FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK: Mid-Mandate Means More Work Still to Do

Today marks two years since I was officially sworn in as Winnipeg’s 43rd Mayor.
It was a tremendous honor, and it was also very daunting!

Two years ago, I took the oath of office at City Hall together with seven new Councillors, representing the largest turnover in Councillors in decades.

At the mid-point of my mandate, and at the mid-point of this Council’s mandate, I wanted to share some reflections with you on the last two years.

I firmly believe City Hall is on a better track today than it was two years ago.

I think we have made significant progress toward making City Hall more open and transparent, more accessible and responsive, and we have really begun to return a sense of pride to our City.

Let’s not forget where the current Council started. We inherited a City Hall where trust was severely fractured, existing roads were left in disrepair after nearly a decade and a half of property tax cuts and freezes, and old-school politics marked by dysfunction, division, and despair reigned supreme.

No Council can be expected to change a culture and environment like this overnight. But, I have been working very hard with other Councillors over the last two years to change it.

I do feel we are making good progress. I believe we are on the right track. But there is certainly more work to do. We need to continue moving Winnipeg forward. We need to continue doing this through rebuilding trust and working together. As we move forward, we need to resist efforts to return City Hall to a time of division and discord.

Through greater engagement and collaboration with members of Council and yourselves, by being more open about decisions and sharing more information about important decisions earlier and more transparently, we are getting a lot done.

And we are getting it done in a better, and more open and accountable way.

Some of the changes that have been made have been small. Some have been larger. But the changes I am trying to make are focused on building our city for the future, building pride in who we are as a city, and making City Hall more accessible, transparent, and work better for you.

Many don’t remember this, but one of the first things I did after becoming Mayor was cut my salary and cut the salary top-ups of Executive Policy Committee members as well as for Council’s Speaker and Deputy Speaker. This will result in savings to taxpayers of about $400,000 over the Council term, money that can then be reinvested in important services and infrastructure improvements.

I also remain committed to not accepting any political severance even though many on Council did not agree with my motion to end this cost to taxpayers.

While some might think these decisions are insignificant, they set the stage and expectation that I was prepared to be the change that I wanted to see at City Hall. They also reflect the kind of change I heard you wanted to see at City Hall.

And this continues to be an important focus for me at this point in the mandate.

I am here to serve you, and I am prepared to do it in a way that respects taxpayers rather than makes them beholden to private and special interests.

Over the last two years, we have been able to move forward with important changes and investments that include the appointment of a new Chief Administrative Officer, repeated record investment in local and regional road renewal, better traffic management, small business tax reductions, the establishment of an integrity commissioner, more openness and transparency, a growing downtown, and significant cost savings for the southwest rapid transit route.

I continue to engage and encourage our youth through visits to high schools across Winnipeg. I remain committed to visiting every high school in our city, and continuing with the Mayor’s Scholarship for Community Leadership to recognize and reward the contributions our young people make to our community. And as the Year of Reconciliation draws to a close, I continue to challenge individuals, businesses, and our public administration to find ways to reconcile for the future, and implement the calls-to-action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Winnipeg today is a growing, thriving city, and is projected to grow steadily and strongly over the next 25 years. Whether we like it or not, we are a growing city. And we cannot afford to dismiss the significance of this fact.

A growing city needs to be supported with the right infrastructure, and it needs to be in place at the right time. We need to be building Winnipeg today so critical infrastructure is in place when we need it, and when our children, and their children, need it.

At the same time, we need to continue our efforts to address a structural deficit this Council inherited after a decade and a half of property tax cuts and freezes, and we need to continue chipping away at fixing our regional and local roads.

Managing the infrastructure needs of a growing city while ensuring fiscal prudence and balance is going to require difficult decisions, and strong leadership. With your support, I remain committed to moving our city forward, and building our city for the future!

Thank you for all your support (and criticisms) so far! In particular, thank you to my wife, Tracy, and our two remarkable children. Being Mayor requires a tremendous commitment and many sacrifices from all of you. Thank you so much for all you do!