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Orlikow slams Sharma speaker selection

Calls fellow councillors 'yes men'

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The vote for Devi Sharma as council speaker was supposed to be unanimous this morning but three councillors stood up and voted ‘No.’

Coun. John Orlikow said Sharma’s election had been "whipped" by Mayor Sam Katz, who pressured members of his executive policy committee and others to vote for the inexperienced councillor from Old Kildonan rather than council veteran Dan Vandal.

"What I am against is (Katz) whipping people to vote in a certain way," Orlikow said, adding that was how the city hired Katz’s friend Phil Sheegl as CAO.

"That’s what got us into this trouble," Orlikow said following this morning’s council meeting. "Councillors said they were told they had to vote for (Sheegl).

"If at that moment people had convictions, said that is wrong, ‘I won’t be a Yes man.’ "

Recent protocol among councillors is the vote for speaker is held during a private meeting with all supporting the winner at the public re-organizational meeting.

A source said Sharma lobbied heavily for the position and she easily out-voted Vandal during the vote held Monday over the noon hour.

Orlikow was joined by councillors Jenny Gerbasi and Ross Eadie in voting against an omnibus motion that appointed Sharma speaker, Thomas Steen deputy speaker and filled out membership on the standing committees and various boards and agencies.

Orlikow said based solely on their qualifications, Vandal was the better candidate: He’s a council veteran, experienced as a chair, familiar with the rules of council, bilingual, and won’t be running again.

Orlikow said Sharma is a nice person but lacks experience: she’s never chaired a committee and has only been on council for three years.

"Which is the better candidate to be speaker, nothing personal, just who do I think is better," Orlikow said. "To me, the obvious choice (was Vandal).

"That  (obvious) choice wasn’t made because (Katz) said to his members ‘you will vote for,’ " Sharma. "They’re all going, ‘yes sir, yes sir,’ and that’s how we got into this position."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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