September 18, 2018

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Bowman sidesteps burning fire chief issue

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Mayor Brian Bowman </p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayor Brian Bowman

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/3/2018 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman continues to stand behind his embattled fire chief, and refuses to say what actions by a department head would warrant dismissal or the mayor's intervention.

On Wednesday, Bowman repeatedly turned aside questions from reporters seeking explanation on why he maintains confidence in Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane, who faced harsh criticism in an arbitration ruling last week.

Bowman dismissed the situation as an human resources matter, adding it's best left to the administration.

“The chief doesn’t directly report to me,” Bowman said. “He reports to (City of Winnipeg chief corporate services officer) Michael Jack. I do support (Lane), and I do support the union, and I think there is a need for them to work together. That’s been consistent in my comments.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/3/2018 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman continues to stand behind his embattled fire chief, and refuses to say what actions by a department head would warrant dismissal or the mayor's intervention.

On Wednesday, Bowman repeatedly turned aside questions from reporters seeking explanation on why he maintains confidence in Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane, who faced harsh criticism in an arbitration ruling last week.

Bowman dismissed the situation as an human resources matter, adding it's best left to the administration.

"The chief doesn’t directly report to me," Bowman said. "He reports to (City of Winnipeg chief corporate services officer) Michael Jack. I do support (Lane), and I do support the union, and I think there is a need for them to work together. That’s been consistent in my comments."

Bowman also refused to respond to published comments from labour and human resources experts, who said the mayor needs to explain why Lane hasn’t been fired in the wake of the recent ruling.

Labour arbitrator Arne Peltz ordered city hall to pay about $115,000 in damages — $10,000 to the union, and an additional $300 to each of the individual 350 EMS paramedics in the department — for failing to to issue a prompt apology after an independent investigation concluded Lane had publicly disrespected the EMS paramedics and their union officials during a conference in 2015.

Peltz strongly criticized Lane's testimony and actions during three days of hearings last October. He said the chief's testimony was "constantly shifting" and not credible. Peltz found Lane to be evasive, and questioned the truthfulness of some of what he said and rejected part of it outright.

Alan Levy, an associate professor in the department of business administration at Brandon University, told the Free Press that Lane should resign, and he’s surprised the mayor and a senior city officials say they have confidence in the chief.

Bowman confirmed Wednesday he has read the ruling, adding the only aspect of it he agrees with is the need for Lane and the local union executive representing the paramedics to meet in a facilitated session in an attempt to resolve their differences.

While Peltz had absolved the union of any responsibility for the dispute with Lane, Bowman said he believes both Lane (who has held the post since April 2014) and the EMS paramedics union need to "learn" from the report.

"I think there are some lessons to be learned from (the arbitration ruling)," Bowman said. "I’m hopeful all parties involved will do so... They should sit down, and they should be working together, and they should be learning from this and move forward."

Bowman said he’s not going to comment on, or deal with, Lane’s actions that were singled out by the arbitrator.

"I’ll let the chief speak to that," the mayor said. "I do think there is a need for him to speak to the matter and to speak to the union, and to acknowledge where he could have done better. I hope and expect he will do so."

Despite Bowman's assurances, however, city officials are not making Lane available to talk to the media. Requests to speak to Lane last week were turned down by city hall.

Felicia Wiltshire, the city's director of communications and customer services, said Lane has been at work but would not say when he will answer questions about the arbitration ruling.

"Chief Lane will be available to media, but it will not be today," Wiltshire said in an email to the Free Press. "He has reviewed the arbitration and is committed working with his staff to rebuild the relationship."

Bowman also would not respond to questions suggesting his silence is sending the wrong message to city employees and other department heads.

When asked where is the line that department heads cannot cross or risk losing their jobs, Bowman said that’s a question that should be answered by the senior city administration.

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, March 7, 2018 at 5:29 PM CST: Final write through

March 8, 2018 at 9:17 AM: Adds exchange between Santin and Bowman

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