Monday, 20 October 2014

A Message To Voters

To the people of the entire St Boniface ward,

We are on the homestretch of this election campaign, and I would like to thank all of my supporters. Thank you for placing my signs on your lawn. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me about the issues that matter most to you. Most importantly, thank you for talking to your friends, family and neighbours about my campaign to reclaim City Hall for the people of Winnipeg. However, we can't relax yet. If you believe that I am the right choice to represent St. Boniface at City Hall, please help spread my message to as many people as possible. It's not too late to share a link to my website on Facebook. It's not too late to help get my message out to your Twitter followers. It's not too late to help spread the word by calling, emailing or talking to friends, family and neighbours. That's exactly how this campaign has spread in the past weeks, and it's exactly how we've all made it a true grassroots success.

Having said that, the deck is still stacked against us. I am running against an opponent who's backed by massive political machinery and special interest groups. He will tell you that he's non-partisan, but as stated by numerous media outlets, the truth is that he is an active member of the same NDP that has consistently raised taxes at the provincial level, and is on the verge of taking over City Hall with the same ideology and philosophy. He has managed to avoid answering any question that could potentially cost him a vote, and his platform is little more than a generic list of hopes and dreams and lack actual plans and solutions to make real changes at City Hall. I am a non-partisan, fiscal conservative with a vision for St. Boniface and the rest of the city that includes each and every resident of St Boniface, not just special interest groups. I will restore transparency and accountability to a City Hall that is in desperate need of it. Most importantly, I have made it my mission to give a direct answer to any question that has been asked of me. My ideas are backed by concrete plans, all of which are publicly available here on my website. I have not ducked a question during my campaign, nor would I start if elected. My opponent has been ducking questions since he started campaigning, and there's no reason to think that would change were he elected. You, I and the people of St. Boniface deserve better than that.

Most importantly, please make sure you get out and vote this Wednesday. The old saying that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve, has never been more true than in this election. If you want this city to change, on October 22nd you have the opportunity to be an agent of that change. If you want this city to move forward, you have the opportunity to push it forward. If you want this city to re-establish itself as a beacon for other cities to emulate, you have the opportunity to light that torch. I have been amazed by the response I have received from people in every corner of the St. Boniface ward. I have been energized by hearing about your lives, your careers, and your families, and I have been inspired by hearing about what you expect from your city councillor. I hope that you will allow me to represent you, and to put City Hall back to work for you.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has helped make this campaign the success it has been. My team started off small; just a few friends and family members. But over the past several weeks, it has grown by leaps and bounds. I never thought it would be possible to get my message out to the entire ward, but with the help of my amazing volunteers, especially my 83 year old grandfather (who easily walked over 20 miles, handing out fliers and meeting with residents), and my remarkable girlfriend who put in more 15 hour days than I can count, we were able to reach every corner of the St. Boniface ward. This campaign has become everything in my professional life since I decided to make this my new career path and take on this challenge with the help of my campaign manager. He and I began dreaming of a City Hall for the people, free of partisan agendas and infighting that would make Winnipeg a better place for all and a place we could be proud of. Without his support, countless hours of effort and patience, and passion for this city, we would never have gained the incredible amount of support we have. To date, my team and I have personally distributed over 35,000 fliers to doorsteps, placed well over 200 public signs, and met with thousands of residents from Royalwood, Southland Park, Niakwa Park, Island Lakes, Dugald Road, Sage Creek, Archwood, Southdale, St Boniface, Norwood and Windsor Park to talk about their lives, their concerns, and their ideas for moving our city forward. Now it’s time to cast our vote for a new City Hall.

Thank you,

Ryan Davies

Candidate for City Councillor for St. Boniface

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

St Boniface City Councillors Debate Responses

On September 22nd, I received and invitation from the Francophone Chamber of Commerce to attend a candidate's debate. When I agreed to attend last month, it was with the understanding that all of the candidates would be participating in a “lively debate.” I had been looking forward to the opportunity to engage my opponents in this race in order to give members of the Chamber, and indeed all voters, a venue to learn about me, my platform, and how I intend to improve the lives of the residents and business owners of St. Boniface. I was saddened to learn that what I had agreed to participate in would not, in fact, be a debate at all, but rather a brief soundbite contest, with no opportunity to engage either my opponents or the audience.

