I need to get a few things off my chest about the so-called severances at Winnipeg City Hall. Mayor Brian Bowman rode to election victory on a white horse wanting to clean up the trough. The public had a low opinion of the former Mayor, some of his colleagues like the former CAO, possibly others inside the administration, and the councillors, most of whom at one time or another went along with the Mayor of the day with the running of our city. Many of the things that we wanted done weren’t and some things that needed to get done cost more than they should, and the suspicion was the costs were higher because those doing the work had friends in high places. I could put on the hip waders now and walk through all the old sewage about fire halls and the police headquarters and the stadium and on and on and on ad nauseam, and that’s the point. The entire exercise is nauseating.
So Bowman rides in and says ‘one of the first things I want to do to get the sewage off the boots is to eliminated the so-called severance that a previous Mayor and council voted for themselves and all mayors and councils going forward’. You know about severance at your workplace. The boss eliminates your job or eliminates your role in the company, and you get a package, a severance. If you choose to leave your job, because you’re going to another or maybe you’re cashing a lottery ticket or your aunt Marge just died and left you enough to live on, whatever the reason, if you leave you’re on your own - no severance. But here in what I affectionately call Palookaville, the real world doesn’t have to exist inside the confines of a legislature or a city hall.
A couple of years ago a guy named Larry Maguire wanted to go from provincial politics to federal politics. A by-election opportunity came up when Merv Tweed resigned his federal seat in Brandon, and Larry decided to run for it, and did, and won. After Larry resigned his provincial seat in Arthur-Virden he picked up a severance cheque, even though he didn’t get severed. He severed himself and we Manitoba taxpayers gave him 86 thousand dollars (which he later decided to donate to charity). My bud in Brandon, Deveryn Ross, did the math - in between the time Larry left the legislature and won a seat in Brandon he was technically unemployed, but the severance payment we gave him meant that Larry was being paid 2,278 dollars a day for each of those 37 days where he was out of work. The Pol later forwarded the after tax income on the severance to a charity. But does anyone in the real world not see this as the sewer of politics? The so-called severance is a severance sewer.
Sam Katz made about 1.7 million dollars in the decade that he was Mayor of Winnipeg. When he decided the jig was up and he couldn’t beat Judy in a crowded field, which included Bowman and a bunch of somebodies and nobodies and wannabes, the last thing he did before leaving office was to pick up a severance of 80 thousand dollars. Did he steal it? No, it was legal. Council had vote for it. Dan Vandal left council on his own as well. He took the money. Scott Fielding took the money. Justin Swandel took the money. And there were others.
The money is supposed to help them transition to a new life. Sam’s new life is owning a baseball team. Did he need the dough to transition to team ownership? No, he owned the team before he became Mayor and while he was Mayor and now. The only transition is he’s no longer getting is the six figures as Mayor of Winnipeg. Do we have stories of ex-councillors leaving office and going from the City Trough on Main Street to live at the Mission just around the corner or some rooming house in the core? With just a hot plate, a black and white TV, and a three-legged cat? No, we don’t have those stories. If those stories were around we would have been told those stories this week by the councillors who argued for keeping the severance sewer going. Why do councillors have severance? Because they make the rules and they can. Why do councillors have severance? For the same reason that three-legged cat can give himself a tongue bath. Because he can.
To those who voted No - good on you. You passed the character test for public service.
To the others, you a get a Great Big Fail. Nothing you ever say about responsibility and accountability will mean a damn thing to me. And when you tell me it’s not about the money, it’s a lie. It’s only about the money. You are taking what you feel entitled to. It’s not taxpayer’s money in your minds, it’s your money. It’s on the table, it’s in the trough, and now it’s on your boots. You don’t want to bend down and smell it because it reeks. It’s severance sewage and you’re taking it.
I’m Charles Adler
(photo credit: cjob.com)