Thanks to your support, 50% of today's net proceeds, which I am told will

exceed $20,000, will go towards benefiting Siloam Mission, New Life Ministries,

and the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation.

On December 9th, our city lost an immensely valuable member of city council -

someone who elevated the bar for all of us - River Heights - Fort Garry

Councillor Brenda Leipsic.

Those who had the privilege of knowing Brenda knew of her kindness and

compassion as a community leader. Brenda defined class and integrity as

someone who built relationships on trust and respect.

She has left a large role to fill, and to all the candidates who have the courage to

put their names on the ballot, I wish you the very best in the upcoming byelection.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank Jeff Hartry, Dave Angus,

and the Chamber of Commerce for hosting my fifth State of the City address,

which I am told is the biggest Chamber event ever.

I know everyone in this room believes in the potential of our City.

Your action is an integral part of the future of Winnipeg.

And that future is built on action and seizing the opportunities provided in

today's economic environment.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Winnipeg's economic growth is

expected to rise above the growth of other Canadian cities again in 2009.

And although it may be optimistic to suggest that Winnipeg isn't being hit as

hard as other jurisdictions during these tough economic times, - we are still

feeling the hit.

Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, recently said that the current economic

crisis isn't a "cycle".

He said, "It's an emotional, social, and economic reset. People who comprehend

the new economy will prosper. Those who don't adapt will be left behind."

Globally, governments who want to serve their citizens better are learning to reset

the ways they do business.

No city is immune to a national recession, we feel the side effects right here at


And if there is a silver lining, it is that this economic downturn forces us to rethink

our position on the global scale, and compels us to seize opportunities

more than ever before.

We need to make sure we are ready to accept growth and welcome investment

into our city if we are to weather this international economic storm.

And job loss in other areas of our country provides an incredible opportunity for

us to seize the skilled labour market, especially with all the major initiatives on

the horizon.

This momentum attracts more private sector investment and catches the

attention of young professionals, families, and visitors.

It establishes Winnipeg as a destination to succeed in business, to plant roots,

raise a family, and capitalize on our dynamic opportunities during uncertain

economic times.

Winnipeg is changing rapidly - our population is changing at a much faster pace

than in the past.

The City is creating a new Plan Winnipeg, a 25 year blueprint for our future. An

exercise not done since the creation of Unicity in 1972.

And this Spring, I will officially launch the public input component to this initiative

through a Symposium - A Sustainable Winnipeg.

This will recognize the vital importance of sustainability - social, environmental

and financial- to all aspects of our City.

We will introduce effective methods of engagement such as an Interactive web

site, Web TV, blogs, roundtable discussions, and scenario visioning workshops.

The end result will be a comprehensive land use plan with transportation and

infrastructure components.

This audience has proven to be a good venue to inititate discussion.

When you select a place to relocate, establish a business, start a life for yourself,

the overall quality of life is often the deciding factor.

Today, I want to look at our progress, consider what lies ahead, and measure

how we stack up, so we can ensure Winnipeg competes in this new economic


I was elected on a promise of change, innovation, and doing things differently at

city hall.

The city has worked diligently to create an 'open for business' climate that

attracts growth and positive development.

Our budget team, the public service, members of executive policy committee - is

hard at work developing this year's operating budget. This is never an easy

process with competing priorities all vying for limited revenues.

And this year's budget is not only a challenge, but a battle. Especially when our

budget team faces obstacles beyond our immediate control, for example:

Our city's pension provides challenges in terms of additional contributions

required which are estimated to be $21 million starting in 2010 due to the

significant negative impact of the current financial markets.

Snow clearing literally varies with the weather. A number of years ago, the city

reduced its snow clearing reserve balance to zero and shortfalls resulted for at

least 2 years. In 2008, we increased our budgets and were able to contribute

further funding to the reserve, but we have a long way to go.

Revenues from building permits vary with the economy and shortfalls in revenue

must be incorporated in our overall estimates.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg continues to be a competitive leader and has among the

lowest property taxes including utilities in Canada. Nearly 20% lower than the

national average.

We have remained competitive by working hard to maintain an eleven year

freeze on property taxes. Freezes maintained while school boards have

continually increased their portion on the tax bill.

