In the sport of politics, it’s important to know your opponents – how they behave, their likes and dislikes. And when you need opponents to become allies, you appeal to certain issues or causes for their loyalty.
The budget battle is a good example of how Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is, to borrow a Charlie Sheen moniker, winning!
From his first days as Mayor, Bowman identified his potential opponents and brought them into the fold. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge/East Fort Garry), John Orlikow (River Heights/Fort Garry) and Janice Lukes (St. Norbert) are allies in his overall budget battle, sharing an appreciation on rapid transit and active transportation. All three are passionate about walking, cycling and taking the bus and have grown to understand the financial pressures facing taxpayers.
But that has limits. The amendments brought forward by six city councilors offer to restore job cuts and put even more money into rapid transit. It has all the fingerprints of Transcona Councillor Russ Wyatt. His mission in life is to make Bowman miserable. He enjoys the role of villain, especially when he urges less experienced members of council to do his bidding.
Wyatt is offering to find the money to restore cuts to members of the city’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees 500. They do maintenance and other front-line jobs. The city uses vacancy management to delay replacing employees who have retired or quit. An employee who retires in June, for example, may not be replaced for months. It saves the city money and the work eventually gets done. The city’s collective agreement with the union expires at the end of 2016.
Gerbasi acknowledges she is feeling the pressure from the union movement to stand up for their cause. Bowman is ultimately looking to remove the no-job cut clause from the contract so they city doesn’t have to use the back door tactic of vacancy management. It’s a struggle for Gerbasi. She agrees with many of those union leaders in principle but argues compromise is necessary.
“I support the overall goal but it’s not a blanket endorsement,” Gerbasi told 680 CJOB. Wyatt is trying to turn the screws on Gerbasi by offering to transfer funding from the inner ring road (Chief Peguis extension) to rapid transit. Councillor Lukes wants to get that ring road done sooner rather than later. With only six supporters asking for amendments, Bowman’s budget should clear. Even if Gerbasi defected, the budget would pass.
Meanwhile, I anticipated more of a public outcry over the police budget. Removing a pilot project to put cameras on police officers will save about $1 million, closing the gap on layoffs at the service. Ross Eadie has backed down from his opposition, telling 680 CJOB layoffs should be avoided in the revised package hitting council today.