Bowman accuses province of politicizing development regulation review

By | May 16, 2019

The mayor of Winnipeg says he is disappointed by the province’s decision to order a internal government review of the city’s development regulations rather than hold an independent inquiry.

Premier Brian Pallister’s government issued an order in council dated May 8 to request the Treasury Board review “policies and processes for land use and development” at the municipal level.

In April, Pallister said he wanted to conduct an independent review into Winnipeg’s finances, including looking at how construction projects are approved and inspected.

“My understanding is the province initiated this in response to the development community,” Mayor Brian Bowman said Thursday following a city council meeting.

“Our concern is that the review will be political, and this does appear to confirm it’s a political review.”

City council has called or a public inquiry into matters related to the new police headquarters in the past, and Bowman has called for a transparent, independent review into how decisions were made with respect to construction and development projects.

“The cabinet order appears confirm our fear that it would be a political review,” the mayor reiterated.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding, as Treasury Board chair, will ultimately oversee the review.

Fielding is a former Winnipeg city councillor who served from 2006 to 2014 —  a period of time when a number of development projects were approved by the city, then led by mayor Sam Katz, which have since come under scrutiny, including, in the case of the new police headquarters, a probe by the RCMP

“[Fielding] worked quite closely with former mayor Sam Katz, former CAO Phil Sheegl and is certainly somebody who knows land use planning very well and I gather he’ll be overseeing Treasury Board and their work on this matter,” Bowman said.

During question period Wednesday, Pallister responded to criticism from New Democrat MLA Andrew Swan who questioned the impartiality of a Treasury Board review. Pallister argues the government cabinet sub-committee will be neutral.

“The Treasury Board is well equipped to do an analysis and research into an important issue. That’s what we’ve asked them to do,” the premier said.

“If the member [Swan] has a better idea than using [the] Treasury Board — for example outsourcing [to] consultants outside of government — we might consider his suggestion, but we think actually we have the expertise to do this one inside government.”

The order in council, recommended by Fielding, is active until May 8, 2020.