March 26, 2019

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Arts council campaign irks mayor

Bowman slams group's claim city to cut its funding

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

A normally staid public meeting took a hostile turn Wednesday, when Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee attacked the Winnipeg Arts Council for what they said was a misleading public relations campaign aimed at themselves and the city budget.

Bowman and councillors John Orlikow and Matt Allard demanded the arts council representatives clarify a public relations campaign targeting the preliminary budget and the elimination of a $500,000 grant to the council for its public arts program.

Bowman and Orlikow said the wording of the campaign suggests the council is losing its entire funding from city hall, which exceeds $4.6 million.

“Many people I’ve been talking to believe the city will be investing nothing into public art. I’m not sure how that really instils a willingness to work together when I believe erroneous statements like that are pushed out,” Orlikow told Carol Phillips, executive director of the council.

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A normally staid public meeting took a hostile turn Wednesday, when Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee attacked the Winnipeg Arts Council for what they said was a misleading public relations campaign aimed at themselves and the city budget.

Bowman and councillors John Orlikow and Matt Allard demanded the arts council representatives clarify a public relations campaign targeting the preliminary budget and the elimination of a $500,000 grant to the council for its public arts program.

Bowman and Orlikow said the wording of the campaign suggests the council is losing its entire funding from city hall, which exceeds $4.6 million.

"Many people I’ve been talking to believe the city will be investing nothing into public art. I’m not sure how that really instils a willingness to work together when I believe erroneous statements like that are pushed out," Orlikow told Carol Phillips, executive director of the council.

Phillips said the elimination of the $500,000 — which had been an annual grant used to commission art for public installation — was done without consulting the arts council.

The campaign, which encourages supporters to email members of city council, states in part: "Other budget lines have been increased at the expense of public art. The elimination of this budget line in 2019 means an end to plans for family-friendly and neighbourhood-scale artwork across the city."

Bowman told Phillips in addition to the $4.6 million the city provides to the council, it’s also spending $2.5 million on the purchase and installation of art on major infrastructure projects, including along the southwest transit corridor and at the Waverley Street rail underpass, and $1 million this year towards the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre (part of a multi-year, $5-million contribution).

"I was disappointed to see some of the communication coming out of the (council). It is simply not factually accurate," Bowman told Phillips. "It should be corrected, and I would ask that you do so in your communications."

The uncomfortable exchange occurred during the one day a year set aside for the community to speak directly to the politicians who drafted the city’s preliminary budget.

Twenty-nine individuals addressed aspects of the plan, each given 10 minutes to speak and then more time in the followup question-and-answer session.

"This budget does actually offer us that opportunity to start thinking about where we’re going as a city and what direction we’re going to take," Josh Brandon, with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, told the committee. "I know there are some that take a narrow vision of city government that is really about delivering on the three Ps of parks, pavement and pipes... Those things are important, (but) at the same time, the needs of city government go much deeper."

Bowman and EPC will take the input from the day’s session before making any final changes or recommendations to the budget, to be presented to council March 20 for a vote.

Bowman said the amount of additional funding requested by the various groups had totalled $42 million.

"We obviously can’t provide all those dollars," he said, adding he appreciated the time and effort made by the individuals and group representatives.

Some of the groups who took advantage of the public meeting included the Manitoba Museum, Heritage Winnipeg, Winnipeg Public Library Board, Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba, Functional Transit Winnipeg, Take Pride Winnipeg, Amalgamated Transit Union, CUPE 500, Bike Winnipeg and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.

Chris Lorenc, president of the construction group, urged councillors to rally the public to pressure the provincial government to reverse its decision to arbitrarily stop funding local street renewals, including a retroactive $40 million to the city’s 2018 budget.

"If we’re going to accept an arbitrary breaking of (a provincial funding) agreement, where does it end?" Lorenc asked councillors. "When does the province next say, ‘You know that $100 million for the accelerated regional streets program? It’s not on the table anymore.’

"This is setting a very, very bad precedent."

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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