Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Council Thoughts & Water Utility Wins

Nearly-live notes from the council meeting of 22 July !

Some post- council media:
Council votes in favour of new water utility
Winnipeg Sun

Grain Exchange Annex to face demolition
Winnipeg Free Press

Delegation Phase

Oh my, this will be a long one. Some random thoughts as I have been watching:

- Started as interestingly as a Fringe play. Gerbassi shows her oppositional prowess by jumping up and slapping on a point of order to everything but the opening prayer - causing procedural befuddlement. Audience participation, boos and jeers but everything settled down.

-Chris Lorenc is still angry after all these years away from Council. Blames the opposition as being 'all about ideology', that some people's ideology leads them to oppose new direction. On my 'buzzword bingo' card he scored me "think outside the box".

- Award to the (some) Canadian Taxpayers' Federation's Colin Craig for not pulling out the childish stunt to make a point. No pig balancing water bottles on it's back. no old man wearing just a rainbarrel. The presentation was just verbal.

- The only propped pulled out was Tom Simms from the (some) Citizens' Coalition speaker. A big blank cheque. He also won the most animated speaker award - and I mean animated in the 'enjoyable to listen to / good presentation skills' way, not in the 'is there a medication imbalance taking place ?' way.

Interesting points raised in the delegations:

- Lorenc: the "freedom of delay" that councillors have help increase the infrastructure defecit by allowing them to put off or water down things the city needs to do.

- Simms: under a 3P it's hard to get information even via FIPPA. Had examples of trying to get info on the maintenance contract for the Charleswood bridge. Key data is left out "to protect the interests of the third party".

After the first few that council DOES need a better way to get the message out. Open houses are okay to show off what you already have. Also, people don't like attending open houses. Maybe council should look more toward the "hearing" model. Not just delegations before a meeting but set up in chambers and have a half day of hearings with the pols, admin experts, stuff they would make for an open house and have it all at one time. That would give people more information plus the ability to swat away some oppo groups by saying: you were at the hearings, we already addressed that.

These are some of the delegation presentations that I could find on the 'net, fyi.

Info from some of the delegates:
Canadian Taxpayer Federation
Water Utility Release
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Proposed Corporate Utility could be Costly to Winnipeggers
Private Public Partnerships for Winnipeg’s Water are not the Answer
CUPE 500
Research Report to City Council on Water Utility

Council Debate

- Katz: in summation on the utility made an odd comparison. Talking about protection and public contol over the water utility he said it would be "just like Manitoba Hydro". Hydro si probably not a good anaolgy to bring up as not so long ago that Winnipeg Hydro, and arms length utility, was sold off to Manitoba Hydro.

- Orlikow: first time I have seen him in action. Very reasoned, good speaker and talked about the research that he had done. Some of the others in oppo didn't sound like they did a lot of that. Indirectly, he touched on a point that I have always believed: council research capabilities suck. One person with a staff of one and a big stake in a billion dollar decision. They need the ability to do more indie research.

- Wyatt: good point that the mayor should be out 'leading the charge' on the utility if it is that good and that important a project. If the prov is pushing for it, the minister should join him as well. Do the job of actually promoting the utility. Best speaker in support of holding off until September.

- Orlikow: If we're 'borrowing the model' from Manitoba Hydr then let's add more of the information contained in the hydro act (ie what's included, what's not etc) in the business plan.

- The Laz is up now introducing his motion for a city-wide referendum on th issue . It's actually a motion for a referendum if it ever comes to a point of privatizing. it doesn't sound like a referrendum on creating the agency.

- A good point by Steeves that here, as in other jurisdictions, that people don't really get engaged in an issue until it gets down to the wire. That's human nature I guess - maybe anotehr reason to look at "hearings" it gives some weight to the proceedings vs an open house. I wonder how many people not checking out things like Speak Up Winnipeg will be on the floor of council a year form now to complain that there was no avenues for public input. (Granted SUW is a bit PR ish but, still, it's old government using new media to try to get input and has some decent reference material on it).

- Oh.... Steeves gets a triple "Oh, Snap" in there - impressive. He'll take criticism from constits, the gallery about not enough consultation but will not take it from Vandal, Gerbassi and Thomas who were on EPC when the demo of Eaton's was announced not to council but on the front page of the FreeP. Youch !

refutes some of the oopo points well in his tired, condescending way. If he could package it better .... One good point he makes - this ISN'T a P3, though it has been referred to by some as one.

