August 23, 2019

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Provincial probe into city business political: Bowman

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES</p><p>Premier Brian Pallister drew criticism this week after it was revealed the Treasury Board secretariat would handle the review.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Premier Brian Pallister drew criticism this week after it was revealed the Treasury Board secretariat would handle the review.

Mayor Brian Bowman has accused Premier Brian Pallister of sleight of hand by launching a partisan, political review masquerading as an independent and impartial process into city business.

The fact the province has tapped its Treasury Board secretariat to conduct the review into how the city handles development projects is proof the probe is politically motivated, Bowman told reporters Thursday.

“The cabinet order appears to confirm our fear that this will be a political review and certainly not an independent or transparent review... This is not an independent review as was first promised by the premier,” Bowman said.

The disagreement between the mayor and premier on the nature of the investigation, which will include looking into how Winnipeg approves and inspects construction projects, is the latest skirmish in a feud between Broadway and city hall.

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Mayor Brian Bowman has accused Premier Brian Pallister of sleight of hand by launching a partisan, political review masquerading as an independent and impartial process into city business.

The fact the province has tapped its Treasury Board secretariat to conduct the review into how the city handles development projects is proof the probe is politically motivated, Bowman told reporters Thursday.

"The cabinet order appears to confirm our fear that this will be a political review and certainly not an independent or transparent review... This is not an independent review as was first promised by the premier," Bowman said.

The disagreement between the mayor and premier on the nature of the investigation, which will include looking into how Winnipeg approves and inspects construction projects, is the latest skirmish in a feud between Broadway and city hall.

"The cabinet order appears to confirm our fear that this will be a political review and certainly not an independent or transparent review… This is not an independent review as was first promised by the premier." - Mayor Brian Bowman 

Pallister drew criticism this week after it was revealed the Treasury Board secretariat, which is led by civil service minister and former city councillor and finance chairman Scott Fielding, would handle the review.

When the premier announced the review last month — in the wake of a Free Press report outlining allegations of widespread workplace misconduct in the city’s planning, property and development (PPD) department — he said it would be "independent."

Critics, including Bowman, question why a provincial government that’s spent millions of dollars on outside consultants would tap an internal board for this probe.

On Thursday, Bowman appeared to cast shade on Fielding’s municipal record, saying he worked closely with former mayor Sam Katz and former chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl, both of whom were criticized for controversial land-swap deals during their stints at city hall.

"You look at the time (Fielding) spent here, there are a number of matters that — you know, we’ve called for a public inquiry so things can be open, transparent and independent. The province continues to refuse," Bowman said.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Mayor Brian Bowman calls the Tory review of the city politically motivated.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayor Brian Bowman calls the Tory review of the city politically motivated.

"Instead, they call for a political review that ultimately is going to be overseen by the Treasury Board that is headed up by the former chair of finance under the (Katz) administration. It really raises questions about the political nature and the lack of independence we were assured."

NDP MLA Andrew Swan said Wednesday the decision confirms the review will be "nothing but a political exercise."

The premier has countered by saying the process will be handled by "neutral civil servants."

Bowman took issue with Pallister’s characterization, saying the premier reneged on his promise of an independent review.

"It’s a cabinet order, so it’s a political process. It’s a political review and the Treasury Board will be overseeing this," Bowman said.

The City of Winnipeg will not be the only municipality to have its practices scrutinized by the provincial government when it comes to the approval and inspection of development projects.

Other municipalities will also be targeted in the probe, in addition to Manitoba Hydro and the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

Bowman had no update Thursday on the city’s internal investigation into the allegations of workplace misconduct levelled at the PPD department. It remains unclear when the city’s probe will wrap up.

"I couldn’t provide you with an update today. I’m waiting for one as well. I know that work is ongoing and I haven’t had an update since the last time we spoke," Bowman said.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 9:25 AM CDT: Final

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