Winnipeg city council has passed a 20-year, $334-million cycling and pedestrian strategy following a raucous debate on Wednesday that included one critic, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, storming out of the meeting.
The strategy proposes expanding and maintaining the city's bicycle and sidewalk network, having more safe, well-lit routes and more offering facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
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The strategy, along with some amendments to it, passed by a vote of 12-3 on Wednesday afternoon.
The councillors who voted against it were Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Ross Eadie (Mynarski).
The critics argued that the strategy in its current form would cost millions of dollars and commit Winnipeg taxpayers to flawed plans. Eadie said some of the recommended routes make no sense in his ward.
"This could have been a better document," Schreyer told council.
"I'm thoroughly frustrated here," said Browaty.
Wyatt, who spearheaded opposition to the plan, was absent from the council chamber at the time of the vote. He had marched out after their proposed changes were shot down by a motion from other councillors.
After Wyatt left, he taped 20 defeated motion documents to the mayor's office door with the words "democracy denied" scrawled on them.
"The rest of the council meeting is now a farce. Never in the history of council have amendments by sitting and duly elected city councillors been denied a chance for discussion and debate," Wyatt said in a statement.
"Whether they agree with them or not is not the point. The fact they refused open and democratic debate of ideas, everything council should stand for, is unprecedented!"
Aside from the statement, Wyatt did not speak to reporters after the incident.
Wyatt's tactics bullying, says mayor
After the meeting, Mayor Brian Bowman took aim at Wyatt's behaviour.
"These types of antics, they're at worst bullying tactics and at best they're unbecoming of an elected member of Winnipeg city council that is here to represent the citizens," he told reporters.
"I can't speak to the behaviour of one councillor who chose not to ultimately be there to represent his citizens. That's really a decision that he made and that he'll have to answer to the residents in Transcona."
When it was approved by the executive policy committee last week, Bowman stressed that no money would be spent and nothing would be built until council approves each project with the guidance of the strategy.
"This plan is the first step, it's not the last step," said Anders Swanson of the Winnipeg Trails Association, which helped create the strategy.
"Detailed design, as any project manager knows, happens at the last step."
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi called the strategy "a pretty good start" and told critics of the plan, "You can't suck and blow at the same time."
Wyatt, Schreyer, Browaty, Eadie and Coun. Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) had paid for radio ads criticizing the strategy and urging the city to focus on roads and sidewalks instead of bike paths.
Wyatt accused Bowman and pro-cycling proponents on social media — what he called "the dictatorship of the tweeting class" — of trying to push the strategy through council.
Wyatt had planned to introduce nine amendments to the strategy at Wednesday's meeting. However, he found out late Tuesday night they might not get that chance.
He and Eadie say they were told by the city clerk's office that a motion had already been filed — by councillors Janice Lukes and Gerbasi — to amend it. That amendment would deny other motions to be made on the plan.
Wyatt compared the move to what he says the federal Conservatives do when they want to limit debate in Parliament.
A previous version of this story said Elmwood-East Kildonan Coun. Jason Schreyer voted against the proposed cycling and pedestrian strategy. In fact, it was St. Charles Coun. Shawn Dobson.Jul 15, 2015 8:39 PM CT