'Flatly declined': Bowman says Pallister won't meet to resolve funding dispute

Winnipeg's mayor is once again claiming it's easier to get a meeting with Canada's prime minister than it is with Manitoba's premier.

Mayor again claims it's easier to meet with PM Trudeau than it is with the premier

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he can't get a meeting with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. The two are seen here following a meeting in April 2018. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg's mayor is once again claiming it's easier to get a meeting with Canada's prime minister than it is with Manitoba's premier.

Brian Bowman said Tuesday Premier Brian Pallister "flatly declined" the mayor's request last week meet in person to resolve the latest city-provincial funding dispute.

The mayor requested the meeting after Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton informed the city the province would like Winnipeg to redirect $34.4 million worth of funding intended for sewage-treatment upgrades to the Waverley underpass.

The mayor says such a move would drive water-and-sewer rates even higher than the hike proposed for 2019, which would add $61 to the average household's annual water-and-sewer bills. The city faces a $1.8-billion tab for upgrades to the North End Water Pollution Control Centre, and is financing the project through borrowing and water-and-sewer revenue.

Bowman says the city still doesn't know whether the province is demanding the sewage-treatment money be moved to the Waverley underpass or whether this is simply a request.

He says he wanted to meet with Pallister in person to resolve the dispute, but has been denied a meeting. He says the province has offered no makeup date, even after it became clear the premier was vacationing in Costa Rica.

Bowman says after today, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is slated to join the mayor in a transit announcement, he will have met the prime minister twice in two weeks.

Bowman then repeated an assertion he made last year: It's easier to gain audience with Trudeau than it is with Pallister.

"If a premier or prime minister wants to meet, I'm going to move mountains. I'll move Garbage Hill if I have to accommodate a meeting with the premier or prime minister," Bowman said at city hall after an executive policy committee meeting.

A spokesperson for Pallister said the premier met with Bowman for two and a half hours in December.

"Discussions will continue between the province and the city. We encourage the mayor to focus on working constructively behind the scenes in proper diplomatic form, instead of pursuing negotiations through the media," David von Meyenfeldt said in a statement.

The mayor was also asked what he believes will happen first: a meeting with Pallister or another goal by Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, who's been mired in a slump.

"I hope it's Laine. He needs to score," Bowman said. "I know a lot of Winnipeggers are rooting for him."