Unfortunately, my platform has not been designed to be disseminated in a 60 second time span, as I believe that my ideas must be backed by substance, and subsequently followed by a plan to make them a reality. I have decided that the best way for me to reach out to residents today is to continue my grassroots campaign in the neighbourhoods of St. Boniface with my ever-growing group of volunteers. Below are the questions that would have been posed by the Francophone Chamber of Commerce along with my responses that I would have provided.

Question 1: What is your priority for Saint Boniface?
We know that the incoming City Council will look vastly different from the outgoing one. This will provide an excellent and rare opportunity to re-shape our civic governance. The past decade has seen City Hall plagued by scandal and impropriety.
I will work with the new Council to re-claim City Hall as a chamber of and for the people of Winnipeg. In order to regain the trust of the people, we need to re-establish a sense of transparency and accountability for our elected representatives and civic officials. My focus will be on establishing records of all debates and votes in Council, and making them publicly available online and in hard copy, as well as entirely searchable.

In addition, the current taxation model is not working for St Boniface and Winnipeg. Rising costs coupled with expanded housing developments and lack of vision and preparation have led us to a crossroads. St Boniface has experienced a population boom with a potential for more to come. With the urban sprawl that has taken place in St Boniface, rising costs for roads and other infrastructure to connect these areas to the city has taken its' toll. The time is now to bring these areas closer together so that residents in the outlying areas of the ward have equal access to the amenities and services that residents closer to the core of the city experience. In addition, increased transit access and frequency are needed to bring people to all areas of the neighbourhood. St Boniface has a unique aura about it and it needs to be more accessible to not only people within its boundaries but so that residents of Winnipeg in all areas can experience what St Boniface has to offer. By connecting better to areas such as the Waterfront and Exchange District, St Boniface will increase traffic with businesses and the community growing as a result.

Question 2: What do you believe you can contribute to improve francophone/bilingual entrepreneurship as represented here by our members of the Francophone Chamber of Commerce?
St Boniface is an amazing community with lots to offer in all areas of the ward. A showpiece of the city, Old St Boniface with its rich heritage and francophone roots, holds the ability to set itself apart from other areas of the city. We need to do a better job of showcasing the unique culture fostered here in St Boniface by the business leaders. We have the ability to create a dynamic entertainment and culinary hub along Provencher and surrounding streets with proper marketing and partnerships. Using L’Esplanade Riel, we could easily partner with the Forks North Portage Partnership and the Exchange Biz to build a walkable destination for all Winnipeggers to enjoy. Borrowing from other cities, like Whyte Ave in Edmonton or the Red Mile in Calgary, a large spanning area can be viewed as the place to be, day or night for socialites from any area of the city and tourists seeking an experience that is uniquely Winnipeg.

With the promise of new innovative ideas and change for the area, it is important to reflect on the past and look to what can be accomplished and how. The change to our way of thinking and realization of new heights for St Boniface requires a delicate balance of experience and new thinking. My girlfriend started and owns her own business in St Boniface. I have seen the challenges firsthand that exist for a new business owner to thrive. She has been incredibly successful and I have witnessed what it takes to do so. I also personally have been in sales and marketing for over 15 years and bring a wealth of knowledge and can rely on past experience to bring new ideas that have been successful to St Boniface. I feel that existing challenges often require fresh eyes and new ways of looking at problems. We have heard repeatedly in this election City Hall needs new blood free of connections to the old council and I feel this thinking goes beyond just a seat with the council chambers. It extends to platforms such as this and fresh thinking with new ideas are needed to jumpstart St Boniface and build for the future.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Comments From Voters

One of the best parts of my day is receiving an email or a phone call from someone who has heard about my campaign whether it is by receiving my flier, through a media interview or simply by seeing a sign or word of mouth. These comments range from direct issues they have affecting them, giving me insight to below the surface problems that exist, to offering volunteer support or requesting lawn signs to further the spread my non-partisan message.
Below are just a small sample of the amazing things I received that I share with my volunteer team. These words of encouragement motivate us each day to go and out with renewed energy, knowing we are making a difference in St Boniface.

