ETHICS, PARK POLICE AND TRANSFATS

ETHICS MOTION TO BE HEARD AT COUNCIL NEXT WEEK You may recall several months back that a motion came to council which resolved the following: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that City Council call on the Province of Manitoba to review and amend existing legislation to create stronger Conflict of Interest rules and guidelines for the City of Winnipeg and council through such measures as the establishment of a separate municipal office for the Conflict of Interest Commissioner or by expanding the role and responsibilities of the existing Commissioner. The debate that would have taken place back in October was delayed when the motion was referred to Secretariat Committee. The motion will now appear "as is" on the Council Agenda at the meeting on Feburary 18th. Today's Free Press reported that a valuable city asset was being inappropriately marketed by a private party, another illustration of the reason public concern continues to grow about what may be going on at our City Hall. Councillor Vandal's response was included in the article as follows: "This is scandalous. This whole place needs a comprehensive audit from top to bottom. We need to look at how we deal with real estate and the personalities involved. We have a real estate department in Winnipeg to sell these sorts of things. We have something called the public interest, and that's seems to be foreign to some people around here." The driving force behind the Council Motion is an emerging need for ethical oversight that comes from outside the Mayor and Council itself. A provincially appointed official could be a resource for municipal elected officials and citizens to bring ethical concerns forward for investigation, reporting back and suggested action. (along the lines of the what the City of Toronto has in place). In September, 2008 six members of council sent a letter to the Premier asking for his intervention in the Riverside Park Management affair. While the province was unwilling to intervene on the specific "one off" situation, there is no reason to assume that they would not consider a council supported motion to create better ethical oversight of the City of Winnipeg. If Council were to support the motion as it is worded, the Province would then feel some pressure to move forward. I would point out that the province is currently reworking the Police Act to provide better oversight for our Winnipeg Police Service in response to concerns about police policing themselves. In response to concerns about ethical issues at city hall, perhaps the time has come for the province to provide a better oversight mechanism for elected municipal officials as well. PARK POLICE CUT TAKES A PAUSE The decision to eliminate the current model of Park Police and to replace it with a model that cuts their numbers in ½ and reduces their role has been put on "pause" until next month. The Council motion that Councillor Vandal and I brought forward in January was heard at the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works this week. After hearing a number of people speak to the issue, the Committee requested that any proposed changes to status of the Winnipeg Park Police at City Parks not be proceeded with until a report has been submitted. This buys some time for public discussion and hopefully an opportunity to get some better information about what is really happening here. The City has an "Alternative Service Delivery" process that, if it was followed, would suggest a number of different options to improve the service. The benefits of selecting one particular approach over another should be identified clearly before a change is made. However, there has never been a public report or discussion at either Public Works or Protection and Community Services Committees. The administration may technically have the authority to bypass the political and public process, but that doesn't mean it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. Policy makers should have a say in policy! One of the people who spoke at the meeting, a retired member of the park police, stated that in the past the option of amalgamating the park police with the Winnipeg Police service by creating a River Patrol and Park police unit was being looked at . Since the Park Police receive the same training as members of the Winnipeg Police Service do, this might make sense. The point is policy makers should be considering and weighing all the options in an open public forum. The underlying issue here is safety of the public in our parks. Does this move to cut the park police and reduce their role make our parks safer? That is far from apparent! The issue will be on the agenda at the March 10th meeting of the Infrastructure Committee at 9:00 AM at city hall. To register contact jmarques@winnipeg.ca . TRANSFAT ISSUE IN LIMBO The issue of the reduction of the transfats in our food was discussed this week at Protection and Community Services Committee. The decision made was that the WHRA is the lead player on this and that the focus at this time will be solely on education. The Federal Government put in voluntary restrictions on the food industry following a task force report. Health Canada is supposed to report back on the compliance with these voluntary requirements hopefully this summer. Our committee passed a motion to revisit the issue once the information is available about how well this voluntary approach is working. If the Federal government regulates the problem at the source, that would be most effective. However, if they do not, it puts the ball back in the court of health authorities and civic leaders to consider regulation at the other end. At the very least, there ought to be some pressure put on the Feds to take action where it is going to make a significant difference. Thank you for your interest in Civic Issues! Cheers! Jenny Jenny Gerbasi Councillor Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry jgerbasi@winnipeg.ca