During most of the 10 years Sam Katz served as Winnipeg’s mayor, city council was divided into two unofficial, but very visible, parties.
Katz commanded a centre-right majority of 10 to 12 members of council, depending on the term in question. On the other side of the chamber sat four to six left-of-centre councillors, who functioned very much like an opposition party, even though party politics have no official role at city hall.
When Brian Bowman succeeded Katz as mayor, he won a landslide victory on a promise to change the culture at city hall. He labelled practices from the Katz era as “old-school politics” during the 2014 mayoral race and continues to use that label today.
The problem is, the unofficial party system that rendered council so divisive during the Sam Katz era is back in earnest under Bowman, especially since October, when he shuffled two troublesome colleagues out of executive policy committee and created the unofficial governing party known informally as EPC+2.
This came to a head Wednesday, when councillors were forced to attend four separate meetings just to pass a police-union contract no member of council would likely vote against if it were not for the lack of trust at city council.
Team Bowman 9, opposition 6
Council now has a mayoral party of nine on one side, an opposition party of six on the other and a lone policy independent in the form of council speaker Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan), who doesn’t always vote against Bowman but cannot be counted to vote along with him.
EPC+2 consists of all seven members of executive policy committee, plus deputy mayor Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) and acting deputy mayor Matt Allard (St. Boniface).
The latter two attend the closed-door briefing sessions that used to be known as IEPC meetings — internal EPC gatherings — when Katz was around.