A potential preview of Winnipeg’s mayoral race unfolded Thursday on the floor of city council, where Mayor Brian Bowman and Coun. Jeff Browaty traded barbs during question period for the mayor.
Winnipeggers elect their next mayor in October. Bowman, who is nearing the end of his first term on the job, is expected to run for re-election, while Browaty has mused about making the leap from his North Kildonan seat this fall.
While neither member of council has declared an intention to run, their exchanges at council meetings have grown increasingly adversarial.
At the February council meeting, Browaty used question period as an opportunity to suggest Bowman has a weak command of the City of Winnipeg’s finances,
“We had a $17-million surplus in 2017 and yet we still went after the poorest of people by going after transit fares,” Browaty said on the floor of council, referring to a Jan. 1 transit fare hike of 25 cents. “This is a mayor that I don’t think really does support transit.”
Bowman responded by noting Browaty’s record of repeated votes against rapid-transit projects.
“You can tell it’s an election year when you hear someone who has been a politician for many, many years engage in the kind of rhetoric folks that are watching are witnessing,” Bowman replied.
Browaty also accused Bowman of preparing to raise property taxes in 2019 at a rate higher than the 2.33-per-cent annual hikes that went into effect every year of Bowman’s rookie term as mayor.
Browaty was riffing off comments Bowman made in during a 2017 year-end interview with CBC News.
“The new fiscal reality we face in the province is putting a squeeze on Winnipeg and Winnipeg taxpayers, no doubt,” Bowman said in a December interview in his office. “That is going to become an increasing question, given some of the downloading we’re facing here in the city.”
Browaty asked Bowman whether he would commit to avoid raising property taxes even higher.
The mayor responded by suggesting the councillor use his Progressive Conservative connections to wrest a better deal out of Premier Brian Pallister’s provincial government.
Embroiled in disputes
The city and province are embroiled in disputes over funding for a number of services and amenities, including transit operations, the completion of the Southwest Transitway and ambulance funding.
Browaty described the comments by Bowman as an attempt to deflect responsibility from his own difficulties with negotiating with the Pallister government.
“The only person on the city [organization] chart who has the provincial-municipal relations file is the mayor. Why the mayor isn’t having the conversations that need to be had? I think he’s ultimately responsible,” Browaty said during a council meeting lunch break.
Bowman says the councillor was just trying to score political points in the leadup to a mayoral race Browaty may or may not enter.
“I don’t know if he will or will not. He’s certainly been musing. Time will tell whether he has the courage to put his name on the ballot,” Bowman said, also during council’s lunch break.
The earliest mayoral candidates can register their campaigns is May 1. Nominations take place in September.
The election is slated for Oct. 24.
Published at Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:29:06 -0500