Brian Bowman bows out at last council meeting as Winnipeg's mayor
Council votes to support police parking deal that split mayor's inner circle
Brian Bowman bid an emotional farewell to his council colleagues on Thursday, during his last meeting as Winnipeg's mayor.
Bowman thanked the councillors and city staff for their work over his eight years as the city's 43rd mayor, saying they had made the council chamber and Winnipeg as a whole "a more inclusive and welcoming place."
Bowman choked up when he made a special acknowledgment to his wife and two children.
"Tracy, Hayden and Austin — each of them have served Winnipeg the past eight years," he said.
"Tracy is the rock star of our family. I've been riding her coattails since 1994. And I rode them into the mayor's office, so I want to thank her."
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Sherri Rollins's voice also quavered when she thanked Bowman, who she said encouraged her to run for city council when she was chair of the Winnipeg School Division board.
"He was always with the children. He visited absolutely every school. I would watch … children running into his arms. If they didn't have a father figure, well, they did in Mayor Bowman," Rollins said.
Bowman, who is Métis, became Winnipeg's first Indigenous mayor when he was elected in 2014, beating Judy Wasylycia-Leis in a landslide. He campaigned on a promise to make city hall more open and transparent, after scandals plagued the city during Sam Katz's tenure as mayor.
During his second run for office in 2018, he faced opposition over his support for reopening the intersection at Portage and Main to pedestrians. That proposal was voted down in a plebiscite, while Bowman won a second term with 53 per cent of the vote.
He announced in October 2020 that he would not seek a third term.
Leader on reconciliation
On Thursday, he reflected on what he thought he had accomplished.
"I've done my best to clean up the mess that we inherited at city hall," he said. "Those were the marching orders I received from Winnipeggers in 2014, and then in 2018, I was really grateful to receive a stronger mandate to keep going."
WATCH | Mayor Brian Bowman bids his council colleagues farewell:
Brian Pincott, a former Calgary city councillor and transit advocate, called Bowman a leader on the issue of reconciliation, especially after Maclean's magazine labelled Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada in 2015.
"The very next day, he pulled together … all the diverse communities — First Nations, Indigenous communities, newcomers, everybody — and said, 'We have a problem, and … we're going to start doing the work today,'" Pincott said.
Bowman acknowledged there is more work to do.
"Even though I won't be in the role [of mayor], I'll still be looking for ways in which I can contribute to helping move us forward in the journey of reconciliation," he said.
Thursday's council meeting also marked the end for at least one of two sitting councillors.
Both St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham and Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein are running to replace Bowman as mayor.
After the meeting, Bowman said he plans on doing interviews with some media outlets next week, then remaining quiet until after the election on Oct. 26.
Council approves police parking deal
At Thursday's meeting, council approved a deal on secure parking for Winnipeg police that had split Bowman's inner circle last week.
Executive policy committee voted 3-3 on the deal, which would dedicate a floor of the Millennium Library Parkade to the city's police service. Bowman, Rollins and St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard voted against it at the EPC meeting, and again on Thursday. The rest of council supported the deal.
The deal would cost the city an estimated $200,000 up front, plus $95,000 a year in lost parking income.
Chief administrative officer Michael Jack told the committee last week the deal would resolve a longstanding grievance between the city and the police union, which has argued officers are at risk because they do not have a secure parking spot.
If the city rejected the deal, it could go to arbitration and potentially cost the city more, Jack warned.
On Thursday, Rollins called it an "odd governance arrangement" for city staff to bring forward an agreement to try to resolve the dispute.
"This is a parkade for a library, our flagship library in our system.… This is a parkade that needs capital improvements. None of that is here before us," Rollins said.
The deal still depends on the police union finding enough officers to rent all of the 264 stalls, at a cost of $275 per month. If they can't find enough takers, the grievance will be dropped.
"When you've got a settlement where if the other side rejects it, they drop the grievance, that's a good piece of bargaining by our city staff," said St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes.
With files from Anne-Louise Michel