTS THINK- TANK A 15 Winnipeg Free Press Saturday, September 12, 2015 ‘ O UR bodies are made up of nearly 80 per cent water. That means there’s Shoal Lake in all Winnipeggers.” These were the parting words shared by Chief Erwin Redsky with our small Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce delegation to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation last week. I cannot think of a more powerful connection between communities. We were there to discuss economic opportunities between our two communities. But it doesn’t take a genius on economic development to figure out that without efficient, safe and reliable access into the community, there is not much to talk about in terms of economic potential. Connectivity is the economic lifeblood of any community, and investment in Freedom Road to empower Shoal Lake 40 First Nations is long overdue. Chief Redsky taught us a great deal about the magnitude of historical challenges his community has faced during the last 100 years. There was a time when, as part of the mainland, the community was completely selfsufficient. But through the expropriation of 3,000 acres of land by the City of Winnipeg, the picturesque peninsula of Shoal Lake 40 was amputated, literally cut off by the digging of a channel designed to keep dirty water separate from the clean water that flows to Winnipeg. After relegation to a self- made island came the closing of the commercial fishery by the Ontario government, the flooding out of any potential of wild rice cultivation, and the refusal by the City of Winnipeg and the federal government to allow the development of cottages and tourism assets. After the decision to restrict cottage development, an agreement was signed between Shoal Lake 40 and the three levels of government to work together toward the pursuit of economic opportunities. It has been 25 years since the ink dried, and not a single job has been created through the agreement. From their homes, the people of Shoal Lake 40 can hear semis driving along the Trans- Canada Highway, while at the same time knowing they have no way to access that important lifeline. They can hear the commerce going on around them with no functional way to participate. The building of Freedom Road opens up not just the critical necessity of clean water for Shoal Lake people — a water plant cannot be built until a road allows for construction to start. It opens potential for partnerships and collaboration. Freedom Road would give the community better access to the surrounding economic region. This is what makes the commitment by the three levels of government to invest in Freedom Road so essential. There is no better time for us to reach out in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report to establish partnerships with First Nations communities. There is probably no better community to start with than Shoal Lake 40. The benefit of clean drinking water that Winnipeggers take for granted came at great cost and we must work with them to right this serious wrong. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to playing a supportive role by collaborating with Shoal Lake 40 to facilitate partnerships and advocate alongside them for the conditions needed to achieve economic success. There is much potential to pursue: the resurrection of the commercial fishery, tourism opportunities, new technology to tap into agriculture such as wild rice. Let’s seize the opportunity for partnerships and collaborations that will enrich both our communities including facilitating student exchanges through a centre where Winnipeggers could learn about aboriginal history and culture. Unfortunately there is nothing to talk about unless they are connected. Freedom Road must be built and it must be built now. Further delays will only continue to add to the decades of frustration and lost hope of the good people of Shoal Lake 40. Commitments in principle by governments are not enough. The design for Freedom Road is scheduled to be completed by January and all three levels of government must move beyond principle and allocate the dollars necessary so the community can move quickly in the new year to start building the road. This is more than just an infrastructure project. It represents a signal that those who have benefitted from Shoal Lake 40’ s sacrifice are committed to helping give them a positive future. The previous chapters defining the history of the relationship between Shoal Lake 40 and the City of Winnipeg make for a very tough read for a proud Winnipegger. Let’s make the next chapter of this story one for which we can all be proud. Freedom also comes to those who make things right. Join the Winnipeg Water Walk in support of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, today at noon, at the fountain behind the Legislative Building. Wear blue. Dave Angus is president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. www. HonourTheSource. ca Y OU’VE got to hand it to Mayor Brian Bowman’s communications team. When it comes to the disastrous failure on the transit file a few days ago, they effectively diverted at least