October 20, 2019

Winnipeg
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Crowded calendar gives Bowman the incumbent's edge

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/10/2018 (382 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is a busy guy. Always has been.

As many civic political watchers can attest, since he was elected in 2014, Bowman has a very traditional work ethic when it comes to fulfilling his mayoral duties.

In stark contrast to his predecessor Sam Katz, who spent long stretches of time while in office either visiting his Arizona vacation property or watching his beloved Goldeyes play baseball, Bowman is a politician who is seemingly always on the move, meeting citizens, cutting ribbons, shaking hands and kicking off any manner of community events. His social media accounts have, over the last four years, shown an incredible dedication to public appearances that may be unparallelled in this city's mayoral history.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/10/2018 (382 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is a busy guy. Always has been.

As many civic political watchers can attest, since he was elected in 2014, Bowman has a very traditional work ethic when it comes to fulfilling his mayoral duties.

THE MAYOR'S CALENDAR

Click to Expand

Sept. 4

  • Greeting to Class of 2022, University of Manitoba;
  • Toured North Point Douglas Women’s Centre.

Sept. 5

  • Presenting Outstanding Achievement Awards to Special Olympic athletes from Winnipeg, city hall;
  • Attended an evening farewell event for Stephano Grande, head of Downtown BIZ;
  • Attended an evening reception in hour of the Honorary Consul of France in Winnipeg;

Sept. 6

  • Announced the opening of the temporary location of Brenda Leipsic Dog Park with Councillor Orlikow
  • Attended in the evening the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry’s Annual Opening Ceremony

Sept. 7

  • Unveiling of new festival stage naming by CN at Forks, Forks national park;
  • Flag-raising ceremony to commemorate Brazilian Independence Day, city hall.
  • Participated in the recognition of FASD Awareness Day
  • Attended flag raising at City Hall to recognize Brazilian Independence Day

Sept. 8

  • Attended the Exchange District Pedestrian Mall opening event

Sept. 9

  • Attended Gurdwara
  • Celebrated Grandparents Day at Riverwood Square

Sept. 10.

  • Participated in the Cops for Kids “True Grit Tour” send off

Sept. 11

  • Flag-raising ceremony for Peace Days, city hall;
  • Official opening of new Canada Goose factory in north Winnipeg.

Sept. 12

  • Delivered greetings to the Canadian Association of Government Finance Officers conference
  • Chaired September’s Executive Policy Committee meeting

Sept. 13

  • Delivered greetings to the 27th annual Provincial Palliative Care Conference
  • Hosted courtesy visit with the Ambassador of Finland
  • Attended the Lt. Gov’s Reception
  • Attended People Corporation’s Head Office Grand Opening
  • Official campaign launch
  • Hosted visit at city hall by Finnish Ambassador to Canada

Sept. 14

  • United Way plane-pulling event and announcement of new partnership on homelessness at James Richardson international airport;
  • Flag-raising ceremony to commemorate Mexican Independence Day at city hall;
  • Announcement confirming new $300-million tripartite funding deal for regional roads network.
  • Nygard’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

Sept. 16

  • Kick-off for Terry Fox Run and Family Day, Assiniboine Park.
  • Meeting with the Sikh Society of Manitoba

Sept. 17

  • Asper Foundation Opening Night Gala for Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Centennial Concert Hall
  • Visited Brazen Hall Kitchen & Brewery, burger week winner

Sept 19

  • Attended Winnipeg Chamber Luncheon featuring Jan Gehl

Sept. 20

  • Candlelight ceremony commemorating First World War armistice, Brookside Cemetery.

Sept 21

  • Winnipeg Realtors Citizens Hall of Fame 2018 Inductee Statue Unveiling

Sept. 22

  • Manitoba Metis Federation Annual General Assembly, Assiniboia Downs.
  • Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba Gala Dinner

Sept. 23

  • Kick-off of Manitobans for Human Rights Torch of Dignity run, various locations;
  • Nine Circles Red Ribbon Walk and Run

Sept. 25

  • Grand opening, Homesense/Winners store, Polo Park;
  • Kick-off news conference for 2018 Nuit Blanche celebration.

Sept 26

  • Attended and spoke at the CMHR FIHRM Conference
  • Attended the Snowflake Place 5th Anniversary Celebration

Sept. 27

  • Official opening, True North Square, downtown Winnipeg.

Sept. 28

  • Official opening of Trans Canada Trail donor pavillion, Forks national park and market.
  • Launch of the Indigenous Artists’ Public Art Project

Sept. 29

  • Kick-off news conference for March for Mental Health;
  • Kick-off of St. Amant Centre Free-Spirit Festival, St. Amant Centre.

Sept. 30

  • Official opening of the Marilyn and Monty Hall retrospective, U of M.;
  • Police and Peace Officers Memorial service, Manitoba Legislature.

Oct. 1

  • Official launch of Active in Aging Expo, Sport for Life centre, downtown Winnipeg.

