Councillors, mayoral candidates scrap over parking lot
A Winnipeg parking lot became a hot potato in the city's civic election, with some councillors and two mayoral candidates arguing that the business interests of incumbent mayor Sam Katz should be put in a blind trust.
On Wednesday, city council voted 10-5 to extend its leaseof the gravel parking lot just outside the CanWest Global baseball park —which Katz, as owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team,helped build before he took office.
A number ofcouncillors, including Jenny Gerbasi, Harvey Smith and Lillian Thomas,argued Wednesdaythat Katz may be in a conflict of interest in relation to the parking lot vote, since he is still an owner of the team.
Katz himself left the council chambers for the debate and the vote.
"Even though he's not voting directly, there is a perception of a potential conflict [of interest] until his assets are in a blind trust,"Gerbasi said Wednesday.
"How can the public be assured that this isn't being influenced by the fact that it's Sam Katz's ballpark?"
But St. Boniface councillor Franco Magnifico, who supported extending the lease,countered that the deal was a "win-win situation for the city."
When the city first began leasing the land for the lotto the stadium, it was only on a year-to-year basis, because some other form of development was wanted for that space. Wednesday's vote has now extended the lease for the next 16 years.
Mayor maintains no conflict of interest
Rival mayoral candidate Kaj Hasselriis questioned whether the deal was appropriate.
"Who does this deal benefit? Does it benefit Winnipeggers? Or does it benefit Sam Katz?" he asked Tuesday.
"If this is going to be a parking lot, the mayor has to put his business interests in the Goldeyes into a blind trust," said Marianne Cerilli, another mayoral candidate.
"He can't continue to pass policy decisions and financial decisions that are benefiting him personally."
Setting up a blind trust is not a legal requirement when a person becomes mayor.
Katz maintained he is not benefiting from what goes on at the ballpark.
"I say that I really don't have anything to do with that, and I haven't been privy to anything, so I can't answer any question on that," he said Tuesday.
The election will be held on Oct. 25.