Winnipeg city councillor Paula
Havixbeck has had a target on her back since October. So her
vindictive removal from the mayor's coveted executive policy committee
came as no real surprise. It had just been a question of when.
that's when the rookie councillor did the unthinkable. She stood up
to council's bully twins--Mayor Sam Katz and his closest friend city
CAO Phil Sheegl.
Katz and Sheegl were then furiously
trying to cover-up the scandal of how the company owned by Katz's
business partner and other close pal Sandy Shindleman wound up with $14
million in city contracts to build four new firehalls without anybody
on council knowing about it.
"What's the big deal? Everybody knew," was Katz's first try to put the fire out.
did know the firehalls were being built, but the name of the
contractor was kept a deep, dark secret by then-deputy Fire Chief Reid
Douglas, who had inexplicably gone behind council's back to split up
the single contract for four firehalls that they expected into four
contracts for one firehall each to hide the name of contractor
Oh, and he approved Shindico's construction of a
firehall on land the city didn't own, but Shindico did, on the strength
of a secret land swap which he negotiated and expected city council to
rubber stamp because the fire station would by then be built, operating
and paid for.
Havixbeck wasn't having any of it.
started asking pointed questions about who knew what about the
firehall contracts. And she was stonewalled. By Sheegl. By Reid
Douglas. By the mayor. And by everyone else in the city bureaucracy.
she did the unheard-of. As chairman of the city's protection
committee, she called a special meeting and summoned Phil Sheegl, Reid
Douglas (promoted to Fire Chief) and Chief Operating Officer Depak
Joshi to answer questions.
didn't get many answers. It turned out Sheegl, the most senior
bureaucrat in the city, didn't know anything about anything. He was too
busy overseeing and not micromanaging $14 million dollar contracts.
Douglas and Joshi only raised more questions with their non-answers.
was humiliated at being treated like, well, just a bureaucrat and not
the giant intellect he thinks he is. Katz struck back quickly. He
removed Paula Havixbeck from the Protection Committee chair to send a
message to anyone else thinking of challenging him and his buddy.
But Havixbeck's hearing invigorated city council. The usual torpid councillors stirred to life.
from being intimidated, they were inspired. Before the year was out,
it was a full scale council revolt. Councillors forced the mayor to
approve an audit of the firehall deal plus a separate audit of all
property deals conducted by the city going back as far as five years.
was humiliated in turn, having to vote in favour of the very audits he
opposed publicly for months. Sheegl sat stone-faced behind him in
council and plotted revenge.
That revenge came this week when Katz finally saw his chance to punish Paula Havixbeck.
removed her from EPC. He then spent the day smearing her for reporters
by claiming she kept flip-flopping on issues and he couldn't trust her
That charge would have more impact if Katz had any credibility left.
hurt to write that because we've been among his biggest supporters,
coming to his defence each time the Winnipeg Free Press unfairly
attacked him. But he's become undefensible.
Katz's own record of flipflops includes opposing an audit of the
firehall deal before voting for it, and running an election on a pledge
to avoid raising taxes followed by a steady increase in taxes each year
after his win with promises of constant tax increases for years ahead.
But then Katz doesn't care about consistency. He's not running for mayor again.
is smart enough to know he's done like dinner in this city. Glen
Murray, he of multiple chins, would beat Sam Katz in an election in a
heartbeat if he came back to town. Former candidate Maryann Mihaychuk
would beat him easily. Even Judy Wasylycia-Leis would turn an election
into a race too close to call depending on whether voters hate Katz
more than the NDP.
He can't wait to get out of here. He's just sticking around to keep a
lid on the firehall scandal as long as he can before he and Sheegl fly
away to Scottsdale, Arizona where they've both built or bought homes and
can engage in busin - em, retire.
Who wants to stay and face
awkward questions about how he managed to acquire a million-dollar
house for $10 from the chief financial officer of Shindico?
has the EPC he wants. All men. A strong woman's view is not welcomed
or wanted. Havixbeck's replacement Brian Mayes was positively elated to
become a yes-man.
did Havixbeck do to push Katz to pull the trigger? She refused to
roll over and support unquestioningly the tax increases he wants to
push down peoples' throats.
The public doesn't know how
strongly she fought to hold the line. She came to EPC with detailed
arguments on how to find all the money the higher taxes would raise out
of existing sources---and even give taxpayers a rebate.
That's right. No tax increase necessary and the possibility of a small tax holiday.
fellow committee members wouldn't even listen to her ideas. And the
MSM reporters can't be bothered to detail her tax savings plans.
The budget passed. It's over. Nothing to see here. We can go back to covering the cat bylaw.
But Havixbeck is still on council. As Margaret Thatcher
said, this lady's not for turning. A mother of two raising her
children alone, by getting booted from EPC she's lost $22,000 a year in
extra pay for sticking to her principles.
Katz, though, forgot Machiavelli's number one lesson for how to be a
dictator: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Labels: Civic election, fire stations, Our Winnipeg, Paula Havixbeck, phi, Sam Katz, Shindico