Winnipeg dealing with 'tough winter,' mayor acknowledges
But Sam Katz says city is undergoing 'renaissance' during his 10th state of the city address
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, in perhaps the understatement of the year, admits it's been a tough winter for Winnipeggers.
In his 10th state of the city address, Katz acknowledged some of the issues that have dogged city hall this year, such as construction cost overruns on the new police headquarters and controversy over a fire hall land swap deal which was widely criticized in an independent audit.
The biggest issue the city is currently dealing with, Katz said, is the frozen pipes that have left almost 800 homes and businesses without running water.
"No question, this has been a tough winter, and it's not over yet," he told the audience, adding that city staff is doing its best to deal with the frozen pipes problem.
"We have literally every department working on this. Thawing crews are at work seven days a week," he said.
The City of Winnipeg has had to deal with other winter-related problems this season, from spotty snow clearing to slippery ice-rutted streets causing traffic chaos.
But Katz said the city is solving, or has already solved, the issues that have come up.
"Any challenges that we've faced, we as a council have addressed," he said.
"We've gotten what we believe to be the best expertise so that these things don't happen again, and we will continue to do that."
Katz added what was overlooked in the fire hall land swap controversy was that the city needed new emergency response infrastructure.
'Lots of work to be done'
The mayor said overall, there is a renaissance going on in Winnipeg, and that he is glad to be part of it.
However, he wouldn't say how the city rates on a scale from one to 10.
"As I've said before, there's lots of work to be done. I don't do a one to 10 scale; lots of work to be done," he said.
Among those in the audience on Friday were some of Katz's potential rivals for his job in this fall's civic election.
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"I probably felt like a lot of people that some of the optimism doesn't necessarily ring true," said Gord Steeves, a former city councillor and current mayoral candidate.
"I'd say it's lacklustre at best. I think that we have a lot of embarrassing files right now at city hall," said Coun. Paula Havixbeck.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis, a former NDP MP who lost to Katz in the 2010 mayoral race, said the city should have handled the frozen pipes issue better.
"We're a winter city, we know what we can expect in a city like this. There should be a plan," she said.
"Sam and city hall does not have a plan to deal with the frozen pipe issue."
Katz said he will announce in June whether he plans to seek re-election.