"The rhetoric sucks! Just received your letter in the post box and it sounds refreshing to hear some “straight talk” from a potential councilor." - Laurie, Southland Park

"I read your newsletter. I normally don't even look at these things, but I checked it out. Its an excellent excellent letter and I don't say those things very often. In fact, its so excellent that I'd like to take a sign for my property." - Dave, Norwood

"You were at our door earlier this evening, you've got two votes here son and if you want to put a sign on our property we don't have a problem with that. - Wayne, Windsor Park

"Thank you for taking the time to talk to me earlier. We appreciate your straight forward talk on the issues that we discussed and we would be happy to put a lawn sign up." - Jackie, Southland Park

"Read the drop off left in our mail box tonight/today as well as your website and can only ask - where have you been? Like what we've read and are willing to support." - Lynn & Leslie, Norwood

"Just wanted to let you know that I'm voting for you on election day!" - Josh, Island Lakes

"I've had enough. I'm glad you stopped by to talk. I like that you didn't hide from my questions and we need someone like that at City Hall. You've got my support and I'll be sure to talk you up to anyone I can." - Craig, Archwood

"Enough with voting in the same type of people, its time to flush city hall. Its the only way we're going to see any real change in this city. Put a sign on my lawn and my neighbours as well." - Tom, Southdale

"Just one question for you. How quickly can you put a sign in my front lawn?" Jim, Island Lakes

"THANK YOU! We finally have someone we can support in this election without feeling it's the lesser of two or seven evils!" - Deanna, Sage Creek

"We really enjoyed reading your website. Please come by and put up a sign." - Jackie, Island Lakes

"I'm glad you stopped by today, I just got back from voting for you! It seems like you are really out there working hard and I appreciate that." - Barry, Southdale

"Hi Ryan, thank you for the signs, we adored them all weekend, not enough of them on our street as far as I'm concerned." - Megan, Norwood

"Hey Ryan, I read the article about you in the Winnipeg Sun today as well as your website. You have some very unique ideas and detailed solutions to back them up. Not something that I've seen from any other candidate. You have our vote and let us know if you need any more volunteer help, we'd love to help you spread your message." - Dennis, St. Boniface

These are a just a sample of the messages I've received and I wanted to thank everyone for their support of my campaign. With the help of my volunteers, we were able to visit nearly 15,000 doorsteps this weekend and place over 100 yard signs throughout the ward. With nine campaign days before election day, my campaign team and I need your support more than ever. If you are able to help with a yard sign, donation (all donations between $25 and $300 receive a rebate of 75%) or by volunteering to distribute my new flier throughout the ward, please contact me at
Thank you again for taking time to read my website and I hope to have gained your support to create real change with real plans at City Hall on October 22nd.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Survey Answers

During this campaign, I have been asked by a number of groups and organizations to take part in various surveys and interviews. There have been some great questions asked and I encourage you to visit each site to see my answers and learn more about what I plan on doing should the residents of St Boniface elect me to city council.

Canadian Taxpayer Federation survey:

Winnipeg Free Press survey:

Around This Town interview (complete transcript):

The Ideal City:

Windog Advocacy and Off-Leash Stewardship:

As more surveys and interviews are published, I will post the links. I strive in each to answer each question not with just an idea, but a detailed plan in order to make the vision become a tangible reality. I urge you when considering whom will receive your vote on October 22nd, you make sure that you are not just reading rhetoric, but that there is a plan to make ideas reality like I have done with each topic.

