All parties participate in local government, not just the NDP

Yesterday the Winnipeg Free Press published a well-researched piece by Bartley Kives that provided a clear demonstration of something I tell my students every year: Most Winnipeg city councillors – and, for that matter, most Canadian city councillors – claim to be free of party ties. Though they feel obligated to say this, everyone knows it’s not really true.

Bart’s evidence shows clearly that, for the most part, candidates for City Council were backed by the personal contributions of people well-known to have strong ties to the Conservatives, Liberals, or the NDP. The way candidates raise funds for their campaigns, in his words, “defeat[s] the spirit of provincial election rules that ban union and corporate donations in municipal elections.

The tradition of municipal non-partisanship is a charade, and the law that tries to enforce it defies the reality that politics requires organization, but that’s not the point I’m pursuing here. My concern at the moment is the headline someone wrote for Bart’s piece in the Free Press, which targets “Team NDP” as being involved local in party politics, but lets Conservatives and Liberals off the hook by using the euphemism “Team Katz”.

That isn’t supported by the evidence in the article. What the evidence shows clearly is that prominent individuals connected to all three parties are involved in local politics, with the NDP dominant in the left-wing minority on council and the Conservatives  and Liberals dominant in the majority. There certainly is a Team NDP in municipal politics, but there are, just as surely, Liberal and Conservative teams.

7 responses to “All parties participate in local government, not just the NDP

  1. This post seems to intend to divert attention of the close ties of the NDP machine to the financing of Judy’s campaign. Powerful cabinet ministers and labour union staff being involved in civic elections goes far beyond the involvement of rank and file Tory or Liberal members and supporters. Other than Gary Filmon and Paul Edwards, and Marty Marantz (hardly a household name), not a single contributor was identified by their political ties. Which reminds me, Kives’ boss Bob Silver – which party is he associated with?

    • The purpose of the post was not to divert attention from the involvement of any party in civic politics, but rather to focus attention on that involvement. My argument is that parties are essential to politics. There’s nothing wrong with their involvement, denials of their existence strain credulity, and trying to legislate against them only drives them underground.

  2. To Marty Gold. Just about since the 1919 strike a right wing coalition has run city hall. The hypocrisy of denial and its effectiveness in keeping the right wing in power was at its most evident in the 1974 election when the so-called “Independent” Citizens Election Committee (ICEC) ran successfully on the platform slogan “keep politics out of city hall.” Scratch the surface and see how daft that slogan is. City hall IS about politics; about choices – one of the most important being a policy of containment versus a policy of permissive zoning which made some very handsome profits for the developers (who had a large hand in financing that campaign, as well as others before and since – Sam Katz’s association with Shindico is no secret.). The result is a city which has become unmanageable in terms of maintaining its infrastructure, a viable public transit system and generally one which is an environmental, economic and aesthetic disaster. And by the way, the unions most active in the last campaign represented the Firemen and the Police. Having been given promises of more staff and other goodies by Sam Katz (“Mr. we have no money, but I won’t raise taxes”), they mounted a vigorous, union organised, campaign in his support.
    Pete Hudson

  3. Hardly something new that Bartley touches on. In fact election funding is skewed to party participation and leaves the independent unable to fund his own campaign, or takes much of his time trying to build a “team” to fund raise. Consider that Party politics only require one phone call in order to raise cash, which leaves the candidate alot of time to run, while an independent must convince first then ask for money. In order to convince, you require money for exposure if you are unknown.

    The Citizens coalition attempted an experiment but failed miserably because the leadership is all about political parties. An independent has no chance in getting elected in most wards.

  4. An add to this should be how pathetic the media was during the election campaign. Perhaps a new method of covering the election should be imagined . For me, that is the single biggest failure we as citizens encounter during an election.

  5. Menno Zacharias

    It could be argued that if the mayor and city councillors had party affiliations it might cause them to be more accountable if not to the electorate directly at least to the party they represent. This might well restrict the ability to go ‘running madly off in all directions’ scenario we currently have. It would also limit the mayor’s ability to implement a personal agenda and could assist in curbing the temptation of corruption at the personal level.

    • Good points. Our system of city government mimics the American model rather than the British, where the leader of the party in power becomes the prime minister, or mayor at the local level. This gives the party leader and the party in power an incentive to formulate a common program, rather than “running madly off in all directions”. A clear program put forth by the party in power, in turn, provides an incentive to the minority party or parties to pull together and present a competing program. This system has worked well at the national and provincial levels, but, for some reason, we’ve decided to imitate the American model at the local level.

      Thanks for your interest.

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