Mayor Brian Bowman carried the day on most of his cost-saving motions at city hall Wednesday, but he lost the most contentious one.
Bowman's plan to eliminate council severance was defeated in a 6-10 vote, following a debate that spawned 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.
Bowman said he wasn't troubled by the fact some members of his executive policy 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 ran from 9:30 a.m. to almost 5 p.m. "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 including Couns. Brian Mayes, Jeff Browaty and deputy mayor Mike Pagtakhan.
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.
Council approved the severance plan 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 the severance. 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 similar severance plans are in place in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.
Rookie Couns. Marty Mortanz (Charleswood-Tuxedo), a lawyer who heads 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 repeatedly disparaged the severance plan, both during and after the election campaign, describing it as a "political payout" members of council did not deserve and shouldn't take.
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 an 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 talk, he would cut 50 per cent of his (salary) top-up, in my opinion."
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Coun. Russ Wyatt, who was one of the six to vote against 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 navel-gazing and collective whining as we have today," Wyatt (Transcona) said, adding 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.
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.