While other cities have continued to raise property taxes, we've held the line.

We've dug deep to find efficiencies and get our house in order.

In spite of what some say about taxes, my goal again will be to freeze property

taxes for the twelfth straight year. It will be a battle, but it is what I believe I

was elected to fight for.

2008 has been a year of innovation at city hall. Under the guidance of our new

CAO Glen Laubenstein, the city has continued to streamline and improve the way

our city operates.

2009 is positioned to be a year of excitement, change, and optimism.

Last year, I promised that our public service would have 311 up and running in

January of 2009.

I am proud to have announced the launch of 311 two weeks ago.

Our new 311 system gives all our citizens a one-number, one-call system to

navigate city hall and provide more accountability to you the customer.

311 builds the foundation for our public service to provide citizens with the level

of service they expect.

And this Spring I will work with council and our public service to expand the role

of our city auditor and increase the ability for us to measure our performance by

implementing a Chief Performance Officer.

You will also notice on your tables a 311 card that I encourage you to use to

experience our new customer service system.

We are playing a game of infrastructure 'catch-up'. But repairing our aging

infrastructure remains a top priority.

The cost of inflation on construction materials has skyrocketed and some

projects - like the Chief Peguis Trail extention or the Disraeli Freeway, are

adding to a 2.8 billion dollar infrastructure deficit each second they are not

getting done.

Fortunately, Winnipeg can seize on the opportunity provided by the current

National economic climate and see some relief as far as inflation and rising

construction costs are concerned.

But when we're talking about numbers in the billions, we need to be innovative

and ensure completion as soon as possible at the best price for the taxpayer.

Public Private Partnerships, or P3's, have demonstrated their benefit to

stretch taxpayer's dollars.

The bottom line is the City will only enter into a public private partnership if the

price of providing the construction and maintenance services are lower than if

provided by the City directly.

Or if a higher level of service can be provided for the same price by the private


Thanks to the p3 model, our former district 4 and 5 police officers have

moved into a modern, efficient, regional station - built on time and onbudget.

The Disraeli Freeway is in need of major repair. This is not an option, but a


Nobody wants to see a tragic circumstance like what happened in Minneapolis or


Our Public Service has recommended a P3 model to save the taxpayer money.

It would benefit from increased efficiency, a more definitive implementation

time, and ultimately better value in the delivery of services brought about by

increased competition and the ability to innovate.

Last year, I discussed my plans on how the city would tackle the important

challenge of undertaking a massive upgrade of our sewage treatment plants in

order to meet strict new environmental regulations.

These sewage plant upgrades will significantly reduce the load of phosphorous

and nutrients going into our rivers and Lake Winnipeg.

But let me be clear - technological change and environmental improvement

through our construction of upgraded sewage plants alone can't solve all our


For instance, new equipment won't prevent another $70 million cost overrun like

we experienced when we upgraded our water treatment plant over the past 3


That's because this is a massive re-construction project that is, quite simply, far

too big for our dedicated but small existing department to manage on its own.

Which is why we're exploring creation of a utility which would be 100% owned

by the City of Winnipeg.

Today, I can report that work is well underway on this initiative that will, if given

final approval by Council, create ...and let me stress... a 100% publicly owned

utility that will:

- Ensure seamless continuation of our longstanding tradition of providing safe

drinking water and sewage services to our citizens;

- Provide the best value for Winnipeggers by helping us better manage major

construction projects to ensure they are delivered on time and on budget;

- Create greater transparency and accountability in rate setting by having rates

reviewed and approved, not by politicians, but by the Public Utilities Board;

- Generate new opportunities for our employees and new revenue streams that

will flow back to our citizens with the potential to grow our utility business into

areas like green energy;

- And we're already working with our stakeholders during this exploratory phase

and have opened a dialogue, to ensure we achieve the very best for our

employees, our citizens and our environment.

This is an important new opportunity to work collaboratively and I look forward

to constructive relationships, with open lines of communication, as we proceed.

As you know, I always relish healthy discussion and debate because it ensures

we always do what is best for Winnipeggers and I thank Council very much for

their ongoing support as we continue to explore this important initiative.

