Special-interest groups take issue with Browaty’s ‘offensive’ remarks


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City council’s most senior member has caused outrage after telling members of special interest groups their views are out of step with what most Winnipeggers want.

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City council’s most senior member has caused outrage after telling members of special interest groups their views are out of step with what most Winnipeggers want.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who was first elected in 2006 and is currently finance committee chairman and a member of the powerful executive policy committee, told Marianne Cerilli, a former MLA and mayoral candidate, after she made a presentation to councillors, “I appreciate your advocacy, but I don’t think a lot of these opinions are relevant.”

“I appreciate everybody who comes to city hall, and takes time out of their day to make presentations — people are very passionate,” Browaty said during the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee Wednesday.


Councillor Jeff Browaty has caused outrage after telling members of special interest groups their views are out of step with what most Winnipeggers want.

“(But) the people who present here really do not represent most Winnipeggers, in my opinion. Each one of us on council represent 45,000-ish people. They’re not looking to blow things up. They don’t have time to come and make presentations all day. They want their street lights timed so they can get to and from work as fast as possible. Or drive their SUVs through Tim Hortons drive-thru to get their coffee on their way to hockey practice.

“The consultation we get is not as relevant as the consultation we get as elected officials going door to door every four years to talk to people… it’s not at all as representative of Joe Lunchbox Winnipegger, the people who pay taxes and work all day long to provide for their families, to make a life for themselves.”

On Friday, Browaty made an attempt to explain his comments, saying he knew Cerilli had been a politician, so she would have a “thicker skin because of the business we’re in.”

But there was little in the way of contrition.

“I’m not sending her an apology card today, but all Winnipeggers have the right to have their views and ideas heard… I still do maintain that some of the delegations we hear on budgets are from special interest groups and aren’t representative of the majority of Winnipeg,” he said.

“Just because you’ve come to council, your opinions aren’t more important than residents submitting letters to the editor, calling in to talk-radio shows, posting in online community forums or talking directly to elected officials.”

Mayor Scott Gillingham said he wasn’t at the meeting, and he doesn’t know everything that was said, so any questions about it should be directed to Browaty.

But Gillingham said all councillors “work hard to have a good sense of the views of the people they are representing.”

“We do have an open process at the City of Winnipeg… I appreciate the knowledge and passion that delegations bring to their presentations, and I have learned a lot from this process, but Coun. Browaty is correct that delegations are just one tool that council uses to make its decisions,” he said.

“From what I saw (on a social media posting) I didn’t see anything that concerned me, as far as decorum.”

Cerilli, a founder of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, said Browaty’s comments were offensive.

“This is not about personal opinion,” she said. “This is about research and evidence. I was telling (councillors) the city has policy on this and for the city to follow the policy. I think he needs to be more concerned about his conduct with a city committee about following public policy. His ideas about urban development are from the 1950s. That’s where he is.

“I don’t care if he apologizes or not.”


Former NDP MLA and mayoral candidate Marianne Cerilli.

Marc Cohoe of advocacy group Bike Winnipeg has been making presentations to councillors since the days when cyclists asking for bike paths were considered members of a fringe group. The city now spends millions of budget dollars to build, maintain and clear them.

“I was shocked to hear him,” Cohoe said. “I’ve heard presentations that have changed my mind on things and I’m sure others have, too.

“It’s important in the democratic process for people to listen. I know this is not the whole process, but we bring in expertise and ideas which are valuable to the city. If you sit and dismiss that public-engagement process, what are you telling people?”

Longtime Point Douglas advocate and social activist Sel Burrows said he is likely considered “a special interest delegation” by councillors.

“It is important for politicians to hear from others,” Burrows said. “Delegations showing up at city council is part of gradually changing councillors’ thoughts on issues. It is particularly important for suburban councillors, who aren’t aware of inner-city issues where most of the homelessness and crime happens.”

Mel Marginet, co-chair of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, said she believes Browaty’s comments are so serious the mayor should remove him as finance chair.

“His comments were deeply shocking,” Marginet said. “It was deeply insulting to his residents and the city as a whole. He should be pulled from the committee.”

Coun. Matt Allard said he not only has no problem with delegations, he welcomes appearances from more of them.

“I believe that it is important to encourage and welcome delegations from the public and any organization that has an interest in making the city better and wants to share their ideas about it,” Allard said.

— With files from Joyanne Pursaga

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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