Civic Governance & Operational Review & Performance Assessment Motion

On October 26, 2016, Councillors Wyatt and Eadie brought forward to City Council a Motion speaking to Civic Governance, Operational Review and Performance Assessment:

On October 26, Mayor Bowman, in discussions with Councillor Wyatt, re-directed the Motion to the Executive Policy Committee meeting on November 9.

On November 9, I spoke to the Motion (see my remarks below). The Executive Policy Committee laid the Motion over for 120 days, and I expect it will return to the Executive Policy Committee sometime in April, 2017.

My thanks to the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Metro for covering this story.

Councillor Lukes’ Remarks

Executive Policy Committee – November 9, 2016


I’m here to speak in support of the majority of items referenced in the Civic Governance and Operational Review and Performance Assessment motion.   I am not supportive of point #4.

I want to be clear that my presentation today is not about personalities, ideologies, or sour grapes.  It is beyond that.  I am speaking in support of this motion because I have – we all have – an obligation as elected representatives to always be trying to improve and refine our systems, our information gathering and sharing, our business processes, our decision making abilities and our governance model.

Prior to being elected, I spent 14 years interacting with City, Provincial and Federal elected officials and bureaucrats. I worked for a variety of organizations raising capital funding. When you secure money for public projects from levels of government, you end up working very closely through the duration of the project with these elected officials and bureaucrats. The closer I worked with government, the more the more I saw about the inner workings, and the more I saw, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Which is one of the reasons I ran for office – and now, two years after being elected – I have incredible insight to the inner workings of City Hall.

We all saw a lot of questionable actions occur in previous City Councils – under the very governance model we still operate under today. Every single one of us around the table campaigned on making positive change:

  • To change things we saw occurring,
  • To ensure due process would occur in decision making,
  • To ensure tax dollars were being invested wisely
  • To put processes in place that enabled openness and transparency – and to quote you, Mr. Mayor, ‘to lift the veil of secrecy at City Hall’

I am confident in saying we all campaigned on these issues.

Mr. Mayor, clearly you saw the need for reform of our governance system prior to being elected. You campaigned on and developed a series of policies focused on improving governance at City Hall. I voted for you because of your promises and commitment to this very issue. Like I said, I had seen many of the inner workings of government prior to being elected, and was highly motivated to make change – like you were.

And yes, this Council has made some positive steps forward, but we can do more. Today, we can continue improving governance at City Hall by supporting this motion.   Council has not conducted a comprehensive review of its governance structure in 20 years.  20 years.  I believe it is time for a review.

I’ve travelled throughout the world, mostly to third world countries. I know – as do many citizens of Winnipeg – we have a very good democratic system and governance model compared to others in the world, but that’s no reason to say it can’t be improved upon even further.

It is so much easier now than 20 years ago to look at governance models of cities across Canada; to look at best practices, innovative approaches; learn from them and refine our governance model. From a very high level scan that I’ve done, the City of Winnipeg’s strong mayor governance model is actually very unusual by Canadian city standards.

I want to share some of my observations over the past two years, working under the strong mayor governance model.

You may recall one of the first things I did when elected was to reach out to Councillors and ask them to give me a tour of their wards, so I could get to know them better, and understand the challenges and opportunities in their wards. I came here recognizing everyone had different perspectives, ideologies, ambitions and goals; but, I wanted to reach out to people and build relationships – as we’d be working together to build and strengthen our City over the next four years.

But after a few weeks, I became disillusioned with the lack of collaboration that was occurring with my colleagues. I guess I was naïve in thinking we would all work together.

For some reason, following the very optimistic civic election environment, I came here thinking Councillors and the Mayor would work together to develop a strategic direction for the next four years. I thought we’d meet regularly throughout our term to strategize, to brainstorm, and to share ideas on how we could deliver services better, maximize the value for the taxpaying citizens, and deal with civic issues.

BUT I quickly realized the strong mayor governance model we operate under does not lend itself to that form of group collaboration.

I will never forget a conversation I had during lunch with a long-time City Director about my dismay that there was no collaboration and sharing of ideas with colleagues, and there seemed to be little trust in the conversations we were having. He leaned over and said to me: “you can’t trust anyone here – trust absolutely no one – hold your cards tight. It’s just the way it is”.  This was someone who had spent decades within the City.

  • I know of all of this sounds absurd – but it’s not. You know this.

The strong mayor governance model we operate under is not designed and not conducive to enable and encourage Council members to work as a team – to bring forward ideas, and to work in a collaborative manner. We are in constant battle – there is no Council harmony, only Council discord.

  • And that reason alone should be cause to explore best practices and improvements to our current model. I know we can do better

Each Councillor represents tens of thousands of Winnipeggers – each one of them brings a unique perspective to the table – but under this current strong mayor governance model – we are unable to capture and build on these perspectives.

Even within Executive Policy Committee – it was only after the Manitoba Hydro Transmission Corridor lands sale fiasco that we actually started scheduling a time slot for political discussion. We never ‘just talked’!  We just reviewed report after report after report with Administration.

I think that’s wrong. But it is the result of the strong mayor model we operate under. It’s called strong mayor for a reason. Why encourage and bring ideas forward that are not a mayor’s agenda?  This governance model enables one person a tremendous amount of power. We saw it with the last Council.  Yes, this council has added an Integrity Commissioner, and established a Whistleblower Protection Act – but the ultimate power still lies with whoever the mayor is.

I know if we conduct a governance review, and look at best practices and governance models of other cities, we could definitely improve on our existing model and enable a model that would work and serve citizens of Winnipeg even better.

I am also extremely supportive of the Operational Review and Performance Assessment aspect of the motion.

