At the start of this week, Mayor Brian Bowman marked his first 100 days in office by highlighting all his good deeds since he moved into Sam Katzâ€™s old digs.
A mere two days later, Winnipegâ€™s rookie mayor was effectively called out as a liar by the most popular man in the city, True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman.
The owner of the Winnipeg Jets, who appears to enjoy publicity as much as a Siamese cat revels in an ice bath, stood up in front of reporters on Wednesday afternoon and declared heâ€™s disappointed with Bowman, regretted publicly endorsing the privacy lawyer during the 2014 mayoral race and then delivered a political gut punch to the rookie mayor.
You know that massive True North development proposal for a pair of downtown properties south of Graham Avenue? You know, the one Bowman has been demanding to hear details about since the middle of January? The one that has caused a vicious public airing of accusations and counter-accusations between the mayor and CentreVenture, the cityâ€™s downtown development agency?
Well, according to Mark Chipman, Brian Bowman has known about the $400-million proposal to build three towers and a public square since November, when the new mayor attended a Jets game with provincial cabinet minister Kevin Chief.
Not only did Bowman know, but he and Chief were shown a promotional video about the project in the True North chairmanâ€™s office, which offers a view of the land in question.
This creates a massive credibility problem for Winnipegâ€™s new mayor, who told reporters in January he did not meet with Mark Chipman and did not know much about the proposal beyond “rumours and rumblings.”
The proposal in question involves the construction of residential housing, office space, retail stores, a public square, a new hotel and two if not three skywalks on a Manitoba Public Insurance-owned surface-parking lot at 225 Carlton St. â€“ optioned to True North partners since 2012 â€“ and the former Carlton Inn site at 220 Carlton St., owned by CentreVenture. If all goes well for True North, it will also involve a new headquarters for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.
For three weeks, Bowman has blasted CentreVenture for signing an option on the Carlton Inn site while another corporation, construction company Stuart Olson, was obligated to build a hotel on that land.
Bowman denounced this option as a secret deal. He excoriated CentreVenture staff and board members. He declared city hall would no longer tolerate backroom conversations about real estate, especially in the wake of the Winnipeg fire-paramedic station construction scandal, police headquarters scandal and other Katz-era real-estate scandals involving lands swaps, unappraised property purchases and suppressed land valuations.
After nearly three weeks of silence, the usually reserved Chipman gathered reporters into the bowels of MTS Centre â€“ the Excalibur-like source of his power and popularity â€“ and called out Bowman for failing to disclose what he knew about the “True North Square” proposal and when.
So no one looks that good in this and I suspect this has just ended Brian Bowmanâ€™s political career. Â The corpse will serve to the end of the term but few survive these kind of shots he is taking because no one believes him anymore.
Nobody comes out of this sorry mess looking good. Chipman faces a conflict allegation, even if he did recuse himself from the CentreVenture board and quit shortly afterward. Bowman appears to be a disingenuous liar, doing whatever it takes to appear to be righteous in the face of previous city malfeasance. Stuart Olson looks like a bad-faith actor in its commitment to build a hotel for RBC Convention Centre. The convention centre board looks like a bunch of amateurs for failing to sign a construction contract with Stuart Olson.
A friend of mine calls municipal politics the â€œminor leaguesâ€. Â Another one calls it the ECHL of politics. Â It feels that way at times. Â There is so much bumbling and incompetence whether in Saskatoon or in Winnipeg that you just have to appreciate it for what it is. Â A mess.
Itâ€™s just nice to read about it somewhere else and not here.