Oct. 2

  • Grand opening of Winnipeg Porsche dealership, Sterling Lyon Parkway.
  • IFEA Announcement with Economic Development Winnipeg

In stark contrast to his predecessor Sam Katz, who spent long stretches of time while in office either visiting his Arizona vacation property or watching his beloved Goldeyes play baseball, Bowman is a politician who is seemingly always on the move, meeting citizens, cutting ribbons, shaking hands and kicking off any manner of community events. His social media accounts have, over the last four years, shown an incredible dedication to public appearances that may be unparallelled in this city's mayoral history.

But what happens to Bowman's schedule when it is election time? Does he still keep a full slate of mayoral duties even while he is running for re-election?

Boy, does he.

A summary of his mayoral calendar from September shows Bowman is fully embracing the advantages he has as the current mayor. Over that one month, Bowman made no less than 55 public appearances at events that were not campaign related. That is nearly two every day of the month.

Unlike the suffocating blackout that precedes by-elections and general elections at the provincial level, there are no strict rules prohibiting an incumbent mayor or councillor from continuing their official duties right up to election day.

The Winnipeg Charter, the provincial legislation upon which the city was founded, states that the official election period runs from May 1 of the election year. After that date, candidates are allowed to register, raise and spend money, and campaign. (Candidate signs cannot go up before Sept. 1.)

However, mayors and councillors do not stop serving in their roles just because an election is coming. In fact, the mayor doesn't stop being the mayor until Nov. 1 after the October election. This is a stark difference from federal and provincial elections, where governments are dissolved once the official campaign period begins.

A motion was adopted this past summer at council to prohibit incumbent councillors from announcing new funding from the Land Dedication Reserve or ward budgets for the 60 days prior to election day. Although the mayor's office was not included in that motion, Bowman agreed to abide by the terms in the current campaign.

That still leaves lots and lots of room for Bowman, and members of council, to use their positions to garner media attention and grab the spotlight at events attended by huge numbers of citizens. Just the kind of thing that helps a would-be incumbent seeking re-election.

A quick look at Bowman's events calendar from September shows the wide array of events that are at the incumbent mayor's disposal as he gears up for a shot a re-election.

The events ranged from extremely high profile and newsworthy — the official openings of True North Square and a new Canada Goose factory — to more discreet, community-level events that wouldn't have qualified for news coverage but did provide the mayor with lots of exposure to potential voters.

Bowman brought greetings, or made opening remarks, to dozens of different events, from a salute to freshmen students from the Class of 2022 at the University of Manitoba, to a meeting of the Canadian Association of Finance Officers, the Manitoba Palliative Care conference and the Manitoba Metis Federation's annual general assembly.

Charities also benefitted significantly from the mayor's appearance. He brought greetings to events hosted by the United Way, Terry Fox foundation, FASD awareness day, Cops for Kids, Peace Days, Manitobans for Human rights, the Indigenous Arts Public Art Project, and March for Mental Health.

Any time a local dignitary was being honored, you could bet Bowman was there. He helped fete Stephano Grande upon his leaving the Downtown BIZ, oversaw the opening the Marilyn and Monty Hall retrospective at the U of M, and attended receptions to honour the Honorary Consul of France in Winnipeg and fashion mogul Peter Nygard's 50th anniversary as a garment maker.

And then there were the more commercial endeavours that the mayor helped celebrate. He was somehow able to find time in his schedule to open a new Porsche dealership, the combined HomeSense/Winners at Polo Park, celebrate the Winnipeg Realtors Citizens Hall of Fame, and judge entries at the Burger Week competition at Brazen Hall Kitchen and Brewery.

It's certainly an advantage for the mayor to be allowed to continue fulfilling mayoral duties during an election campaign. It's also quite legal. But is it fair?

Jenny Motkaluk, the most likely candidate to challenge Bowman, has been understandable frustrated by Bowman's continuing mayoral appearances.

"Blurring the lines between campaign and mayoral announcements is a classic incumbent campaign tactic and it's what we get when we do not impose campaign black-out periods for civic elections," she said via email statement. "Fair? Not a chance. But certainly not unexpected."

Moving to a complete blackout, as the province has done, is likely not the best way of levelling the electoral playing field. Blackouts tend to stop governments from undertaking otherwise innocent actions and communication with citizens. However, some sort of amendment to provincial legislation is surely needed to curb this undeniable power of incumbency.

Many of the events Bowman attended last month, and will likely continue to attend right up until election day, come at the request of various organizations and individuals, all of whom want the gravitas that a mayor brings to a public event. However, it may be necessary to turn over those duties to a member of council who is not running for re-election to ensure that invitations cannot be used as an unfair political advantage.

Regardless of who wins the mayoral election, one of the first orders of business once the votes have been counted should be to contact the province and request an amendment to the Winnipeg Charter to limit the duties of mayors during election periods.

Just to be fair.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

Dan Lett

Dan Lett
Columnist

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

Read full biography

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