A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part 4

When I  wrote Part 3 I did not anticipate a need to write a Part 4.  

I wasn’t operating under the naïve assumption that anything anyone said on the issue would reverse a decision that had already been made.  I was confident ‘the cat was already in the bag’.   

I did, however, believe that, as the mayor has a majority on council to support his position, just as a matter of process the $75,000.00 Winnipeg Police Service Helicopter Report would be made available to all the decision makers prior to the vote.  Such a move could have been made to look like a gesture of openness and transparency.  The release of the report, 6 months in the making if it contains all the required information, could have quelled the debate.  It would have answered all those unanswered questions and removed the need to simply ‘trust the experts’.      

So what is the rationale behind the $75,000.00 report being kept under wraps until sometime in the New Year?  Here are two possible scenarios:  

Scenario 1:  That the report is so woefully lacking in terms of addressing the cost/benefit aspect of the helicopter acquisition the mayor would be embarrassed to stake his reputation in support of the helicopter on the document.  The passage of a few weeks or months will ensure that this issue will have moved to the backburner in the minds of most Winnipeggers. When the report is made public most will treat it as old news.     

Number 2.  That the report is woefully incomplete and the additional time period from now until its release will be used to shore up its inadequacies so as to not embarrass the decision makers (i.e. those who had access to the report) in terms of the basis on which they made their decision.     

We may never know the answer or reasoning behind the delay in releasing the report.  If, however, we were in a position to compare the final report when it is released in 2010 to the version of the report the key decision makers no doubt had access to in November of 2009,  the question about the delay in its release might be answered. 

One last point about the decision making process on this issue centers on the council debate of the issue on December 15th.  (I cannot quote from Council Hansard as its publication is 6 weeks behind).  As I understand it, several councilors resorted to emotional and anecdotal arguments in support of their position, specifically, the death of Mr. Zdzislaw Andrzejczak.  The circumstance under which he died  is a tragedy in the first magnitude.  To attempt to insert that tragic situation into the debate without factual basis demonstrates that the councilors in question are perhaps true politicians.  It also exposes flaws in their decision making processes.  

The mayor, behaving a lot like a politician (which he originally claimed he was not), attempted to walk a very fine line on this issue.  On one hand, he agreed with the councilors’ conclusions and then in the next breath, conveniently distanced himself. 

Perhaps it’s time that the debate at the civic level be raised a notch or two.  If the debate contained more facts (what they know) as opposed to supposition (what they think they know) we might all be better off.  One thing is certain, fewer words would be used but the taxpayers would have a better understanding of what is really happening.  

One can only wonder at the questions the other $428 million in capital spending would have raised had it been subjected to closer scrutiny.  Astute parliamentarians have been known to insert red herrings into omnibus bills to divert attention away from the more substantive aspects of a bill.  Was the last minute introduction of the police helicopter a red herring designed to ensure that the remainder of the capital budget slid through the system largely unnoticed like ‘…. though a goose’ as one councilor likes to say?

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