With just a few days left before the election, if I have earned your support I ask you to go one step further. If you can assist the campaign by distributing fliers, making a donation or taking a yard sign, please let me know. With every donation over $25, the City of Winnipeg rebates you 75% back to your pocket. In addition, telling your friends and neighbours about my campaign and directing them to the website is the best way to continue the momentum this campaign is seeing. A simple email to those you know about my campaign will go a long way in preventing party agendas and special interest group influence from reigning at City Hall and electing a public servant who wants to serve the best interests of the people of St Boniface. Thank you and I hope you vote Ryan Davies for City Councillor on October 22nd!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Revenue part 2 - Ideas AND Solutions

During the course of this campaign, we've all heard a variety of tax “plans.” It seems like every candidate, especially in the mayoral race, has a plan to somehow raise revenue without significantly raising property taxes. If it is not explicitly stated, they clearly imply it with lots of ideas of things the city needs to pay for be it infrastructure or other projects without a plan of how to pay for them. City Hall is essentially limited to generating revenue through property taxes, and licensing/permit fees, so it is unclear how any of those plans will be successful without new ideas and reform of old ones.

One idea that's out there is a property tax freeze. Proponents of this agenda seem to believe that the revenue shortfall can be made up by selling off city assets. The one time influx of cash from those sales would do little to address our long term needs. In fact, part of the reason we're in our current state is that there was a freeze on property taxes for a decade starting around the new millennium. The argument is during the tax freeze of 2003-2010, city revenues grew 41%, which is true. The issue is because of various projects that were undertaken without oversight costing massive overruns and other non-essentials that the city spent tax dollars on, the revenue growth didn’t keep pace with inflation or project costs. Also, a pledge to freeze taxes ignores the reality that there are legitimate civic needs that can arise, often unexpectedly. For example, nobody thought we would have to spend millions of dollars thawing water lines and supplying affected homes with water this past winter, but sure enough, we did.

Other candidates have pledged small, incremental tax increases, roughly keyed to the rate of inflation. This is a fine plan, but it does nothing to address our infrastructure needs. Inflation in the overall economy and inflation in the construction sector are not increasing at the same rate, with construction rates increasing 4-5% year over year. A property tax increase in the 3% range, between the two numbers, would only increase city revenues by around $15 million. The city's costs rise by about $25 million per year in inflation costs alone. This alone would not be adequate and certainly wouldn’t allow for any new growth or keep up with the rate of deterioration our city infrastructure is experiencing.

The proposal garnering the most attention is the abolition of property tax in favour of a citywide sales tax. There are a number of problems with this, most importantly that the City of Winnipeg has no legal right to impose or collect such a tax. Such a move would require the cooperation of the provincial government. Additionally, in order to avoid “leakage” of the sale of goods and services just outside the city borders (who wouldn’t make the trip to Steinbach to save 4% on a vehicle), such a tax would have to extend to exurban communities, if not the entire province. This would also be a very regressive form of taxation, as it would have the largest impact on people with low incomes. It also fuels the taxation shell game (more on that in a minute) we already have going on with the province and leads to more bureaucracy and higher administration costs to run this program. The biggest issue is we would essentially be raising the PST by 4% and if you think the province is going to jump on board and take that bullet, I’ve got a bag of magic beans to sell you.

Of course, anybody can poke holes in the plans of others. I have a revenue plan of my own. Like everything else in my platform, I back up what I would like to see done with a tangible solution for doing so. I encourage you to visit the other city council candidates’ websites, if they have one, and see not only what they would like to accomplish, but exactly how they get it done. It is important for leader not just to take a stand on a topic, which again I challenge you to find, but to explain how it can be achieved. A goal without a plan is a dream and we are past the fairy tale world of dreaming of what this city should be like and into the reality of making it happen.

First and foremost, I am proposing a moratorium on large, non-infrastructure projects until we can get a handle on our finances, and sort out a way to ensure that those projects can be tendered and managed efficiently. This would include a suspension of all activities on the southwest bus corridor, and on the Bus Rapid Transit program generally. In order to compensate for this, I would push for a lower cost alternative of more frequent buses and expanded service to outlying areas and industrial zones. While this would be a cost increase, it would also increase ridership as people could get to and from their intended destination easier, safer and on time while saving money needed for other essential city projects.

