ENVIRONMENTAL EDITORIAL AND POLICE ACT CONSULTATIONS

EDITORIAL SPEAKS TO ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE ISSUE The editorial in today's Free Press included some good analysis of the Environmental Committee situation. I particularly like the suggestion that we should consider having environmental issues fall under a single Standing Policy Committee. This is how it works in some other major centres in Canada such as Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto to name a few. Here is the article for your information: A waste of green If Mayor Sam Katz doesn't believe that a civic committee is an effective forum for addressing environmental issues, then he should say so and put it out of its misery instead of making a farce out of the process and wasting everyone's time. Five of the eight members of the mayor's environmental committee have resigned because they apparently believed they were merely window dressing for a mayor with a weak record on environmental action. Mr. Katz dissolved a previous environment committee in December 2005, ostensibly because its term had expired, although it was hard not to suspect that the members were let go because they had all been appointed by former mayor Glen Murray, who was a vocal champion for the environment. He then created his own Mayor's Environmental Advisory Committee (MEAC), but it lacked both the budget and the resources to conduct meaningful work. It met in secret and its work, whatever it was, was never made public, apparently because it was supposed to be confidential advice to the mayor. The city needs a special committee dedicated to the environment, particularly at a time of rising environmental awareness when senior levels of government are awarding grants specifically for green-friendly projects. The city is also weak in its recycling efforts and could do a lot more in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a case could be made that it should be a full standing committee that engages citizens on environmental issues, seeks advice and vets programs and projects arising out of other committees. Mayor Katz has slowly taken an interest in environmental issues and he has supported many important initiatives, including generous budget support for bicycle corridors and walking trails. He has also embraced, albeit belatedly, the concept of rapid transit and the importance of finding ways to convince people to leave their cars at home. It's not clear now, however, if he intends to renew his moribund environmental advisory committee, or look for a new way to colour the city green, other than to appoint a new committee chairman. The mayor's state-of-the-city speech last week offered a hint of what to expect, and it could be a positive development. As part of a new 25-year-long Plan Winnipeg, Mayor Katz plans to promote the importance of sustainability -- social, financial and environmental -- in all aspects of the city. The public will be invited to participate in the process of designing a sustainable Winnipeg in a variety of ways, which is all very commendable, but not an excuse for failing to establish an effective environmental committee at city hall. Even if the new Plan Winnipeg succeeds in anticipating all the city's requirements over the next 25 years, which is doubtful, a green committee is still needed to evaluate and study the recommendations and to consult experts on the way forward. CHANGES COMING TO POLICE ACT: CONSULTATIONS The province is holding public meetings to hear from Manitobans about proposed changes to the Police Act. It was reported in the media today that this may mean the end of the Mayors Police Advisory Board and the creation of a true police commission model that has actual teeth. You may recall that at the time the Advisory Board was being established, over 30 public delegations representing a broad range of concerned citizens and organizations spoke about the need for enhanced civilian oversight of police and expressed disapproval of the Mayor's proposed model. According to a provincial press release the proposals Manitobans will be asked to consider include: - the establishment of a civilian police commission to oversee the rules and standards of policing; - the development of an independent unit of experienced investigators with a civilian director to investigate allegations of serious incidents involving police officers; and - the establishment of police boards to oversee local police. In Winnipeg the following Public Meetings will be held: Tuesday, March 3 at the Canad Inns, Polo Park, Ambassador 3 Room, 1405 St Matthews Avenue Or Wednesday, March, 4 at the Bingo Hall, Freight House, 200 Isabel St People should call 945-4773 in Winnipeg or toll-free 1-866-698-3187 to register to attend. Manitobans can also comment on proposals for changes to the police act online at www.gov.mb.ca/justice/policeact. Background documents on various aspects of policing that will help inform the discussion are also available online. Thank you for your interest in Civic Issues! Cheers! Jenny Jenny Gerbasi Councillor Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry jgerbasi@winnipeg.ca