some public attention from the fact that this was city hall’s own failure. In story after story, the media dutifully repeated the spin that the bus debacle was all about a lack of resources, as if a provincial bailout would have prevented the latest circus. Well, no. We know what actually happened, by the city’s own testimony. First, there was a maintenance backlog identified in June. You may remember that June was more than 70 days ago; the backlog didn’t magically disappear over the summer ( go figure). Next, at the last possible minute, it dawned on managers that they didn’t have enough buses to deliver on the fall transit schedule they’d already announced. Remember, transit schedules and related ads go to press days or even weeks before release — yet no one bothered to cross- check them given the known backlog. Fixing the schedule in advance would have fixed this just as surely as ending the backlog. Anticipating the schedule mismatch shouldn’t have cost a dime in new resources. Tellingly, Amalgamated Transit Union officials insist they flagged this issue even earlier than June. Since Winnipeg narrowly avoided a transit strike this year, I’m inclined to believe them, because maintenance backlogs are just the sort of thing that comes up when unions and employers bicker about workloads and payrolls. Listening for warnings to anticipate problems is exactly why taxpayers pay for a mayor, a mayor’s office and a city council. On Thursday, Bowman told reporters that “ this type of oversight will never happen again.” The joke, of course, is that the problem wasn’t just about an oversight. It was also about a lack of oversight — in the political, governance sense of the word. The argument that this is really about missing resources falls further apart when you consider what should have happened. In theory, had there been no backlog, there would have been sufficient resources to use the schedule as posted. Nobody in management has claimed that there weren’t enough buses in the fleet on paper, only that there was a temporary shortage of properly maintained buses. Yet behind the podium, the mayor was out there with a straight face insisting that the numbers weren’t plausible either way. “ The service level expectation needs to be more realistic than they were,” he insisted. Don’t blame mismanagement. Don’t blame a failure to share, track and respond to information. Don’t blame the backlog. Blame “ expectations.” Maintenance is mostly an operating budget problem. In a city with an operating budget in the hundreds of millions, a maintenance backlog is not a shortage of resources. It’s a shortage of ALLOCATED resources. Reserves exist to plug one- time problems where they appear. A maintenance backlog is a one- time problem. But no one acted to plug the hole. Also note that Manitoba’s operating support for Winnipeg Transit is generous by national standards, and it has been for a long, long time. This isn’t about a shortage of capital resources for spare buses, either. If Broadway had given Winnipeg $ 20 million in new capital grants for transit expansion this summer, we already know that new buses wouldn’t have been the Bowman administration’s priority. The money would have gone to their real transit priority: a rapid transit roadway that somehow bypasses the cheapest, most rapid route to the university it’s supposed to serve. But the mayor wasn’t thinking about the looming transit crisis this summer, when he was dancing and dining at 43 pavilions at Folkorama. And if you’re a transit rider and your bus never comes, you’re still free to walk to city hall to have your photo taken beside that famous smile, selfies being the mayor’s favoured mode of communication. Surely that’s compensation enough, right? The last time Bowman got the hint it was time to shift his focus from ceremonial work to identifying and solving problems, he responded by doubling down on the ribbon- cutting as if to mock the idea there even was an issue. This time, it’s different. Bowman- friendly transit voters will take the hit for this episode. So, Bowman- friendly transit voters may start to grasp that every minute the mayor spends in front of a camera is a minute he isn’t spending on oversight of city services. Hopefully, His Worship will take this latest episode as hint No. 2 to get to work on the services that Winnipeggers rely on daily. Brian Kelcey is a public policy consultant with experience as a senior political adviser in the mayor’s office, and in the Ontario government. T HE stakes are high in every election. But in this highly competitive federal campaign now entering the critical stretch, the stakes are highest for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party, for the wrong outcome may doom their party’s long- term survival. This may seem preposterous at this particular moment. Based on the campaign, things have been going relatively well for the Liberals. Trudeau, charismatic yet inexperienced, has not committed a serious error to date, and the party is not experiencing the sort of torpor that brought it to a historic- low seat count in 2008 and then worse