Second, I would institute a property tax credit for homeowners who undertake projects to increase the value of their properties. This would include a provision that in order to qualify, all materials must be bought from businesses within the city, and similarly, that all work must be done by contractors based in Winnipeg. All qualified purchases would be eligible for a ten percent credit on a homeowner's property tax bill, up to a maximum of $500 per year. The end result of this credit would be that the property value of not just the renovated homes, but also the homes around them, would increase, thereby increasing the amount of property tax revenue generated over time. This would also put more money into our economy with people purchasing supplies and labour needed. In turn, it would create more jobs and make our city a more attractive option for families to call home. Additionally, we would create more affordable rental properties as people invest in homes in need of repair turning them into revenue properties and create better living space and suites, such as newly created basement suites, to be available to renters.

The next part of my plan is to end what I referred to earlier as the provincial tax shell game. Winnipeg currently has one of the lowest property tax rates of any major city in Canada. However, when it comes in the mail, it appears that our property tax bill is significantly higher. This is because the provincial government requires municipalities to fund education through property taxes. I would lobby the province to end that shell game, and to fund education through their own revenue streams. That way, the people of St. Boniface, and all of Winnipeg would finally be able to see what their actual property tax obligations are.

The City of Winnipeg currently has no way of addressing the issue of exurban residents using city infrastructure and services, but not contributing to property tax revenue. While I would support annexation of a number of so-called bedroom communities, I realize that this is something that would take a significant amount of time, and may not be feasible at all in some cases. While this gets sorted out though, we can end the “free ride” issue by setting up toll roads into the city. This would require exurban commuters to contribute to the city's revenue base, and all funds collected would be designated for use on infrastructure renewal projects. I have been around the world and seen a number of cities where this is in place and successfully creating revenue for their municipality. Regular commuters could take advantage of a transponder-based system, much like the 407 toll road in Toronto, and infrequent users would be able to pay per use with cash or other conventional tenders.

Another way to reduce our overall infrastructure problem is to encourage density of development. Presently, our city's downtown contains numerous surface parking lots. These lots do little to promote any kind of development in the core. Were those lots developed into mixed use residential/commercial space, they would generate significant revenue for the city on their own, as well as increase property values in the area. In order to encourage more development on those parcels of land, I would enact a tax on surface lots in order to more accurately reflect their true value. This tax would be lower should there be a multi-level parkade on the site, allowing for affordable parking options for a greater number of people. We need affordable parking rates to draw people downtown but we cannot waste space with a surface lot servicing only a small number of visitors and employees in the downtown area.

Finally, I would increase user and licensing fees in many different areas. However, I would ensure that the additional funds taken in would be directed back into the activities or services from which they were collected. For example, an increase in dog licensing fees would be used to create new dog parks, and to improve existing ones. This would help to improve many of our recreational offerings, while ensuring that those improvements are funded by end users, and without taking funds away from core infrastructure projects.

This is hardly a comprehensive list, and the impact of many of my proposals might be limited, however, these ideas represent an important starting point. We will need to be creative in order to solve our long term revenue issues. Simply toying with tax rates and service levels alone will not push us forward. We also need to accept that there are no free rides. Shaping the future of Winnipeg will not be free, and we have hard choices to make. We must accept that one way or another, we will probably have to pay more in taxes and fees, or expect much less from the municipal government. Most likely, we will have to do both. A task like this requires leadership. It requires bold new thinking, and most importantly, it requires that our civic leaders be open and honest with residents about the true state of our city, as well as their plans to fix it. My thoughts and plans are clear. I would love to hear from the residents of St. Boniface about their thoughts on my plan, and I would love even more to hear what your ideas are. Whoever you vote for on October 22nd, make sure that you ask them the difficult questions, and make sure that they can actually provide you with goals and plans rather than wishes and dreams. Our city has amazing potential and incredible people who understand what it is to sacrifice for the greater good. We need leaders who reflect that vision with tangible goals and real plans like I have laid out time and again. It’s time to stand up and demand more than a smile in photo opp and expect more from our public servants. I hope I have earned your support and that you will spread my campaign philosophy to your friends and neighbours. I encourage you to leave a comment or reach out to me at .  If you like what you are reading and wish to support my campaign in any way, donation, yard sign, hand out fliers or other forms, please let me know. It’s with your help spreading the word and ending the reign of the career politician we can make a change in our city and make it a better place for everyone.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Play It Forward

