Manitoba

Bowman accuses province of politicizing development regulation review

The mayor of Winnipeg says he is disappointed by the province's decision to order a internal, government review into the city's development regulations rather than hold an independent inquiry.

Treasury Board 'well equipped' to analyze land use, development permits: premier

Mayor Brian Bowman say he is concerned a review by the Treasury Board into land use and development in Winnipeg will be neither transparent nor independent of politics. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The mayor of Winnipeg says he is disappointed by the province's decision to order a internal government review of the city's development regulations rather than hold an independent inquiry.

Premier Brian Pallister's government issued an order in council dated May 8 to request the Treasury Board review "policies and processes for land use and development" at municipalities as well as planning districts, Manitoba Hydro and the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

In April, Pallister said he wanted to conduct an independent review into Winnipeg's finances, including looking at how construction projects are approved and inspected.

"My understanding is the province initiated this in response to the development community," Mayor Brian Bowman said Thursday following a city council meeting.

"Our concern is that the review will be political, and this does appear to confirm it's a political review."

City council has called or a public inquiry into matters related to the new police headquarters in the past, and Bowman has called for a transparent, independent review into how decisions were made with respect to construction and development projects.

"The cabinet order appears confirm our fear that it would be a political review," the mayor reiterated.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding, as Treasury Board chair, ultimately oversees the review. However, background in the order in council states Treasury Board staff, in other words civil servants, will carry out the work involved in producing it. 

Fielding is a former Winnipeg city councillor who served from 2006 to 2014 —  a period of time when a number of development projects were approved by the city, then led by Mayor Sam Katz, which have since come under scrutiny, including, in the case of the new police headquarters, a probe by the RCMP

"[Fielding] worked quite closely with former mayor Sam Katz, former CAO Phil Sheegl and is certainly somebody who knows land use planning very well and I gather he'll be overseeing Treasury Board and their work on this matter," Bowman said.

During question period Wednesday, Pallister responded to criticism from New Democrat MLA Andrew Swan who questioned the impartiality of a Treasury Board review. Pallister argues the government cabinet sub-committee will be neutral.

"The Treasury Board is well equipped to do an analysis and research into an important issue. That's what we've asked them to do," the premier said.

"If the member [Swan] has a better idea than using [the] Treasury Board — for example outsourcing [to] consultants outside of government — we might consider his suggestion, but we think actually we have the expertise to do this one inside government."

The order in council, recommended by Fielding, is active until May 8, 2020. 

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

with files from Ian Froese and Bartley Kives

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