Mayor Brian Bowman says it's easier to get a meeting with Canada's PM than Premier Brian Pallister
Manitoba Hydro board resigned 2 weeks ago, citing lack of meetings with premier
Mayor Brian Bowman says he, like the former board of Manitoba Hydro, has a hard time getting face-to-face meetings with Premier Brian Pallister.
Bowman said Tuesday that he finds it easier to meet with the prime minister of Canada than the premier of his own province.
Since Pallister's Progressive Conservative party was elected in May 2016, Bowman has had just "a couple meetings" with the premier.
Difficulty getting a meeting with the premier was also cited when most of the Manitoba Hydro board resigned last month.
"It's more helpful when you can get that face-to-face dialogue," Bowman said. "I represent a city that has 70 per cent of the population in Manitoba and 75 per cent of the province's GDP."
In comparison, Bowman said he speaks "quite regularly" with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"I've met a lot with the prime minister. He's been very available for dialogue and I do appreciate that."
While Bowman has chatted with Trudeau as part of the regular gatherings of big city mayors, he noted "we have had one-on-one meetings on several occasions."
'Numerous meetings' with mayor: Pallister
The premier, however, disputed Bowman's tally of the number of the number of meetings they've had, counting informal encounters the two have had at events outside the Legislative Building.
"Lots of ways to meet without meeting face-to-face," Pallister said Tuesday.
"We live in the same city and we have had numerous meetings on several occasions outside of my office. I would also say I've met with the prime minister more frequently than the mayor as well."
Since he was injured in a hiking accident last year, Pallister said he hasn't been able to have as many meetings as he would like, and hopes to hold more meetings in the future.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the premier has a problem with his management style.
"He concentrates all power in his office and then he turns out the lights to his office and refuses to engage with people in any meaningful way," Kinew said.
Pallister rejected the notion that he doesn't delegate decisions, and said his ministers and senior staff are available.
"I've been attacked for controlling everything and I've been attacked for not being available. You can't have it both ways. I have a team of ministers that I think is second to none. I respect their work. I support their work," Pallister said.
Bowman said he met frequently with Pallister's predecessor, Greg Selinger, when the NDP was in power. But he said all leaders are different.
"Everyone is going to have their own style of government, I recognize that," the mayor said. "I try to be as accessible as possible but I don't get to meet with everybody that wants to meet with me, either."
- AnalysisAn 'existential crisis' at Manitoba Hydro? Problems that led to board's resignation run deep
Pallister was heavily criticized late last month when nine members of the 10-member board of directors for Hydro resigned en mass. The only member who remained was Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon.
A statement from board chair Sandy Riley cited multiple points of disagreement with the province but primarily that the board couldn't get an audience with the premier.
"I've never seen anything like that before. Certainly, I raised my eyebrows when I learned of the resignations," Bowman said Tuesday.
"The individuals that were on the board, these are folks with incredible integrity. These are solid community builders."
Money for Winnipeg roads
There was some potentially good news for the city from the province Tuesday, though. Pallister said the province submitted a request to the federal government to access millions of dollars in funding for road renewals just in time to meet a March 31 application deadline.
The City of Winnipeg was anxious for the province to apply for up to $182 million in matching funding for regional roadwork under a federal infrastructure plan, but on Tuesday Pallister said the amount of funding available is closer to $120 million.
Pallister said the details of the project are still to be announced.
"Without getting into too much minutiae, the bulk of it is for the City of Winnipeg. But we have some other, I would call them public safety projects around the province we have to prioritize that are important. So there will be more. Stay tuned. We will let you know as soon as we get the confirmations finalized," he said.
Bowman says Winnipeg's infrastructure deficit is nearly $6.9 billion and every cent of funding would help with the effort.
With files from Cameron MacLean, Sean Kavanagh and Information Radio