The PROCESS of Engaging in Meaningful Discussions with All Stakeholders – Update #2

As outlined in my earlier blog on funding growth in Winnipeg (see Ward Priorities – Taxes), I’m anticipating the Hemson report will become available to the public, if not this week, then very soon.   I hope Winnipeggers will take time to follow this very important discussion about how we handle growth in our City, look closely at details, and ensure we compare ‘apples to apples’ in the process of forming educated opinions and perspectives.

Jacques Marcoux, one of CBC Manitoba’s shining stars, wrote an interesting article last week: “The perils of taking information at face value”.  I hope all citizens will carefully scrutinize the information from any growth fee reports – be it from the City or the development community.

When evaluating a new concept, it’s necessary to include in the due diligence an analysis of other jurisdictions and organizations:

CITY OF CALGARY

There is great interest by many analysts and decision makers on how Calgary approached the implementation of greatly increased growth fees.   In reading about Calgary’s process, I came across an extremely powerful letter of support from Paul Battistella, a 35-year member of Calgary’s development community who was also a member of the external advisory levy review committee.  Mr Battistella’s statements below resonated with me, in light of Winnipeg’s growth fee discussions and feedback from the local development community:

“First, I would like to commend the Build Calgary team for an open, transparent collaborative process. The biggest success, I believe, was the building of trust between the development industry and the city as we worked together through the process.

 Overall it is always difficult to accept additional costs without some type of tangible marketable benefit. I am able to support this levy because of how we worked with the Build Calgary team and the trust that was established through the process. The result is a very delicate balance that strives to address the challenges of both the City and the re-development industry.”

You can read Mr Battistella’s letter in its entirety in Calgary’s “Off-Site Levy & Community Services Charges Background Report” along with other  letters in support of raising levies from:

  • Calgary Urban Institute Development
  • Calgary Home Builders Association
  • Commercial Real Estate Development Division

Here is a broad overview of Calgary’s review process:

  • It took almost 12 months.
  • Over 100 meetings occurred with working committees from the City’s finance AND planning department, with representatives from ALL segments of the industry (residential, commercial and industrial)
  • From 2000 to 2011, developers building in new areas didn’t pay a penny toward water and waste water  (NOTE: In Winnipeg, all residents pay a water rate to cover water and waste infrastructure)
  • The increase in Calgary’s  rates from 2011 to 2016 equates to about 1% of the cost of a new home
  • Calgary’s levy will be phased in, with developers paying 33% this year, 66% in 2017 and the full cost in 2018

BRITISH COLUMBIA

British Columbia has put together three documents worth reading:

On the topic of PROCESS, one of the six guiding principles in BC’s Best Practices Guide is ‘Consultative Input’ which stresses the need for adequate opportunities for meaningful and informed input from the public and other interested parties.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (IAP2)

From my formal training in IAP2 Canada, I reflect on the seven CORE VALUES of public participation which help to make better decisions, reflecting the interests and concerns of potentially affected people and entities:

  1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
  3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
  4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

EVALUATING THE PROCESS

The experience of local governments indicates that a meaningful public process tends to generate by-laws which are effective and accepted by stakeholders who have participated in the decision making process.  I look at the rigorous consultation process the City of Winnipeg has set up for active transportation infrastructure, and how the process results in an even a better end result than initially anticipated.

From discussions I’ve been having with stakeholders and the public service, I have serious concerns about the PROCESS Winnipeg is taking to implement any kind of new development / growth fee. Of course no one wants more fees – but the current revenue streams we have to support growth are not enabling Winnipeg to grow sustainably.  A  number of questions arise:

  • Are we working with the development industry in a fair and transparent manner and engaging in meaningful discussions?
  • Are we ensuring we are comparing apples to apples in the analysis?
  • Do we have all the data as a City – that we need to enter into these discussions?
  • Do we have this data so that we can use the correct tools to support targeted growth areas?
  • Do we know what areas we want to grow – how we will sequence growth throughout the city?
  • Do we know areas we are targeting for density increases, or what is required to support industry and commercial in other areas?
  • Are we legally positioned to introduce new fees?

In my opinion, proceeding with any kind of growth fees will be one of the most significant and impactful decisions Council will make in this term.  I will not be making any kind of rushed decision – and I hope my Council colleagues will seriously consider the process to date and information we receive before any final decisions are made.

I will be continuing to post weekly updates on this important topic.

 

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