In the coming months, I will be announcing details on a Transportation Authority


For too long, our City has built out its suburbs, with new housing developments

and commercial-retail properties, then later struggle with the impacts this growth

has on our transportation infrastructure.

Various agencies involved in planning or delivering transportation related services

will be brought together to create a unified team.

A team that shares a vision of providing excellence in transportation

infrastructure that enhances both our environment, and our economy and

provides far greater accountability to taxpayers and senior levels of government

who provide millions in dedicated funds for roads, bridges and transit.

A rapid transit system and dedicated bicycle paths linking south Winnipeg to the

downtown is one step closer following a $138-million funding agreement reached

between the City of Winnipeg and the other levels of government.

The first stage of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor will extend from Jubilee

Avenue to The Forks with a future stage to run from Jubilee Avenue to Bison

Drive with both stages incorporating bike paths into their construction.

We need to provide Winnipeggers with quick, reliable and green transportation

alternatives when gas prices remain volatile and at an unprecedented level of


We need to consider life-cycle costs weighed against the environmental, social

and economic benefits for any form of rapid transit. And as we move ahead, our

public service is working diligently and exploring other rapid transit alternatives.

I've always said rapid transit is part of our city's future. But we needed to make

a business case before embarking on projects of this magnitude.

Rapid transit hubs will stimulate residential and exciting mixed use retail

development that will make better use of our existing municipal infrastructure,

and provide the financial stability needed to make this important project a


And although we have set our sites on long term transit improvements, we've

worked to deliver on upgrading our existing service to capture increased

ridership and offer positive environmental commuter alternatives to


This year has seen additional transit priority signals, 8 kilometers of new

diamond lanes, 33 air conditioned buses, 28 heated bus shelters, automated next

stop announcements on 200 buses, on-board security cameras, and thanks to

the cooperation of our public service and the Amalgamated Transit Union, we

were able to ratify an agreement and avoid a city-wide transit strike.

The City has also made immense progress to realize new recreational

infrastructure projects such as the new indoor soccer complex, Bronx Community

Centre and Good Neighbours Seniors Centre project - which will open this

coming spring, and shovels went in the ground this summer on several

expansion and renovation projects at Norberry Glenlea, and Valour Community

Centres, and the Fort Garry Skateboard Park.

We've completed and opened 5 new aquatics parks this past summer at

Provencher Park, River Heights Community Centre, Fort Rouge Park, St. Norbert

Community Centre and Norquay Community Centre in Point Douglas.

And soon, Winnipeg will be home to a destination waterpark in the Polo Park


We have made great strides to provide top-quality recreational facilities for

families, our young people, and athletes and fans of every level.

And private sector investment has helped us to address the challenges of our

aging recreational infrastructure this year as well.

Buhler Recreation Park in Transcona opened this past spring - a facility that

serves all Winnipeggers year-round: 8 softball diamonds, a baseball diamond, 6

soccer fields, a toboggan hill, and walking and skiing trails.

For the well-being and overall quality of life for our young people and our

families, these are critical projects that I am extremely pleased are now a reality.

We've initiated LiveSAFE, a crime prevention policy developed by the City of

Winnipeg's Community Services Department and the Winnipeg Police Service and

a component of the initiative entitled SPIN - Sports Programs in Inner-City


The purpose was to break down some of the barriers that inner-city children face

to participate in sport programming by alleviating the transportation, financial,

equipment, leadership and volunteer components, and provides a healthy and

positive alternative for children in our community who could be at risk of joining

gangs to feel acceptance.

This year, I took on the role of Secretary of Urban Aboriginal Affairs because I

see an opportunity to continue building on the positive relationship I have shared

with First Nations and Metis leaders.

The city's Aboriginal Youth Strategy announced this past December is a

commitment to work in a spirit of cooperation with our Aboriginal, federal and

provincial partners.

We recently announced Winnipeg's Aboriginal youth will benefit from more than

$640,000 in funding through the Winnipeg Partnership Agreement.

This investment will support 11 projects that focus on helping Aboriginal youth to

succeed through education, employment training, career development,

leadership, and skills training.

