September 24, 2018

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Bowman launches re-election campaign at RBC Convention Centre

Brian Bowman launched his mayoral re-election campaign Thursday night, before a crowd of about 150 people inside a ballroom at the RBC Convention Centre.

With his wife, Tracey, and their two young sons in the room, Bowman said he wanted to continue what he began four years ago.

“We’ve come too far to go back to where we were,” Bowman told the crowd, which looked small, even in the small ballroom setting. “Back when our city was stuck in a rut with no vision, with crumbling infrastructure, scathing audits and police investigations.”

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<p>Brian Bowman speaking with supporters after announcing his re-election campaign at the RBC Convention Centre Thursday evening.</p>

PHOTOS BY MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Brian Bowman speaking with supporters after announcing his re-election campaign at the RBC Convention Centre Thursday evening.

Brian Bowman launched his mayoral re-election campaign Thursday night, before a crowd of about 150 people inside a ballroom at the RBC Convention Centre.

With his wife, Tracey, and their two young sons in the room, Bowman said he wanted to continue what he began four years ago.

"We’ve come too far to go back to where we were," Bowman told the crowd, which looked small, even in the small ballroom setting. "Back when our city was stuck in a rut with no vision, with crumbling infrastructure, scathing audits and police investigations."

Bowman peppered his speech with repeated references to unnamed "special interests" and "partisan interests" who he said were trying to reclaim Winnipeg city hall, and he positioned himself as the only mayoral candidate prepared to move the city forward.

"All we’ve achieved, all we’ve been able to build, the momentum we’ve generated, the vision needed for a city of one-million people strong — make no mistake, it is at stake in this election," Bowman said. "There are candidates who want to turn the clock back, who want to put a stop to what we’ve achieved, who have no vision for our city… We cannot allow partisan politics and special interests to displace the priorities of Winnipeggers."

A New Orleans-style brass band entertained the crowd before Bowman entered the room, which was preceded by a short video presentation of the candidate talking about how Winnipeg has grown in the past four years.

Mayor's timeline

BRIAN Bowman’s four years as mayor of Winnipeg have been filled with contradictions. He went into office in 2014, promising openness and transparency, and brags about it often – but he is dogged by many of the same gaffes that marked the Sam Katz era and the mayors before him.

BRIAN Bowman’s four years as mayor of Winnipeg have been filled with contradictions. He went into office in 2014, promising openness and transparency, and brags about it often – but he is dogged by many of the same gaffes that marked the Sam Katz era and the mayors before him.

Bowman’s successes include the creation of the posts of the integrity officer and the independent fairness commissioner, the voluntary lobbyist registry, and wider access to civic data. In the past four years, city council has repeatedly called on the province for a public inquiry into the Winnipeg police headquarters project, expanded the cycling network, increased financial support to the arts community, and spent an unprecedented amount of fixing local and regional streets. Bowman also initiated reconciliation efforts with the city’s first Indigenous accord.

While there’s been nothing in his term on the scale of the police headquarters project, there are have been issues:

• The slaying of Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Jubal Fraser while on the job focused public attention on council’s inability to deal with security and safety issues for drivers and passengers.

• Bowman’s apparent obsession with social media and his frequent unfamiliarity with many civic issues has created the impression he prefers looking like a mayor rather than doing the job of mayor.

• Bowman remained silent for months after the Free Press first reported about the problems at the water treatment plant and south end sewage plant.

• One of the city’s most experienced lawyers is blamed for the City of Winnipeg’s failed legal action against designers and builders of the water plant. She is fired and, in turn, files a wrongful dismissal suit.

• Bowman blindly supports embattled Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane through his too-close relationship with firefighters union president Alex Forrest and an unending dispute with the EMS paramedics, even when Lane’s actions are cited for a $115,000 penalty in an arbitration case.

• Backroom deals continue unabated at city hall, including the nixed south Charleswood corridor plan and the sale of the former Vimy Arena to the province to make way for an addictions treatment centre.

• Bowman’s continued support for chief administrative officer Doug McNeil, criticized for lack of attention on the south Charleswood corridor project and keeping councillors at a distance from department heads.

• The mysterious dismissal of public works director Lester Deane, apparently for contradicting Bowman on the difficulties associated with reopening the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians.

• Bowman’s inability to stand up to the provincial government led by Premier Brian Pallister, as it cuts financial assistance to the city, impacting ambulance services, Transit, public works, and policing.

• Bowman’s sudden public coolness towards the reopening of Portage and Main to pedestrians.

• His public spat with businessman Mark Chipman in early 2015, over Bowman’s claims that Chipman received advantageous treatment from arm’s-length agency CentreVenture Development Corporation for the True North Square project.

• Bowman’s decision to push through a development impact fee landed city hall in a protracted legal dispute with the homebuilding industry, and left millions of dollars raised through the new fee untouchable until the dispute is resolved.

— Aldo Santin

The event was emceed by Kimberly Puhach, chairwoman of the mayor’s Indigenous advisory council, and he was introduced onto the stage by his wife, Tracey.

Bowman has taken a low-key approach during the past 4 1/2 months, with no campaign announcements. He made none at his campaign launch either, but told reporters he would release specific policy announcements shortly.

Nine individuals have registered to challenge Bowman so far and of those, only little-known business consultant Jenny Motkaluk appears to have put together a consistently strong campaign, hammering away at Bowman all summer long.

Motkaluk has repeatedly described him as "the accidental mayor" — despite what was a come-from-behind victory over a strong field in 2014, including former New Democrat MLA and MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis and former city councillor Gord Steeves.

It’s a testament in part to Bowman’s campaign smarts (and Wasylycia-Leis’ lack there of) that while most pundits considered the 2014 race close, on voting day, Bowman ended up with almost 50 per cent of all the ballots cast.

Motkaluk’s previous electoral experience was the 2010 council race, where she finished second in the Mynarski ward with 2,734 votes, losing to Ross Eadie (4,007).

Another active mayoral campaign has been led by Don Woodstock, a small-business owner and former Transit operator. Woodstock is an election regular, collecting 905 votes in the old St. Charles ward in 2014.

Bowman singled out Motkaluk as one of the challengers who he believes is tied to the police union and those "special interests."

"If you want an example of old-school, partisan politics of division and negativity, that’s the choice people can make," he said. "I think Winnipeggers can take a look at how people are conducting themselves during a campaign to get a sense of what it would be like if they actually were in the mayor’s office."

Bowman told reporters his theme for the next four years would focus on "building a safe and inclusive city for families… focus on growing our city and focus on building a stronger government."

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 Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 9:14 PM CDT: Fixes typo

9:19 PM: Adds photo

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