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This article was published 12/2/2019 (252 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mayor Brian Bowman feels snubbed by Premier Brian Pallister.
Bowman told reporters Tuesday that his request for an emergency meeting with Pallister last week to discuss the funding dispute between the two levels of government was flatly rejected, with no offer of when a meeting could take place.
"I think taxpayers and constituents should expect prime ministers, premiers and mayors to meet, especially when matters require their direct attention," Bowman said. "We weren’t advised why, we were just told he was unavailable, his schedule could not accommodate. The meeting was declined. There was no alternate date, there was no ‘let’s see what we can do in the coming weeks.’ I’m not aware of his schedule and that wasn’t discussed."
What few outside the premier’s office knew last week was Pallister was at his vacation home in Costa Rica — even though his postings on social media suggested he was shivering through the deep freeze like everyone else.
Bowman had called for the meeting after an exchange of accusations between city hall and the Pallister government over infrastructure funding to the city. Bowman and civic officials have accused the Pallister government of reneging on written financial commitments that will create a $74-million shortfall in the 2018 city budget, while the Pallister government denies breaching any agreement with the city, and accuses the mayor and civic officials of releasing incorrect and misleading public statements.
'We encourage the mayor to focus on working constructively behind the scenes in proper diplomatic form, instead of pursuing negotiations through the media.' — Statement by Pallister’s press secretary David von Meyenfeldt
While Bowman told reporters he’ll continue to press for a meeting with the premier, Pallister’s press secretary issued a statement saying Bowman and city officials should stop negotiating through the media.
"We encourage the mayor to focus on working constructively behind the scenes in proper diplomatic form, instead of pursuing negotiations through the media," said the statement released by David von Meyenfeldt.
Von Meyenfeldt was asked by the Free Press if efforts were being made to arrange a meeting with Pallister and Bowman but he replied that Pallister met with Bowman for two and a half hours in December, adding he will let cabinet ministers Scott Fielding (finance) and Jeff Wharton (municipal relations) deal with the mayor and city hall.
Bowman contrasted Pallister’s stance with Bowman's good relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding his meeting with Trudeau on Tuesday will be the second between the two leaders in the past two weeks.
"The accessibility (with the PM) is appreciated and it does help us deliver results for Winnipeggers, and I think, for Canadians."
Bowman said Pallister’s refusal to make an effort to meet with him over an important issue is surprising because similar meetings in the past have been productive.
"I really mean this — when I’ve met with him, they’ve been productive meetings and we’ve been able to move some files forward," Bowman said.
"I’ve never declined a meeting with the premier or prime minister, let me put it that way," Bowman said. "If the premier or prime minister wants to meet, I’m going to move mountains. I’ll move Garbage Hill if I have to. I think people expect that we’re going to work together... Unfortunately, we haven’t been afforded that more recently."
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.