Winnipeg mayor, premier discuss ambulance services, road renewals during face-to-face meeting

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman got his wish of a face-to-face meeting with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

1st meeting since Mayor Brian Bowman complained of difficulty getting meeting with premier

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister discussed a number of shared interests during a meeting at the Legislative Building on Thursday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman got his wish of a face-to-face meeting with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

The two attended a ceremony commemorating Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust remembrance day, and took the opportunity to meet for the first time since Bowman complained publicly that he found it difficult to meet with the premier.

Bowman and Pallister said they had a productive meeting discussing shared priorities — including the possible transfer of ambulance services to the provincial government and ongoing discussions on regional roads — at a meeting at the Legislative Building on Thursday.

They discussed the province's application for 10s of millions of dollars in federal funding for regional road renewals. The province submitted the application just in time for the March 31 deadline.

"We now wait for the federal government to do their due diligence and hopefully work collaboratively with both our provincial partners and our municipal government to help us accelerate the regional road work in the city," Bowman said.

The City of Winnipeg has said it hopes the province receives $182 million in matching funding for regional road work under a federal infrastructure plan, but last week Pallister said the amount of funding available is closer to $120 million.

After their meeting on Thursday, Bowman said he couldn't provide a breakdown of how that money would be divided up between Winnipeg and the rest of the province.

"I want to thank the premier. This has been a topic of a lot of discussion over the last year. It's been a priority for me and for our council. And the dialogue and advocacy that the province is working on in relation to our federal government is something we appreciate," Bowman said.

The ongoing dispute over ambulance services between the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority also came up during their discussion.

On Tuesday, the mayor's executive policy committee will consider a report from Winnipeg Fire-Paramedic Service Chief John Lane examining options to transfer responsibility for ambulance services to the newly created Shared Health provincial organization.

The report suggests the transition would be complex and take at least two years to complete while jeopardizing the effectiveness of emergency communications — but could eventually save the city $3 million a year.

The city, which operates ambulance services on behalf of the WRHA through a funding agreement that expired in 2016,  asked for the report in December after the WRHA froze its ambulance funding at 2016 levels for 2017 and 2018.

"We are having discussions with [Health Minister Kelvin] Goertzen and we've had some very positive discussions. But it really is just about reconciling the funding from Shared Health as well as looking for opportunities to find efficiencies," Bowman said.

Lane warned earlier this month that the transition could lead to job losses for paramedics. Bowman said it would be "premature" to talk about that at this point.

"Winnipeggers should be assured that the service will continue, if you call 911 the service is continuing to be provided and the fact that this is a matter of public safety, we're going to be responsible," he said.

Pallister said they are awaiting a report from conflict of interest commissioner Jeffrey Schnoor on improving ethics accountability and transparency at municipal and provincial governments.

Asked whether the report would include recommendations around legislation to enable the ethics commissioner to sanction people, Pallister said that is a possibility.

"The AMM has already expressed a desire to have more dialogue on that and we would like to see us move forward co-operatively on that," he said.

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Web Writer

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, Man. where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.