Friday, September 30, 2005

Assiniboine Park and the Mayor's Folly

Earlier this month, the accidental mayor of Winnipeg, Sam Katz, announced a plan to lease part of Assiniboine Park to private developers to construct condominiums. Our city’s grandest park rivals the great parks of North America’s leading cities and it should be preserved as a public trust, not parceled off for private development.

During his short political career, Mayor Katz has shown that he is, it seems, constitutionally incapable of distinguishing between private interest and the public good. Winnipeg voters should hardly be surprised, since this mindset was plainly clear before they elected him mayor. Like so many celebrities, whether in business or entertainment, Mr. Katz came to office with dubious credentials and no real platform, other than the thinly-veiled intention to serve the private interests of the so-called "business community" over the public good.

It's time to take back City Hall from the developers and other private interests who long ago captured it and have held it hostage ever since. Luring voters with promises of lower taxes, those elected officials who are beholden to private interests rent or sell off the city's capital assets to pay for their folly, while generating private profits for their friends. If Assiniboine Park is in sad shape today, it is only because the present city council and its predecessors have lacked the courage to maintain taxes and other sources of revenue at a level that would have allowed proper maintenance of what is truly a public treasure. The same is true for our city's crumbling streets and declining infrastructure.

So I say let's take the mayor's latest venture into undermining the public good in the name of so-called development as a signal to begin the campaign to throw him out of office, along with those burnt-out and unimaginative councillors who support his agenda. Winnipeg deserves a city council that values parks over parking lots, community centres over corporate interests, libraries over landfill, and public servants over private profiteers. It's time that this city replaced the pirates at City Hall with a progressive alternative.