Today I had the pleasure of door knocking and campaigning with a number of volunteers in Sage Creek. As I went from door to door, I noticed a number of signs for “Play It Forward” and asked one family what it meant. As they explained it to me, I asked at each subsequent door not what it meant, but what it meant to them. Each person I talked to spoke with such pride when discussing the project. For those who don’t know what it is, I encourage you to visit the Sage Creek Residents’ Association website and see for yourself in detail what it is and what it means to the community. The basic idea behind it is that the residents of Sage Creek are fundraising by canvassing door to door collecting donations to build play structures at Ron Duhamel Park. The City of Winnipeg has offered tax receipts for the full donation amount that each household gives, bringing together the public, private and government sectors to make the community a better place. This vision of the Sage Creek Residents Association and the City of Winnipeg is exactly what we need to bring to all of St Boniface and the city as a whole. Everybody benefits from this amazing program as those in the area are paying directly into the city amenity they need and the City supports their grassroots effort to make a lasting impact. I am a strong proponent of green space and community economics and grassroots movements. My campaign has a stated focus on all of these areas and my campaign itself is a true grassroots movement. I am proud of the people of Sage Creek and would use this as a model for other projects in the St Boniface ward I wish to spearhead. I would encourage this method of fundraising always be made available to shared community projects and give our residents the power to create change while benefiting themselves and the city as a whole. Once again, congratulations to the people of Sage Creek on your efforts and regardless of the election outcome, I look forward to being at Ron Duhamel Park for the opening of the play structures.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Revenue: Part 1

The City of Winnipeg is facing a financial crisis. We have constant overruns of massive city projects, and significant mismanagement of city funds in general. Those are major problems in and of themselves, but the good news is that they can be fixed. With better oversight and improved tendering processes, we can rein in overruns, and by introducing transparency and accountability to City Hall, we can ensure that our tax dollars are being used to their full potential. However, those minor changes alone will not be enough to ensure the fiscal stability of the city.

We have a roughly $7 billion infrastructure deficit, which is growing with each passing day. The systems that deliver the very fundamentals of urban life are crumbling beneath us. Our roads, bridges, sewers and water-mains have been neglected for decades, and that neglect has been revealed to us with every deep-freeze, heavy rain, and massive, car-swallowing sinkhole. We need to accept the reality that years of prioritizing vanity projects and civic luxuries has come at the expense of upgrading and maintaining our vital infrastructure. Without losing sight of the vision and promise of what Winnipeg can be, when faced with any question of funding such projects, my first question will always be: what else could we do with this money? As a city, our first funding priority for the foreseeable future needs to be fixing what we already have before we build new luxuries.

Even trimming the fat of megaproject pork will only get us so far, though. First, the city needs to be more assertive in its dealings with both the provincial and federal governments to help meet our infrastructure shortfall. I believe that the City of Winnipeg should lobby the provincial government to earmark half of the recent PST increase to be allocated to the city for infrastructure renewal. This would contribute an additional $275 million annually to the city coffers. That money would play a significant role in repairing our roads and other infrastructure.

When all is said and done, though, we need to address the ability of the city to raise adequate revenues to cover its own needs. We need to have a conversation about taxes. We've all heard a lot of different plans and ideas during this election campaign, and in my next post, I will reveal my plan for an updated taxation system for the City of Winnipeg.