I have many years of experience working within organizations prior to being elected. I had a business with a staff of eight for 15 years, I worked at a company that’s been awarded the Canada’s Best Places to Work for 10 consecutive years.  I understand the importance of a well-functioning organization, a finely tuned machine.

I completely expected that this new Council would find some level of operational dysfunction when we began our term. And we did.  BUT it’s been two years now and I see little in the way of change in the level of dysfunction. I know it’s a big organization, but after two years we should be seeing operational changes. As Councillors we receive no update or discussions on how leaders are moving towards operational improvements. We are not asked how we think operations could improve.

Mr. Mayor and Mr. McNeil [Chief Administrative Officer, City of Winnipeg], you know I am regularly expressing my frustration at the lack of information flow, the disconnect in communication within departments, the inability I have to provide a level of service to citizens because of this dysfunction – and am constantly offering suggestions.

  • You well know my regular line: “I am set up to fail”
  • 311 is our front line of service for our business operations. You well know my continual efforts related to trying to improve 311 – yet, I still hit a wall.
  • You well know my efforts to improve communication, internally and externally

I’ve been asking for a complete organizational chart for the last 4 months! I need information to do my job – I need to know who to contact for information. But I’m still waiting.

And it’s not just me experiencing this dysfunction in operations.  Staff tell me a majority of their time is spent looking for information and the right person to contact – and they express dismay at the dysfunction of the organization. What a waste of resources.

  • And I hear this daily from residents trying to do business with the City or seek service from the City – they face the same dysfunction.
  • It’s currently a crippling work environment, and I’ve always expressed my concerns on operations to both of you.

Yes, these are operational issues, but I do believe they are symptomatic of the strong mayor model, and the power a mayor has to determine priorities in their 4-year term.

  • Spending time and money on how the City operationally functions internally and is governed is really not ribbon cutting photo op material.

But, for the citizens of Winnipeg, the taxpayers and for the future of our City – I do think we should invest time and funding towards a Civic Governance and Operational Review and Performance Assessment.  That is why I am supporting this motion (recall I am not supportive of point #4) – but am supportive of all the other aspects.

After 20 years, I’d be hard pressed to think of any reason why we wouldn’t do a review, especially since, Mr. Mayor, improving governance was one of your campaign commitments. We must continually strive to improve our current models, governance model included. I hope EPC is progressive on this issue and supports this motion.

Thank you.

Major review of city’s governance model put off for 120 days, Bowman’s inner circle decides

Winnipeg Free Press  By: Aldo Santin    Posted: 11/10/2016


A proposal for a sweeping review of the governance model at city hall has been put on hold.

Mayor Brian Bowman and councillors on his executive policy committee Wednesday unanimously voted to “lay over” the proposal for a review of city hall’s political and administrative organizations for 120 days to allow members of council to consider how best to accomplish the goal.

The move was backed by the proposal’s main advocate, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, who seemed to do an about-face on the urgency surrounding the issue.

While Wyatt wanted the motion debated at the Oct. 26 council meeting, when it was instead referred to EPC, he told Bowman and EPC Wednesday councillors need time to consider the implications of a possible change in how city hall is governed and was agreeing to the 120-day delay.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Wyatt said, adding the delay was Bowman’s suggestion. “Something like this, (the administration and EPC) need to come up with a plan, a budget, everything else. I think 120 days is enough time for them to come back to council.”

Wyatt had proposed the change because he said it’s been almost 20 years since the governance structure at city hall was reviewed and it’s time for another. He said the CAO is exercising too much power, at the expense of council, and the strong-mayor model has resulted in half of council (those not on EPC) being regularly being shut out of the information-sharing process, which negatively affects their ability to make decisions.

The proposal calls for restoring the “balance between the office of the mayor, councillors and the public service.” As part of that process, Wyatt wanted council to temporarily suspend the authority of CAO Doug McNeil.

Wyatt’s proposal outlined a procedure on how the review should be conducted, but Bowman said after talking to Wyatt, they mutually agreed to give all members of council more time to consider how the review should be conducted.

The delay surprised Coun. Janice Lukes, who appeared as a delegation at Wednesday’s EPC meeting to support the need for a review. Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) told EPC her two years on city council and as a former member of Bowman’s EPC had taught her the review is needed.   Read more by Aldo Santin.

Lukes says Winnipeg’s ‘strong-mayor model’ is broken

Winnipeg Metro      Published on Wed Nov 09 2016


Coun. Janice Lukes is adding her name to a call for a governance review at Winnipeg City Hall.

A former member of Mayor Brian Bowman’s executive policy committee, Lukes told the committee on Wednesday she believes the city’s so-called ‘strong mayor-model’ is a problem, and the reason for a so-called lack of collaboration between councillors.

“We’re in constant battle. There is no council harmony, only council discord most of the time.”

“That alone should be cause to explore best practices and improvements to our current model,” she said.

Under the strong-mayor system, a mayor has the most administrative authority to implement his or her agenda, and the power to appoint committee chairs and fire department heads.

Lukes stressed her issue is with the system itself, not Bowman or other personalities.

Coun. Russ Wyatt initially pitched council on independent review idea back in September.

He wants the review to focus on the inner-workings of council, including the roles and responsibilities of the mayor, councillors and administrators in order to fix a “broken” system.

Wyatt added it’s been 19 years since somebody took a magnifying glass to city hall’s structure to see if it could be improved.

“There’s no system that’s perfect, but we really do need to have a governance review of our council system,” Wyatt said.

CUPE Local 500 President, Gord Delbridge, told Wednesday’s committee he also wants to see an operational review done.

Councillors ultimately voted to shelve the request for four months.

Bowman said he and Wyatt want to hear what other councillors think before proceeding with a review.