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Winnipeg’s Civic Electoral Parties, or Dissenting Voices Unwelcome?

October 10, 2006

Even though they’re officially not allowed (insofar as they won’t be indicated as being members of a party on the actual ballots come October 25), there’s a couple civic political parties running this time around.

The Winnipeg Green Party is running a slate of six candidates across the city, bringing much-needed democratic choices to their respective wards. The Greens share a platform, campaign website and manager and the strength their collective voices and the voices their supporters adds up to.

The second party running (aside from the traditional union- and NDP-backed candidates), however, is much more low key about its party affiliations, so much so that the media had to give them their (fitting) name: The Sam Katz Party.

Yep, the incumbent mayor’s got his own political party and he, the leader himself, is doing a lot for the rest of his candidates: signing nomination papers, handpicking campaign staff for others, knocking on doors, opening campaign headquarters (and vice versa)… needless to say, the man sure knows who he wants joining him in the Council chambers come October 26.

The Winnipeg Free Press’ Mary Agnes Welch wrote on September 22:

“Katz rejected the suggestion he has an organized slate, saying instead he is simply helping out quality candidates. “I would actively campaign for any individual who I thought would make a good councillor,” said Katz.”

Unsaid, but assumed, of course, is that those “good councillors” in Sam’s eyes will be ones who will support the mayor many more times than not.

For the past two years, Katz has arguably been building his team and its easy to see who’s already on it: Councillors Pagtagkhan, Clements, Magnifico, O’Shaughnessy, Steeves, Swandel—basically EPC plus more who wish they were. That’s already almost half of Council, and he’s looking for more this time around.

In wide-open St. Charles, Grant Norman is Katz’s go-to guy.

“Grant Nordman understands how to invigorate a community through economic growth and attention to infrastructure. His solid track record and experience as President of the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce make him an ideal Council choice for the residents of St. Charles.”

In River Heights, Brenda Leipsic’s endorsement by the mayor’s office has been quieter, but the desire to work with the administration is evident:

“Winnipeggers want action and results,” she told a crowd at her campaign office. “Not endless bickering.”

As well, even her campaign slogan: “A Positive Voice” [emphasis mine] is a jab at incumbent Donald Benham and his perceived role as an unofficial Sam Katz critic (and here) in Council.

In North Kildonan, former Tory youth wing member Jeff Browaty wishes to “work with the Mayor and City Council, not sit as an ‘opposition’ councillor” (as opposed to sitting councillor Mark Lubosch who has taken the opposite side as the mayor on various contentious issues lately) while his counterpart in St. James-Brooklands, Scott Fielding, has the same political history (and alleged friendship of Sam Katz’s chief of staff Ryan Craig) was recently appointed by Sam Katz himself to the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s Board of Directors to represent on the City’s behalf.

Should these candidates get in, Council will be heavily stacked in Katz’s favour.

Now no one is rationally suggesting tha tthe mayor has some diabolical scheme up his sleeve that he needs an overwhelming majority on Council to bring forth to and then have support, but a Sam Katz Party—often being yes-men and women (or at best totally like-thinkers)—would do little for reasoned debate (as it exists even now in its battered form) for the next four years at least. It is interesting that one would need to be marketed as a new “positive” councillor in wards whose incumbent is more of a critic and as a councillor who would “work with” the mayor on the issues. Isn’t the implication there that being a critic, or disagreeing with the mayor on issues is somehow incorrect or wrong?

Those councillors who don’t automatically support Katz may be seen as “negative” or “against cooperation” but their roles are very, very important in light of decisions that will affect Winnipeg’s future well-being. They may have different visions for the future of Winnipeg—but because he’s mayor, Sam Katz’s vision is somehow the better one worth pursuing? So much for the reasoned voice of dissent in this democracy then; we don’t need it.

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2 comments

  1. […] I wrote on the 10th that Sam Katz and Brenda Leipsic, candidate for councillor in River Heights, were intent on working together, though an official endorsement by the Mayor’s campaign team hadn’t yet been forthcoming. Well, as of yesterday, it’s there: “ MAYOR Sam Katz made official yesterday what he’s been denying for months — Brenda Leipsic is his choice for city council in River Heights.At a press conference at Leipsic’s Academy Road campaign office, Katz called the fundraising consultant a positive candidate who will bring innovative ideas to city hall. […]


  2. […] Two other incumbents were knocked off — Mark Lubosch in North Kildonan by Jeff Browaty and Jae Eadie in St. James-Brooklands by Scott Fielding. Add to that Grant Nordman’s win in a fairly wide-open St. Charles, and the Sam Katz Party is alive and well going into the next four years of council. […]



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