News / Winnipeg

Bowman's inner circle approves call for public inquiry

Winnipeg's mayor says some people have made it known they don't want a provincial inquiry.


What happened?

That’s the question at the core of Mayor Brian Bowman’s call for a provincial inquiry into the goings-on at city hall—a call he made following allegations of payoffs around the redevelopment of Winnipeg’s new police headquarters.

On Wednesday, Bowman’s inner circle unanimously approved his formal request, which council will vote on next week.

After that, the ball is in the province's court to decide if, and when, such a public probe would happen.

Bowman is requesting the inquiry be a “broad systemic examination” of the conduct of all city employees, senior and elected officials, as well as third parties under the former administration.

He believes the probe is necessary because the ongoing police probe into the redevelopment of the police headquarters isn't broad enough to address concerns about the overall decision-making that went down at city hall. 

“The whole point of this is let's get information out in the public realm under the broad and significant powers of public inquiry," he said.

Back in 2014, the RCMP launched an investigation into allegations Caspian Construction was fraudulently invoicing. The company had been hired to turn 245 Smith Street, a former warehouse, into the new home of the city’s police department.

The project was years behind schedule and racked up $79 million in cost overruns.

Court documents also show that investigators allege Caspian paid former CAO Phil Sheegl $200,000 for helping them land the job.

Investigators allege that Sheegl then shared half that money with former mayor Sam Katz.

No charges have been formally laid.

Bowman says the city lacks the power to compel former employees to testify under oath, but that an inquiry does.

The probe would also not be limited to the police headquarters.

Bowman wants an inquiry to shed public light on a number of unanswered questions leftover from property deals named in the 2014 real estate management review and other business dealings.

He acknowledged a provincial inquiry could cost the city, but countered that by saying "there’s also a cost to inaction.”

Without naming names, Bowman told reporters there's been opposition expressed against his call for an inquiry.

“My perception is there are individuals and interests that are quite comfortable with the status quo, and I was not elected to maintain the status quo," he said. "I was elected to clean up some of the matters we're talking about."

“We have certainly heard that there are some people that are not very happy with a call for a public inquiry and I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you."

Inquiry won't look at criminal, civil liability

On Wednesday, a provincial spokesperson reiterated an earlier statement that they would not comment on Bowman's request while the criminal investigation remains active. 

"It is important to note that an inquiry cannot be used as a means to investigate and determine the criminal responsibility of specific individuals for specific offences," Olivia Baldwin-Valainis said in an email to Metro.

"As this issue requires, we will ensure appropriate and full consideration within the parameters of all applicable departmental processes and policies."

Bowman's request seems to acknowledge that.

It includes a provision that the inquiry not delve into criminal or civil liability due to the ongoing RCMP investigation, Bowman explained.

He doesn't believe an inquiry needs to wait until the RCMP investigation wraps up, saying that precedent has already been set. 

"We know that there are instances across Canada where ongoing police investigations have been occurring at the same time as public inquiries.”

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