May 26, 2019

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Independent process no more: city review to be conducted by provincial board

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Last month at a business breakfast meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a review of how the City of Winnipeg and other Manitoba municipalities approve and inspect construction and development projects.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Last month at a business breakfast meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a review of how the City of Winnipeg and other Manitoba municipalities approve and inspect construction and development projects.

PREMIER Brian Pallister has tasked the province’s Treasury Board to oversee a review of how the City of Winnipeg and other Manitoba municipalities approve and inspect construction and development projects.

Last month, while addressing a business breakfast meeting in Winnipeg, the premier announced the review — and characterized it as an independent process.

However, it now appears it will be a political exercise, as many feared, NDP MLA Andrew Swan said Tuesday.

A May 8 cabinet order posted on the government’s website Tuesday afternoon says: “Treasury Board is assigned to carry out a review of policies and processes for land use and development processes... including zoning decisions and the issuance and administration of permits.”

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PREMIER Brian Pallister has tasked the province’s Treasury Board to oversee a review of how the City of Winnipeg and other Manitoba municipalities approve and inspect construction and development projects.

Last month, while addressing a business breakfast meeting in Winnipeg, the premier announced the review — and characterized it as an independent process.

However, it now appears it will be a political exercise, as many feared, NDP MLA Andrew Swan said Tuesday.

A May 8 cabinet order posted on the government’s website Tuesday afternoon says: "Treasury Board is assigned to carry out a review of policies and processes for land use and development processes... including zoning decisions and the issuance and administration of permits."

According to a background note to the cabinet order, the review will be conducted by Treasury Board secretariat staff, who are civil servants.

"Treasury Board is a political animal," Swan said. "It’s chaired by the minister of finance. The decision-making members of Treasury Board are cabinet ministers. And the staff members report to cabinet ministers."

Swan said it appears the process the premier announced to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce in April "is really nothing more than a political review" of something that’s been under municipal management for decades.

"I don’t know if this is the premier trying to pick another fight with (Winnipeg) mayor (Brian Bowman) and council," Swan said. "We thought he might have learned his lesson, but he may be looking to pick more fights as we go."

A government spokesman emphasized the work will be carried out by civil servants, and the report will be made to a deputy minister.

Pallister said last month the review would include the permits process at Manitoba Hydro, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, Red River Planning District and possibly other municipalities, in addition to the City of Winnipeg.

Bowman said at the time he was concerned the review was merely a "partisan, politically motivated" attack on the city.

Late Tuesday, a spokesman for the mayor said in a statement the review "appears to confirm the mayor’s initial concerns that this is a politically motivated exercise on the eve of an early provincial election."

He said Bowman remains open to meeting with the premier to discuss the matter, as well as other ways "in which both governments can work together to provide efficient and effective governance at the provincial and municipal levels."

Pallister told the business group last month Manitoba can’t be the most-improved province "unless Winnipeg is our most-improved city."

He said that doesn’t mean more provincial money for Winnipeg, but improvements in construction and land development and expenditure management by the city.

"In particular, industry stakeholders have told us they’re concerned about the efficiency, the timeliness and the accountability of building permitting inspections and approvals," the premier said.

"These concerns aren’t just limited to the City of Winnipeg processes and staff accountability. They’ve been raised in relation to the time frames involved in obtaining approvals from other authorities as well."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 8:21 PM CDT: Updates story and headline

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