Justin Swandel says he will not apologize for a series of comments at Wednesday’s council meeting that called into question the character of other councillors.
At various times during the council meeting Swandel called other councillors vultures, questioned their intelligence, jumped up and down while waving his arms and shouting out nonsensical phrases, and used the word "crap" three times in dismissive rebukes to other councillors.
Swandel’s outbursts prompted speaker Devi Sharma to rebuke him twice but Swandel (St. Norbert) said he does not feel the need to apologize for his antics.
"I have a very short tolerance and lack of patience for stupidity and there was a great deal of it being spewed (at council)," Swandel said during a pre-budget announcement Thursday in his ward.
Swandel said he didn’t realize "crap" was an inappropriate word to use on the floor of council, adding that others have used it before.
Swandel said his outbursts were prompted by the lack of character in some of the other councillors.
"It seems that this group of (councillors) jumps on a lot of exaggeration and uses to it to propel themselves to look after their own best interests before the city’s best interests and I just like to challenge them every now and again."
Swandel’s assessment of his fellow councillors did not sit well with them.
"I don’t know who died and made Justin the king of morality at city hall," Scott Fielding said.
Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said Swandel has a "potty mouth" but added he’s always like that and dismissed his outbursts Wednesday as attempts to get media attention.
Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), who was the target of some of Swandel’s barbs, said his comments were "belittling and demeaning to many people."
"What kind of leadership are we showing with that kind of behaviour?" Havixbeck asked. "It sets a bad example."
Mayor Sam Katz, who only appointed Swandel back on his executive policy committee earlier this month, said he hoped all councillors would act respectfully to each other but was not going to ask Swandel to apologize for his actions.
"I very much believe in decorum," Katz said. "All members of council should be treated with respect.
"There’s no need for a wisecrack or those types of comments, in my opinion. You’ll never see something like that from me."
Katz said it's up to council speaker Sharma to decide if Swandel should be asked to apologize to council.
What Justin Swandel said
During debate on a motion to authorize an independent audit into the police HQ project:
"If you want an audit, maybe we should audit the IQ around this chamber."
That prompted Speaker Devi Sharma to say: "Coun. Swandel, please keep your comments respectful."
"Sorry," Swandel replied. "Sometimes, I think I would be at the bottom end of that (IQ) test."
Then Swandel continued: "In these repeated calls for audits, every time somebody sees a flicker they can politicize. It's nothing more than a sad commentary on the level of leadership that we have in this chamber these days... . It's a pig in a poke. Let's be done with this crap."
As the recently appointed public works chairman, Swandel was required to move a motion approving a pilot program for back-lane upgrades, which Couns. Dan Vandal and Brian Mayes had promoted the previous month. When Mayes got up to speak on the motion, Swandel jumped up and said:
"I'll just introduce it (the motions) and listen to what Coun. Mayes has to say. It's pretty straightforward. I'm sure he (Mayes) is just trying to get some face time on the issue of granular back lanes, which affects us all (laughter from other councillors). If there are any cameras or reporters left in the room, perhaps we can just say everybody supports the idea and concept of improving our back lanes and that we all equally, equally share in the problem and also equally share in the solution. And that no one councillor has done anything greater than any other councillor or any other citizen of the city of Winnipeg.
"You (Mayes) can sit down. I'm going to go on for a while, Coun. Mayes. I'm allowed to introduce here (Swandel laughs)." But Swandel never actually details the intent of the motion.
"With a little bit of humour, I'll wait and listen to Coun. Mayes' concerns."
Mayes does speak, recognizing the effort of other councillors and staff.
Coun. Ross Eadie expressed gratitude to council for being about to approve the program, giving credit to Brian Mayes for doing a survey in St. Vital.
Then Swandel spoke to end debate on the motion:
"(Waving his arms up and down) Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I, me-me, I, me-me-me, I, I.
"I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said it's amazing what you can get done when you don't care who takes credit for it."
Coun. Paula Havixbeck asked Swandel why he did not participate in the debates or vote on the audit of the paramedic-fire hall replacement project. Swandel replied:
"I stepped out to go to the washroom because what I heard smelled like crap, so I wanted to be in a place where it actually smelled like crap."