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City councillors hopeful new provincial portfolio will improve working relationship

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The creation of a cabinet post devoted to all things Winnipeg is being viewed at city hall as the first step to healing the rift between Main Street and Broadway.

It’s believed that the divergent ideologies of Mayor Sam Katz (conservative) and Premier Greg Selinger (New Democrat) has led to constant squabbling and delays on a variety of key issues – rapid transit, infrastructure funding, water treatment.

But that might change with Kevin Chief’s appointment as Minister Responsible for Winnipeg.

"What’s been missing has been regular contact between the elected officials at city hall and the provincial government," Russ Wyatt, finance chair, said.

"Maybe (with the new Winnipeg portfolio), we can re-establish the rapport that used to exist between the two levels of government."

Katz said he looked forward to working with Chief, adding that having a minister responsible solely for Winnipeg will be the first step to finding the necessary funds to eliminate the city’s infrastructure deficit.

Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface), public works chair, said Winnipeg is unique among provincial municipalities: two-thirds of Manitoba’s population lives within its boundaries and it is the province’s economic engine.

"Hopefully having (our own) minister will help Winnipeg address these challenges," Vandal said.

Wyatt said he knows Chief and was impressed with his work with aboriginal youth and his organizational and leadership skills even before he entered politics.

Having a cabinet minister the city can call its own has the potential to thaw a chilly relationship, Wyatt said.

"Maybe we can re-build that rapport one issue at a time," Wyatt said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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