Manitoba

Councillors take Winnipeg mayor to task over contempt ruling, allege '2 levels of government' on council

Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein and Transcona's Shawn Nason held a press conference Wednesday to challenge Mayor Brian Bowman on a nagging legal problem for the city, and say he freezes out councillors who aren't on his executive policy committee.

Klein, Nason say they get little information on key files, from budgets to legal matters

Couns. Kevin Klein, left, and Shawn Nason, right, want an emergency meeting of city council to review a contempt decision delivered by a judge against the city and three councillors. (Warren Kay/CBC)

 The summer break from politics at Winnipeg's city hall is definitely over.

Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein and Transcona's Shawn Nason held a press conference Wednesday to challenge Mayor Brian Bowman on a nagging legal problem for the city, and alleged he freezes out councillors who aren't on his executive policy committee.

"It appears that [there are] two levels of government operating within the council," Klein told reporters.

Klein and Nason released a joint statement on the status of a court decision earlier this summer that found three city councillors in contempt of a court. That decision centred on the city's handling of an application for a development in the Parker lands area of Winnipeg's Fort Garry neighbourhood.

On Aug. 6, Justice Candace Grammond ruled that the city and the City Centre Community Committee — which consists of councillors John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) and Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) — had intentionally violated her court order to hold a public meeting about the development proposal.

Nason and Klein say the extremely rare case of a judge finding sitting councillors in contempt demands a fast and transparent response.

"If a court has said you are offside on a particular matter, I think it's paramount we take that seriously and address it," Nason said. 

"When a judge makes an order, you follow it," said Klein.

Both councillors are demanding an emergency meeting of city council, with senior administration officials present, to answer questions.

The two councillors say on several key files, from budgets to legal matters, they get scant information from bureaucrats, and what they do get appears to heavily politicized.

'I will not be bullied': Klein

Another burning issue for the two first–term councillors is a letter Bowman sent to Klein, who is chair of Winnipeg's police board.

In it, Bowman raises concerns that Klein believes his role as chair is to "advocate" on behalf of the Winnipeg Police Service.

"I want to remind you that under the law your role as chair and that of the board is a governance role, not an advocacy role," Bowman wrote to Klein on July 19.

Klein views the letter as a threat intended to silence his voice on policy.

"I am not that person and I will not be bullied into keeping silent on the issues I feel are concerns," Klein wrote back to Bowman this week.

Despite the heavy rhetoric, Klein acknowledged there may differing interpretations of the role of the chair of the police board between himself and Bowman. 

'I will not be bullied into keeping silent on issues,' says Winnipeg Coun. Kevin Klein. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Klein says the issue highlights the need for the provincial government to review Manitoba's Police Act and potentially change the mandate of the city's police board.

A spokesperson for Bowman acknowledged in an email he'd received Klein's letter and the concerns of both councillors, writing "they will be reviewed in due course."

The spokesperson went on to reiterate the mayor's view on the role of police board chair.

"A key responsibility of the chair, together with the board, is to monitor and evaluate the performance of the chief of police. This responsibility cannot be effectively fulfilled if Coun. Klein understands his role as advocating on their behalf," the email said.

City hall returns to regular business after the Labour Day weekend, with a meeting of the property and planning committee set for Sept. 4. 

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