I am also pleased to announce that I will be recommending in this year's

operating budget, to invest 3 million dollars over 3 years in our Aboriginal Youth

Strategy to take advantage of our partnership and develop more sustainable,

long-term, and meaningful initiatives to encourage employment and training

opportunities that ensure Aboriginal youth have the tools necessary to succeed.

And I want to acknowledge the work of the Senior's Advisory Committee and

Councillor Grant Nordman, and thank them for all their efforts, and for providing

action based recommendations to improve our city services for those who built

our city.

Last December the City hired a new Chief of Police, Keith McCaskill. Chief

McCaskill has taken immense strides through community consultation and the

grassroots of community policing.

If Winnipeg is to be a choice city to work, live, and play,we need to be a safe


Gangs, violent crimes, auto-theft - these are all very concerning issues within

the City of Winnipeg. Last year's State of the City address focused squarely on

what we are doing to address these serious issues, and I've remained focused on

public safety as a priority.

Winnipeg saw a 40% drop in stolen cars in 2008 compared to 2007, and a 46%

decline in attempted thefts.

Maclean's magazine recognized the steps we've taken in our city including the

implementation of CrimeStat, and highlighted the fact that auto-theft has fallen


And although I am happy to see these results, I know we can still do better.

2008 was a landmark year of investment for emergency first responder resources

so the men and women on the front lines can do their job to the absolute best of

their ability and keep the citizens of Winnipeg safe.

The Winnipeg Fire Department saw the largest single addition of apparatus to

their fleet in 30 years with 11 new pumpers and an additional quint.

We've added 12 new paramedics, new breathing apparatus and thermal imaging

equipment and thanks to our partnership with the province, 40 additional


And according to a recent article published in the Winnipeg Free Press,

"Winnipeg's Fire Department's medical emergency response times are the best in

Canada and now other cities want to copy us. The Ontario Association of Fire

Chiefs and Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association highlighted Winnipeg as

a model for other cities."

And although we've been working hard on the basics, we've also dared to dream

big to attract major investment in our city.

This Spring, a public hearing process in which infrastructure issues - including

roadways, parking, public transit requirements and site development - will be

considered for the development of a new major commercial development, here

in Winnipeg.

And we've established a new Special Events Marketing Fund to be competitive

and have a funding mechanism in place that will ensure our city remains a viable

option for future conferences and special events like the Junos, Grey Cup, or the

Canadian Country Music Awards.

This fund will directly ensure that we are able to compete effectively in a very

competitive environment where other cities are providing incentives for growing


We have also recognized the potential to build upon the revitalization of our city

and to bring people from around the world to visit, and spend money in our city,

by setting up a reserve fund of up to 40% of the accomodation tax to fund

future capital works for an expanded Convention Centre.

We've shown we are the heart of the continent and replaced the antiquated

signage that graced our city's main entry points, thanks to our partners at

Destination Winnipeg.

We are letting visitors know they are welcome to our City and sharing something

about our identity.

The last year has been a sobering experience about the challenges we face.

We're addressing major infrastructure projects, and we're finding innovative

ways to save taxpayers dollars so we can provide a high quality of life for

Winnipeggers, as well as our growing number of newcomers and visitors.

We are working hard in this economic downturn to ensure Winnipeg is poised for

growth and success.

My advice to all Winnipeggers who have sought other greener pastures and have

moved out-of-province, is come home and let us be part of your solution.

To all the young professionals, invest here! Families and newcomers looking to

plant roots - grow with us! Winnipeg has the jobs, the affordability, and we have

the momentum.

In Winnipeg, if you knock on our door, someone will answer.

There's something rewarding about real, justifiable, and earned confidence: it

motivates us to get where maybe we've dreamed we could be. It's been said

"when your sense of self-worth goes up, so does your net worth."

The more we accomplish to meet the needs of our citizens today, the more the

benefits trickle down to build the wants of tomorrow.

We have the team at the City who are committed in seeing your successes


I believe most of your city councillors are here today, and I would like to

acknowledge those present, and ask them to rise and remain standing...

I would also like to recognize the following and ask them to stand...

I would like to share with you some inspirational words from an unknown author.

"The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing

right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity... these are

the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking

back for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing."

Ladies and gentleman, this is your leadership team, and today is the right time to

take action, and do the right thing. Thank you very much.