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Mayor Bowman loses his bid to cut city councillors' severance packages

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2014 (1682 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman carried the day on most of his cost-saving motions at city hall Wednesday but he lost the one that counted — and it wasn’t even close.

Bowman’s plan to eliminate council severance was defeated in a 6-10 vote, following a debate that spawned some heated and harsh words from some councillors.

In all, Bowman was able to make good on seven of the eight campaign promises he brought to the floor of council.

Even in losing, however, Bowman said he wasn’t troubled how some members of his executive committee voted against him.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2014 (1682 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman carried the day on most of his cost-saving motions at city hall Wednesday but he lost the one that counted — and it wasn’t even close.

Bowman’s plan to eliminate council severance was defeated in a 6-10 vote, following a debate that spawned some heated and harsh words from some councillors.

Mayor Brian Bowman at the first regular city council meeting of the new council Wednesday.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Brian Bowman at the first regular city council meeting of the new council Wednesday.

In all, Bowman was able to make good on seven of the eight campaign promises he brought to the floor of council.

Even in losing, however, Bowman said he wasn’t troubled how some members of his executive committee voted against him.

"I knew it was going to be a difficult issue for council and I certainly appreciated and respected the passionate views that were articulated on council today, on both sides of the debate," Bowman said following the council meeting that began at 9:30 a.m. and ended just before 5 pm. "I do however think it’s disappointing we weren’t able to get (the end of severance) through. A lot of Winnipeggers expected us to do so."

Half of Bowman’s EPC voted against him on the severance issue: Coun. Brian Mayes, Jeff Browaty and deputy mayor Mike Pagtakhan.

"It makes me sound sleazy because I’m going to vote against getting rid of the severance."-Coun. Ross Eadie

Bowman said it’s possible the issue could be revived at some point before the next election but, if not, he repeated his claim he will never take a severance payment when his time on council is done.

The severance plan was approved by council in September 2011, based on the recommendations of compensation expert Michael Werier. It provides members of council with three weeks pay for every year of service up to a maximum of six months pay.

Members of council who were defeated in this election and those who did not run were the first to be eligible for a total severance of about $400,000. It is optional.

Werier said in his report it was time to treat members of council the same as Manitoba MLAs, who receive the same severance.

Werier noted council members are not eligible for employment insurance and that similar severance plans are in place in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

Bowman repeatedly disparaged the severance plan, during and after the election campaign, describing it as a "political payout" that members of council did not deserve and shouldn’t take.

Rookie Coun. Marty Mortanz (Charleswood-Tuxedo), a lawyer who heads up a property investment and financial services firm, and Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands), were the only other members of council to say during the debate they would not take a severance.

Bowman’s strong criticism drew equally harsh words from several councillors during Wednesday’s debate.

"The language I heard regarding severance is disgusting," an emotional Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarksi) said in a loud and angry voice during the debate. "It is severance. It is not political payout… It makes me sound sleazy because I’m going to vote against getting rid of the severance and I am really angered by that."

Browaty, who is chairman of the protection and community services committee, said individuals who run for public office are forced to abandon a career in the private sector and the severance helps the transition back to private life.

"A lot of people who choose to run for office in Winnipeg aren’t independently wealthy," Browaty (North Kildonan) said. "We’re working folks."

While Browaty supported Bowman on the other cost-saving moves, he criticized Bowman for pressuring EPC members to take a 11 per cent cut in their pay while Bowman’s reduction amounted to only six per cent of his salary.

"If the mayor really wanted to walk the walk, he would cut 50 per cent of his (salary) top-up, in my opinion."

Coun. Russ Wyatt, who was one of the six to vote to kill severance, dismissed the concerns of those who defended the plan.

"I can’t recall the last time that we went through such an episode of naval gazing and collective whining as we have today," Wyatt (Transcona) said, adding that council needed to recognize Bowman came into office on a promise to change the culture at city hall.

"We have a new sheriff in town and he’s saying (severance) is something we should be addressing and obviously the citizens of Winnipeg spoke loud and clear in voting for him."

Eadie later said he was surprised Bowman lost by such a large measure, adding he expected the severance issue to be defeated on a tie, 8-8 vote.

Eadie said the public was angered by allegations of improper behaviour by some members of council and the administration, adding he believes Bowman should concentrate on fixing those issues.

Former councillor George Fraser addressed council before the vote, urging them to reject all of Bowman’s cost-saving moves and then challenged Bowman to declare if anyone of his new office staff were assured of a severance in their contracts.

A spokeswoman for Bowman later said none of Bowman’s staff have severance provisions in their contracts.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 10:02 AM CST: Adds live video

12:24 PM: Changes photo

1:08 PM: Adds details of morning debate.

2:43 PM: Adds details of vote

6:55 PM: write-thru

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