Promises and platitudes on the mayor's lunchtime menu

It's customary for the mayor to highlight the economic challenges and opportunities facing Winnipeg and list off examples of past successes. It's more difficult to make concrete promises.

Brian Bowman set to issue his 3rd state of the city address; here's what has been pledged before

In his 2016 state of the city address, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he wanted to growth fees in Winnipeg to cover infrastructure costs associated with new development. (CBC)

Long on platitudes, short on policy.​

That's the usual complaint about the state of the city address that Winnipeg's mayor is obligated to make every year. 

Mayor Brian Bowman has a chance to dampen this criticism when he makes his third state of the city speech over the lunch hour, speaking at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event at RBC Convention Centre.

It's customary for the mayor to highlight the economic challenges and opportunities facing Winnipeg and list off examples of past successes. It's more difficult to make concrete promises.

Here's what Winnipeg mayors promised during the past three state of the city addresses:

Sam Katz, 2014

In his ninth and final state of the city address, former mayor Sam Katz made one promise and one announcement.

In his 2014 retirement announcement, Sam Katz wished the candidates in the race to replace him the 'best of luck.' (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
Katz told the chamber audience the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg would donate $1 million to help reopen Sherbrook Pool and pledged to hold a pre-summer concert at Central Park, with performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Sarah Sommer, the Chai Folk Ensemble and the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

Sherbrook Pool has reopened and that concert went ahead. Katz used it as a platform to announce he wouldn't run for office again and would retire from politics.

Brian Bowman, 2015

In his first state of the city address, held mere months after he succeeded Katz, rookie politician Brian Bowman made at least five promises.

Bowman named former broadcaster Wab Kinew the leader of the mayor's Indigenous Advistory Circle, promised to hold a national anti-racism summit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, hold a summit with small business owners, develop a plan to fix Winnipeg's roads and make the budget process more participatory.

Kinew served on the circle, but left after he won a seat in the Manitoba Legislature. He's now the NDP MLA for Fort Rouge. The anti-racism and small-business summits went ahead.

The mayor didn't fare as well with his other 2015 promises. Actual city spending on road renewal decreased between 2016 and 2017, while members of council who don't serve in executive policy committee continue to complain they're left out of the city's financial decision-making.

Bowman, 2016

Bowman used his second state of the city speech to float the idea of bringing in growth fees and also pledged to create a climate-change working group, chaired by Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi.

That working group issued a report earlier this month, setting a modest greenhouse-gas-emission reduction goal for the city.

As for growth fees, Bowman brought a plan forward to city hall in September. The new revenue-generating mechanism was amended before council approved it the following month.

The fees are supposed to take effect in May, but remain subject to a legal challenge from developers.

Doors to the Convention Centre open at 11:30 a.m., and Bowman is set to begin speaking at 12:50 p.m.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.