Bowman welcomes Uber, promises to reduce red tape at state of the city speech
Mayor also says he's made progress toward reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman used his annual state of the city speech to express support for ride-sharing services like Uber, promise to reduce the red tape associated with permits and say he's made progress on reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians.
Speaking to a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon crowd of about 1,100 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, Bowman said he plans to work with the provincial Taxicab Board to welcome Uber or a service like it to the city.
The mayor pledged to create a new "permits logistics desk" to speed up approval for permits. It's not immediately clear how this improves upon the express permits desk instituted by former mayor Sam Katz.
"What I've heard from you is that the permit process still sucks," the mayor quipped.
Bowman also said he's obtained letters of support for reopening the Portage Avenue and Main Street intersection to foot traffic from the owners of 201 Portage Avenue, the Richardson Building, 360 Main St. and Scotia Bank.
Absent from this list is the Bank of Montreal, whose property has been identified as presenting logistics challenges to new infrastructure required at the intersection.
"Conversations with BMO have gone very, very well," the mayor said following his speech, opining the bank will benefit from reopening Portage & Main.
The mayor said the city still hasn't worked out a cost-sharing agreement with the Portage Avenue property owners. No report to council about the project is imminent, he added.
The mayor also promised to begin 2018 budget consultations this spring, announced the city has filled the vacant position of chief innovation officer and pledged unspecified further reductions to the city's business tax.
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The mayor also reiterated the need for the city to bring in growth fees, which council approved last fall. That move has alienated him from some of his supporters, some of whom were in the crowd today.
Bowman also reiterated his support for reconciliation between Winnipeg's Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and welcomed the arrival of more newcomers to the city.
"Winnipeg needs to be a city for everyone," he said. "Whatever your dream, you should be able to make your home right here."
The mayor also repeated his concerns about anti-trade sentiment in Donald Trump's United States.
After the speech, Winnipeg Police Association president Moe Sabourin expressed disappointment Bowman did not address violent crime.
"The speech I heard today shows that Mayor Bowman just takes the efforts of police for granted, and we are concerned with what that means for public safety," Sabourin said in a statement.