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RCMP to review city construction projects

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The Northwest corner of the renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue, formerly the Canada Post offices and now the headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service. The building was one of the projects that was reviewed.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The Northwest corner of the renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue, formerly the Canada Post offices and now the headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service. The building was one of the projects that was reviewed. Photo Store

The Mounties have been asked by Manitoba Justice to investigate the handling of controversial City of Winnipeg construction projects.

The province announced today it has referred the City of Winnipeg’s Real Estate Management Review, the Winnipeg Police Service Headquarters Construction Project Audit and the Confidential Report to Winnipeg City Council regarding the New Fire Paramedic Stations Construction Project and other related materials to the RCMP for review and to conduct any investigations the Mounties deem appropriate.

In July, city council approved a motion to forward the audit concerning controversial land deals to Manitoba Justice.

The fire-paramedic hall replacement program, the police headquarters project and allegations of favouritism toward developers prompted city councillors to refer the reports to provincial justice officials. They reviewed the findings and said today they have handed the matter over to police.

Mayor Sam Katz said in an emailed statement that while city council voted last month to forward the audits to the province, the provincial government "always had the option to consult with the RCMP.

"The province has made their decision and chosen to exercise their right to refer to the RCMP, and all of council would support their decision, and I hope this brings closure," he said.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi is pleased Manitoba Justice is acting on a city council motion made last month to look into the issues brought up by the audits.

"I think there’s concern in the public’s mind," Gerbasi said.

"We need to restore that trust."

But Gerbasi admits: "I wish we as a city never had to deal with something like this."

Mayoral candidate - and former city councillor - Gord Steeves said "it's not a happy day for our city if that's the step that has to be taken.

"As mayor I would cooperate... This is a serious issue."

Cou. Paula Havixbeck said "I have been fighting for this for a long time... I fought hard and I paid the price.

"I think this is a good day for the citizens of Winnipeg. I convinced the province and the department of justice to do this review... They have taken our concerns seriously."

Havixbeck hopes the RCMP go further than the auditors did and speak with people like former city chief administrator Phil Sheegl.

Finance committee chairman Russ Wyatt said he thinks the province should still go further.

"I still believe there should be a full scale public inquiry," he said.

"I've read the audits three times. They are extremely disturbing.

"I don't know why other members of council are staying silent and not calling for one."

Mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she supports the referral to the RCMP.

"This issue demonstrates the need to fix City Hall," Wasylycia-leis said.

"It will require experienced leadership to bring about that change.

"It is one of the reasons why I am running for mayor."

History

Updated on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 12:43 PM CDT: adds comment from sam katz

2:57 PM: Adds more reactions

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