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.