July 28, 2015


Local

Province won't act on city after 'bizarre week': Chief

The Selinger government is watching city hall but isn't prepared to call an inquiry into municipal construction projects or call in the RCMP.

Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief, the new provincial minister responsible for the City of Winnipeg, said the province is monitoring events at city hall but will not take any rash action.

'Whatever approach we take, we want to be certain we are constructive'

-- Kevin Chief, provincial minister responsible for the City of Winnipeg

"It's been a very bizarre week at city hall. We're seeing things happen every day," Chief said Friday, referring to the firestorm following the release of an external review of Winnipeg's fire-paramedic station replacement program.

That review concluded the construction of four new stations in Winnipeg was plagued with mismanagement, cost overruns and unfair contract awards.

In the wake of its release, all of council voted for an external legal review and individual councillors called for a provincial inquiry, a police investigation and the resignation of Mayor Sam Katz and members of executive policy committee.

"Whatever approach we take, we want to be certain we are constructive," said Chief, assuring the province is content for now the city is taking steps to restore public trust in municipal government. "We know there's a second review coming."

A separate external audit of major city real estate transactions -- whose potential subjects include the city's $30-million acquisition of the former Canada Post Building, the $24-million sale of the Winnipeg Square Parkade, the Parker land swap and the $30-million Canad Inns Stadium site sale -- is due to be concluded in several months.

Chief also said the province has once again assured the city it can go ahead and create an ethics commissioner and offered to do whatever it could to facilitate such a move.

In 2009, in the wake of the Riverside Park Management affair, council voted to ask the province to beef up Winnipeg's conflict-of-interest guidelines by expanding the role of a provincial ethics watchdog or creating a new position to govern Manitoba municipalities.

The province told the city to go ahead and create an ethics commissioner, but the city determined it lacked the authority to create an ethics commissioner with the authority to enforce rules.

"We could create a job with that title and a person at a desk, but they wouldn't have the power to do much," said Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who spearheaded the 2009 council move.

"Enabling provincial legislation is required to give the authority to an ethics commissioner for meaningful investigative powers and to assess sanctions against members of council."

Katz said Friday he has set up a meeting with Chief in order to clarify the issue. He said he sent a letter requesting a meeting on Thursday and fully supports the creation of an ethics commissioner, even though he voted against Gerbasi's motion in 2009.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 B2

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