Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Another councillor leaving EPC

Vandal says he's not trying to distance himself from Katz

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For the second time in three days, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz has lost a member of his inner circle.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal told Katz on Sunday he would like to leave council's executive policy committee following one final meeting as council's public works chairman.

On Friday, St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, once one of the mayor's closest council allies, quit EPC because he claimed he could not support property-tax increases planned for 2014.

Both moves came in the wake of the release of a scathing audit into Winnipeg's fire-paramedic station replacement program, which was found to be plagued by severe mismanagement and unfair contract awards.

The review placed much of the blame at the feet of former Winnipeg chief administrator Phil Sheegl, a friend and confidant of the mayor. Before the release of the review, Katz said he was not aware of its contents.

Both Vandal and Fielding, however, denied they are trying to distance themselves from Katz.

"This will be my last year on council. I want to devote more time to community issues," Vandal said Sunday in a telephone interview.

Next spring, the St. Boniface councillor plans to run for the Liberal nomination in the federal Saint Boniface riding, held since 2008 by Conservative Shelly Glover.

Although city councillors do not have to resign if they win a federal party nomination, Vandal said he will not run for municipal re-election in October 2014.

Vandal sat on council from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned to make an unsuccessful run for mayor, and returned in 2006. He joined Katz's EPC in 2010.

Fielding also does not plan to run for council in 2014. When he was first elected in 2006, he pledged he would only serve two terms.

The St. James-Brooklands councillor is mulling a mayoral run in 2014 and is also considering running provincially for the Progressive Conservatives, potentially in the Fort Whyte riding currently held by Manitoba Tory Leader Brian Pallister. Fielding has moved from St. James to Linden Woods.

On Friday, Fielding and Katz traded praise as well as barbs. Katz noted voters don't take kindly to politicians who do not live in their wards, while Fielding said not everyone believes the mayor anymore and also said he questioned whether Katz would be a viable candidate in 2014.

While two members of council have called on the mayor to resign, Katz said he has no intention of doing so. The revelations contained in the fire-paramedic review have not hampered his ability to pursue re-election, he said last week.

It may not be easy for the mayor to replace Fielding and Vandal. Katz could have trouble finding anyone on council willing to join EPC at a time when the mayor's office is tainted by scandal, Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi suggested Friday.

Current members of EPC are also finding their position uncomfortable.

"We have a lot of work we need to do in implementing the recommendations from the audit. If I feel we're making progress, I'm going to continue to serve on EPC," said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty.

Katz must choose the membership of the committee by Nov. 6, when city council holds its annual organizational meeting, a ceremonial gathering where council members are assigned committee duties.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 28, 2013 A3

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Updated on Monday, October 28, 2013 at 6:44 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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