Is the bold the enemy of the good?
Given the strong (and strongly ironic) reaction to former mayor Susan Thompson’s suggestion on Friday that Winnipeg get a laser pyramid to put us on the map, perhaps it’s time for the wacky and weird to break into the debate — after all, candidates can’t start campaigning for October’s election until April.
Like many cities, Winnipeg has a history of vacillating between mayors who have big plans for the city and mayors who are seen as practical, steady choices.
Thompson was swept into power with the one-word slogan “Change” in 1992 — promising a similar cost-slashing, business-focused approach to civic politics not unlike the one Katz called for in 2004.
(It would almost be funny, if she hadn’t also concentrated power in the mayor’s office and established a single CAO, fomenting the structure that would, arguably, allow the fire-hall land swap to happen.)
Thompson didn’t effect much real Change. And although he was the boldest candidate at the time, neither did Glen Murray’s attempts at the first large-scale amendments to the way the city works.
No wonder Winnipeggers glommed on to the first fresh ideas they’d heard in a decade, even if it was communal NYE hot tubs.
This isn’t the first time the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing BOLD campaign has been the most exciting thing about an election. It’s shaping up to be the third straight such election, in fact, counting the provincial bore of 2011.
The lengthy current slate of possible mayoral candidates — Gord Steeves, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, John Orlikow, Paula Havixbeck, Jeff Browaty, Russ Wyatt and Brian Bowman — is so far more blah than bold.
Winnipeg is a weird city. Our bold/boring mayoral dichotomy is matched only with the right/left split in federal/provincial voting — which too, historically, has switched up every few decades.
So, sure, there’s work to be done at City Hall.
But the candidate that makes the biggest splash in the months leading up to Oct. 27 won’t be the one with the so-called business acumen.
It will be the one who recognizes that this city is ready to get excited about ideas and developments and real change.
We’re finally ready to talk about growing up, and that will require the serious as well as the silly.
But it will take an ideas leader, not a political player, to get us there.