Winnipeg mayoral promises: Wi-Fi on buses, tax freezes and a city hall watchdog

Mayoral hopefuls kicked their campaigns into high gear on Tuesday with a series of announcements including pledges to freeze taxes, bring accountability to city hall and put Wi-Fi on city buses.

Mayoral hopefuls make slew of announcements, take shots at each other in Winnipeg election campaign

Mayoral hopefuls kicked their campaigns into high gear on Tuesday with a series of announcements including pledges to freeze taxes, bring accountability to city hall and put Wi-Fi on city buses. CBC's Sean Kavanagh reports. 2:08

Mayoral hopefuls kicked their campaigns into high gear on Tuesday with a series of announcements including pledges to freeze taxes, bring accountability to city hall and put Wi-Fi on city buses.

Candidate David Sanders made an early announcement at The Forks on Tuesday, pledging accountability at city hall with a series of new rules and regulations.
David Sanders made an announcement at The Forks on Tuesday, putting the spotlight on accountability at city hall and the city's infrastructure deficit. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"Whistleblowers will be appreciated and not punished. It is absolutely essential that civic administrators provide city council with their best professional advice and not just the advice councillors may have preferred to hear​," said Sanders.

Sanders said under his leadership, city administrators would no longer be able to sign off on major contracts and agreements without council reviewing them first.

Councillors were outraged in 2012 when they learned city administrators had OKed a controversial land deal with Shindico involving several fire halls.

That deal was later quashed and was the subject of a pricey audit ordered by council.

The audit later named the city’s former chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl in the management of the deal, saying they he and other high-level administrators had too much power.

Sanders said administrative staff need to be watched closely.

He said he would immediately appoint a new chief administrative officer for the city. The city still has not hired a permanent replacement for Sheegl who stepped down shortly before the fire hall audit was released.  

 “I will initiate a fair, thorough and swift performance appraisal procedure for all present senior administrators of the city in order that we can make changes that council and the new CAO wants,” said Sanders.

He said he would also create an employee code of conduct.

Bowman wants Wi-Fi on buses

Candidate Brian Bowman said he wants to put Wi-Fi on city buses, add bus shelters and finish all of the city’s bus rapid transit routes by 2030.
on Tuesday, Brian Bowman announced if elected, he would oversee major upgrades to Winnipeg Transit, including Wi-Fi on city buses. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Bowman said bus rapid transit is Winnipeg’s “Duff’s Ditch,” a nickname for the floodway.

"We're going to be looking at borrowing. We're going to be doing everything we can to lead," said Bowman. "I'm going to work with city officials. I'm going to work with the private sector, and we're going to make it happen."

Rapid transit has been a hot-button issue in the election so far. Gord Steeves caught fire from fellow candidates when he said he would axe the city-council-approved second-phase of BRT. 

Steeves had originally supported the rapid transit expansion in May but did an about-face on Aug. 22, prompting candidate Coun. Paula Havixbeck to call him manipulative and a political opportunist.

Wasylycia-Leis reveals campaign platform

Judy Wasylycia-Leis released her campaign platform on Tuesday, saying she was making four major commitments.
On Tuesday, Judy Wasylycia-Leis pledged accountability at city hall and no cuts to key services. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

She pledged to rebuild infrastructure, create an independent watchdog at city hall, protect city services such as police and garbage collection as well as create opportunities for Winnipeggers.

Wasylycia-Leis said she would create an independent watchdog to keep an eye on administrators and councillors called Accountability Winnipeg.

She also said she would put money into rebuilding city infrastructure, while protecting city services like fire, police, garbage collection, snow removal and Winnipeg Transit.

Finally, she said under her guidance, more opportunities would be created for Winnipeggers.

Wasylycia-Leis, Steeves make duelling announcements

Steeves decided to make his campaign announcement right outside Wasylycia-Leis’ campaign headquarters on Tuesday. 

Last week, two polls found Wasylycia-Leis was the front-runner in the mayoral race.

In response, Steeves suggested the other right-leaning candidates in the race should drop out so the vote isn’t split. Bowman and Coun. Paula Havixbeck both declined.

On Tuesday, Steeves posed in front of a Judy for Mayor sign, pledging to freeze property taxes.

“I heard that Gord Steeves had come over to my headquarters, and I thought maybe he had experienced a conversion this Labour Day weekend, and he had come over to join me,” joked Wasylycia-Leis.

Steeves said he chose the office to make his announcement to highlight differences between his campaign and Wasylycia-Leis’s.
Gord Steeves parked his campaign announcement directly outside the headquarters of Judy Wasylycia-Leis on Tuesday. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

“I am going to do everything in my power between now and Oct. 22 to make sure people understand exactly what the differences are between the respective candidates,” he said. “It's going to be fun!”

He slammed Wasylycia-Leis for her time as an MLA in Manitoba during the 1980s, saying she was a part of tax increases then, and she will increase taxes if elected.

“Bottom line is, as we all know, if you live in the City of Winnipeg, you pay, not the highest, but among the highest taxes in the country of Canada,” said Steeves. “I am sounding the alarm bell. More tax hikes are coming from Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

Wasylycia-Leis responded to Steeves' attack shortly after his press conference.

“[Winnipeggers] want our infrastructure dealt with, and they want to grow innovation and new ideas throughout our city, so my pledge to Winnipeggers is to do that responsibly with an affordable tax plan,” she said. 

She added, “Gord Steeves can talk all he wants about freezing taxes. He was part of the same old gang that caused the problems we are now facing,” referring to Steeves' time on council. 

Winnipeggers go to the polls on Oct. 22. CBC has full coverage of the election at Winnipeg Votes 2014.


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