Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time to resurrect the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition

Winnipeg Citizens Coalition logo.

Image Source: Winnipeg Citizens
The Winnipeg Citizens Coalition was founded as a coalition of left-leaning, progressive Winnipeggers in a similar vein to Vision Vancouver or People for a Better Ottawa. There were many thoughts on what the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition would be after it's founding, from a totally extra-parliamentary pressure group to a de facto municipal party that endorses specific candidates to prevent centre-left vote splitting. While it settled on a broad vision, the group seems to have ran out of steam when it comes to strategies and campaigns about specific, day-to-day, municipal issues. It sort've stalled and settled into some form of organizational limbo after the 2010 municipal elections. This is very unfortunate.

Sam Katz and the centre-right, business establishment at city hall certainly hasn't settled down after the wins in 2010. Whether it be ongoing fantasies of Light-rail transit or expansive use of P3s, an agenda country club conservatives can be proud of marches on.

Some people think that the fact the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition dared to come at civic politics from a leftwing angle was bad and perhaps even why it failed. The August 1 episode of Winnipeg Internet Pundits, for instance, voiced concerns that the "For the Love of Winnipeg" project could get "hijacked" by "moonbats" like the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition supposedly was. Policy Frog, based on a Hacks and Wonks post, even chastised how narrow the organization's base was, being "the same group of Katz haters with just one more meeting to attend each month" and complaining about the lack of any centre-rightists.

I don't get why everyone demands that every grassroots organization have a variety of ideological viewpoints. I can understand some fears over purportedly grassroots groups just becoming parts of a provincial or federal party machine, but the prospect of a left-leaning pressure group that draws relatively unengaged citizens into its ranks doesn't sound that bad - even if it excludes the centre-right.

After all, there's a variety of informal or formal organizations that are in effect centre-right business lobbies. Chamber of Commerces come to mind. Does anyone complain about the relative uniformity of views in these organizations? Then why in grassroots pressure groups?

There's certainly a "not left, not right, but forward" (to borrow a phrase from Martha Hall Findlay that also applies to the cultish "progressive centrism" that underlies Manitoba's political culture) idealism here, but come on! What is wrong with a group of lefty 'Peggers pushing for reform at city hall? Given the current direction, especially under Katz, it's exactly what's needed.

To move Winnipeg forward, the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition needs to be resurrected. Once this happens it needs to devise concrete strategies for specific issues and needs to get the word out through social media. The centre-left deserves a louder voice at city hall and a resurgent Winnipeg Citizens Coalition would be just the right amplifier to do the trick.

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