off, to third- party status in 2011. But for the Liberals, this election campaign should be seen as an all- or- nothing proposition. They must win the most seats and form the next federal government. If they fail to do this — and especially if they fail to leap past the NDP and, instead, win the second- highest number of seats in the House of Commons — they are in danger of being pushed further to the margins as the Conservatives and NDP seek to erode their support. The three parties will be locked into a tight battle right up until ballots are cast on Oct. 19. However, the real struggle begins after the votes are counted. The aftermath of this election will likely bring major changes to all three parties ( and I will go through these in future columns). But today, the focus is on the Liberals, who have the most at stake. Unless there is a significant change between now and election day, we are likely to end up with a Parliament in which none of the three parties has a majority. Even though seat projections may change the calculus at any given moment, the odds are that the two parties most likely to win the most seats are the NDP and Conservatives. Our first- past- the- post election system rewards regional concentrations of support over broadly distributed national support, so based on regional- level polling results, the NDP is likely to capture many seats in francophone Quebec and the most populous areas of British Columbia, while the Conservatives should count on still winning large swathes of Western Canada and rural Ontario. For the Liberals, who have more evenly distributed support throughout the country, the path to victory is much narrower. The most important thing they must do is win the majority of seats in urban Ontario, especially around Toronto. That’s a difficult outcome to predict since a number of these races are genuine three- way contests. In addition, they must sweep Atlantic Canada and anglophone Quebec as well as pick up enough seats in urban centres in Western Canada, particularly Winnipeg, to have a shot at forming a majority government ( which is the best- case, though most unlikely, scenario) or to have a higher share of seats than either the NDP or Conservatives — say, 145 out of 338 seats. In this case, they would be the party the Governor General would turn to if the Conservatives were unable to hold the confidence of the House. But let’s say the NDP wins the most seats in a minority Parliament, the Conservatives finish second and the Liberals, third. Since the Conservatives would not have to turn over the keys immediately, the NDP and Liberals would be under immense pressure to vote out the Conservatives at the earliest opportunity in the House of Commons and form a coalition government of some form. If the Liberals agree to this — and indeed, many of their supporters likely want this to happen — they are potentially putting their party on the path to irrelevance. The Liberals should know coalition governments do not work out well for the junior partner. Federally, they were able to use the NDP’s support from 1963 to 1968 and again from 1972 to 1974 to take many NDP policy ideas, run on them and use them to win eventual majorities. But in the provinces, and in most Westminster democracies during the past century, Liberal support for a NDP/ centre- left government usually means eventual absorption. In 1999, Saskatchewan’s governing NDP broke a tie in the legislature by governing with the support of three out of four Liberal MLAs. In Manitoba, the NDP’s breakthrough win in 1969 came because one of the Liberal MLAs, Larry Desjardins, crossed the floor. This scenario could cut the other way, too. Even if the NDP wins more seats, the Conservatives will have the time and resources to potentially secure enough Liberal support to continue governing. This may not take the form of abstaining from votes or the other tactics the Liberals used to prevent an election when the Conservatives last had a minority government, but depending on the math in the House of Commons it may precipitate a split where some of the Liberal caucus could join the Conservatives in a coalition to keep out the NDP. Now, some will say all of this is speculative and premature. But as Canadians think about which party’s candidate to vote for, it is probably just as important for them to think about what could happen after Oct. 19 than what the results will be on that day. And for those who may be considering voting Liberal, the long- term future of their preferred party may make the choice especially difficult. Curtis Brown is the vice- president of Probe Research. His views are his own. Curtis@ probe- research. com Twitter: @ curtisatprobe DAVE ANGUS BRIAN KELCEY A road to set us all free Morning after: a Liberal headache? CURTIS BROWN Transit mess should focus mayor’s attention MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Transit director Dave Wardrop meets media on bus- schedule mess — not a photo op Mayor Brian Bowman wanted to take. A_ 15_ Sep- 12- 15_ FP_ 01. indd A15 9/ 11/ 15 7: 33: 46 PM

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