Winnipeg jumps on Vancouver's renovation bandwagon

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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The excitement over Canada's popular home renovation credit is clearly spreading to city halls across the nation.

First you heard about the City of Vancouver pleading poverty. Then you were told how they spent $850,000 on costly renovations in order to better host foreign dignitaries. Part of these renovations included spending $147,000 for new regal looking carpets installed just outside the Mayor's office.

Now it looks like Winnipeg City Hall is also catching renovation fever. The Free Press is reporting that although Winnipeg council is also claiming they're broke, they are in the midst of spending $930,000 to renovate office space for senior managers. Mayor Sam Katz seems to have no problem with the expenditure and thinks it doesn't send the wrong message.

The whole understanding is to bring as much of the administration together in one building. If they were looking for new money, that might be an issue.

Similar to Councillor Raymond Louie, Vancouver's budget chair, Justin Swandel, Winnipeg's budget chair also claims he was blissfully unaware he voted for costly renovations to City Hall.

I wasn't aware of this. I don't think anyone was. When we're spending $1 million on something, it should be transparent through the budget process.

Is it just me, or is the fact both budget chairs let almost $2 million worth of office upgrades slip through their grasp not a bit odd? If they're not minding the shop, who is?

According to the Free Press:

The $930,000 office-renovation project is actually the second attempt to create offices on the second floor of the administration building over the past year. The vacant space was at first set aside for city councillors, but the elected officials declined to move across city hall's courtyard when they were given the opportunity early this year.

Clearly the concerns felt by the politicians didn't seem to extend to their public sector employees. Councillor Harry Lazarenko puts it quite bluntly:

We weren't going to do something crazy like that, going into an election year. So we stopped it.

The expenditure has set off a firestorm with tax weary Winnipegers. The following is a sampling of comments posted on the Free Press site:

I am ashamed to see that our CAO is engaged in such hypocritically fashioned practices. He is forcing 21 of the most talented professional employees from the City service in order to save $2.1 million. It is very disturbing to see that almost half of those savings would be spent on decorating luxurious new offices for him and his colleagues. These people are custodians of public funds. Why such misuse? Why don't they admit in public that they are cutting City employees to save money? cj2009

Whether the move is necessary or not is one thing. But guaranteed the taxpayers of Winnipeg are getting hosed on the amount. How much do you want to bet that the $930,000 is far too high. And was the contract for this properly tendered? Or was it just given out like the last one? - Concerned Winnipeger

Is it just me...

Or couldn't we save ourselves a whole lot of trouble (and tax dollars) by reducing the size of the bureaucracy in our city halls? - Michelt 

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