Manitoba

Council critics hire lawyer to fight Winnipeg bike, pedestrian plan

Three critics on city council feel so spurned by the way a cycling and pedestrian strategy was pushed through last month that they've sought legal advice hoping to urge council to consider a re-vote.

20-year, $334M active transportation strategy passed council vote 12-3 on July 15

A 20-year, $334-million pedestrian and cycling strategy passed in July of 2015. (CBC)

A Winnipeg councillor says he "can't tolerate" the way in which a cycling and pedestrian strategy was pushed through city council last month.

Three critics — including Coun. Russ Wyatt, Coun. Ross Eadie and Coun. Jason Schreyer — felt so spurned by how council passed the 20-year, $334-million active transportation plan that they've sought legal advice hoping to urge council to consider a re-vote.

The strategy proposes expanding and maintaining the city's bicycle and sidewalk network, having safer, well-lit routes and offering more facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The strategy, along with some amendments to it, passed by a vote of 12-3 on July 15.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt tapes up his defeated amendment motions on Mayor Brian Bowman's door during a council meeting on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
The councillors who voted against it were Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Eadie (Mynarski). Wyatt stormed out of the council meeting without voting after a set of 20 proposed amendments were shot down by a motion from other councillors.

On Friday, Eadie, Wyatt and Schreyer — all of whom had come out against aspects of the strategy ahead of the vote — announced they have hired lawyer Dave Hill. Hill and the trio claim council broke a procedural bylaw when it disallowed the tabling of more than two amendments at once.

"We can see nothing in that bylaw which prevents more than two amendments on a given report," Hill said in a statement.

'I can't tolerate this'

Hill's opinion of what went on during the passing of the strategy simply reaffirmed the councillors' point of contention, Schreyer told CBC News.

"The section quoted by the speaker to not allow greater amendments, or more than two amendments to the strategy, simply didn't make any sense. On that basis, I was obliged to challenge the speaker," Schreyer said.

"It was sort of no surprise to me that legal advice would support my legal challenge of the speaker."

Schreyer said bringing outside legal counsel into city hall in this way hasn't been done before and is forcing everyone into new territory.

"I guess my challenging of the chair at this point creates a precedent that we need to now deal with, because this is a surprise to a number of people that you can only bring in two amendments to a motion without two-thirds majority of council," Schreyer said.

"That's not the way the procedure bylaw was written. That's not the way it was intended and that's the point.... This is the essence of democracy. It got shut down and I can't tolerate this for my term. I'm here to fix city hall."

With a legal expert in their corner, the three councillors are calling for a re-vote at a Sept. 30 council meeting.

"What this tells us is, even though we have three lawyers on council, they were not only prepared to ignore the rules of council, but also ran rough shot over them and invented their own rules as they went along," Wyatt said in a statement.

The trio has spent between $500 and $750 to secure a legal opinion.

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