Defends the Charleswood bridge P3 deal - says that nobody can come before council and say it wasn't a good deal because all of the required information is unavailable. After saying it was a good deqal and, unlike the delegates earlier who said the project cost the city more money that it should have, to "go back and check their numbers" (which of course they can't do because as he said off the top that
the required information is unavailable).

Fielding invokes the raw sewage in the ditch that Steeves did earlier. Making this an apple pie issue, though a much less appealing apple pie, by wrapping it in the environmentally friendly banner is sort of iffy. I don't imagine taht you'll find many 'pro-poo' in the ditches of the St. Paul's. Better water treatment isn't the issue, how the plant is built and run is.

It 'would be against the law" to privatize and there's nothing anyone in this camber can do to change that.

had a good point. The ability to use water as an ec development tool to attract business (ie lower water rates). Tough, personally, I don't think it's a great tool to use and use and I would have thought that the prov would have the abiity to fiddle with hydro if it meant attracting a big corporation ? I could be wrong.

calls out Dr. Loxley from the UofM, a delegate from earlier in the day, for cherry picking his arguments.

Wyatt: "No shit, Sherlock" award for explaining that this appears to be an ideological battle and used 2 of his 8 minutes explaining to people that this is a public vs. private debate !

: is saddened regarding the "allegations" (though he said he "knows they're more than that") . Accuses Gerbassi et al for "hypocrisy and doublespeak" from the "self-proclaimed opposition to progress in this city".

He continues to mix Manitoba Hydro in there using is as a good example, then a bad example in the same speech.

He went into detail about the sale of Winnipeg Hydro to Manitoba Hydro. He said that council received a two hour briefing on the sale, some asked for more info, but less than a month later the announcement was made. The only dissenting voice on the sale vote ? Lubosch. Not Gerbassi who was a member of EPC.

He pointed out MB Hydro's international wing and the projects that they're doing with China, Kenya, India, bringing money home to Manitoba. He's pleased with that involvement and money. Noted that a 1/3 stake ow Wuskwatim was sold to MCM Cree Nation yet no protest etc. that we're giving away our hydro.

He then said that we're dealing with a model just like Manitoba Hydro, just different in that the city will have much more control. (?!)

The Laz got to use his usual "Shame on You !" cry. This time it was directed at those councillors who allowed the "privatization" issue to continue bubbling among opponents even though they knew that it was not an issue. They played political games with opponents to score political points, get themselves on tv looking tough on a non-issue. he said those who don't support this agency are in a way supporting privatization (meaning, presumably, that the city can't do it alone so the only other option is private). He also evoked Obama for the second time today (though I missed the reference, something about P3's).

Laz congratulated the admin for creating a report that a 12 year old could read.

Katz: Fared better on this summary and had a strong close.

We need a strategic partnership because the project is too massive, too complex for the city to do (previuously he made a good point about the $1b pricetag - the city has had a record of recent cost overruns in the doble digits on large project - iamgine what a 20% overrun would be on $1b). This partnerships gains the expertise and know how of the partner, shares the cost issues and any overruns, and benefits form the city being able to borrow the money for cheap. We can't do it the old way.

As for PUB v Council deciding rates. That can be decided later.

The Votes:
- Amendment 4 (Swandel, Clement) carried 14-2 (Thomas, Vandal opposed)
- Amendment 3 (Swandel, Steeves) carried 12-4 (Smith,Thomas, Vandal Wyatt opposed)
- Amendment 1 (Katz, The Laz) carried 12-4 (Smith, Swandel, Thomas, Vandal opposed)

On the clause (to create a water utility) as amended: carried 10-6 ( Gerbassi, Orlikow, Smith, Thomas, Vandal, Wyatt opposed)

10 minute recess

Upon return, some discussion about the infra deficit. Free Press Live went off-line as it's after business hours and Shaw TV coverage ended because of baseball game. We'll find out the rest of the details in tomorrow's paper, I suppose !

1 comment:

Stimpson said...

I'm surprised and impressed by how Wyatt voted.