September 24, 2018

Winnipeg
5° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Bowman steps away from signature issue

Editorial

All of a sudden, there’s a buzz of activity down at the intersection of Uncertainty and Retreat. And nobody seems to know why.

Mayor Brian Bowman’s unexpected softening on the issue of reopening the corner of Portage and Main to pedestrians has many observers wondering what prompted the city’s top elected official to release his grip on an issue that was the centrepiece of his 2014 election campaign.

Mr. Bowman, who is standing for re-election this fall, announced this week that he would support a motion to include a non-binding public referendum on the Portage and Main reopening on the civic election ballot.

“I see no reason why we wouldn’t let Winnipeggers voice their views on this issue,” the mayor said on Wednesday, a day before city council voted 14-1 in favour of adding a yes-or-no question about Portage and Main to the Oct. 24 ballot. Mr. Bowman added that he would treat the referendum as binding, regardless of whether public opinion favoured reintroducing above-ground foot traffic to the famed intersection or leaving its pedestrian-barring barriers in place.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

All of a sudden, there’s a buzz of activity down at the intersection of Uncertainty and Retreat. And nobody seems to know why.

Mayor Brian Bowman’s unexpected softening on the issue of reopening the corner of Portage and Main to pedestrians has many observers wondering what prompted the city’s top elected official to release his grip on an issue that was the centrepiece of his 2014 election campaign.

Mr. Bowman, who is standing for re-election this fall, announced this week that he would support a motion to include a non-binding public referendum on the Portage and Main reopening on the civic election ballot.

"I see no reason why we wouldn’t let Winnipeggers voice their views on this issue," the mayor said on Wednesday, a day before city council voted 14-1 in favour of adding a yes-or-no question about Portage and Main to the Oct. 24 ballot. Mr. Bowman added that he would treat the referendum as binding, regardless of whether public opinion favoured reintroducing above-ground foot traffic to the famed intersection or leaving its pedestrian-barring barriers in place.

What’s unclear, however, is what has caused this change of heart. Reopening the intersection is an initiative Mr. Bowman has championed passionately, both as a candidate and a mayor. His suddenly subdued commitment to the concept suggests he has arrived at the conclusion that pushing hard for pedestrian access to Portage and Main amounts to a stroll into a political minefield.

Despite his enthusiasm for lifting the barriers, Mr. Bowman is surely aware that various public-opinion polls have shown either tepid interest in, or flat-out rejection of, the idea of reopening Winnipeg’s iconic downtown interchange. In fact, it could fairly be argued that Portage and Main wasn’t really all that much of an issue until candidate Bowman decided to make it a centrepiece of his mayoral aspiration.

"I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Winnipeggers. I haven’t found anybody that tells me opening Portage and Main is our top priority," says mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk.</p>

"I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Winnipeggers. I haven’t found anybody that tells me opening Portage and Main is our top priority," says mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk.

Recently, business consultant Jenny Motkaluk, the highest-profile contender to date for the mayor’s council chamber chair, launched her campaign by taking direct shots at Mr. Bowman’s abiding intersectional interest, stating bluntly that "the Winnipeg I lead will not spend another single minute or dollar talking about that issue."

Council’s endorsement of the referendum motion introduced by suburban Coun. Jeff Browaty and Coun. Janice Lukes — both frequent city hall opponents of the mayor — does, however, guarantee a lot more time and money will be spent on the Portage and Main issue between now and election day. The city has no regulations limiting the amount third parties can spend in support of, or opposition to, ballot questions.

Mr. Bowman, who has shown himself to be an active, well-connected and savvy public figure during his first term, is no doubt aware of the power of incumbency in civic politics. And yet, despite being armed with the knowledge that it’s almost impossible for a sitting Winnipeg mayor to be defeated by an upstart candidate, he has decided to take a step back on the defining issue of his previous campaign.

By leaving the decision of Portage and Main up to the public, he has robbed his opponents in the mayoralty run of an opposing view which could have become their signature issue. Mr. Bowman’s newfound fallback position is bound to disillusion those who voted for him based on his pledge to reopen the intersection, but he has obviously done the political math and decided that subtracting his passionate Portage and Main pronouncement will equal a greater re-election campaign result in the fall.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.