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Winnipeg businesses attract council business more often than not

Expense records show city councillors tend to gravitate towards local businesses when they've got to hold a remote meeting.

Councillors who fancied a business meeting over a brew in 2016 often frequented the King’s Head Pub, according to recently posted expense claims.

Councillors who fancied a business meeting over a brew in 2016 often frequented the King’s Head Pub, according to recently posted expense claims.

Winnipeg city councillors often trumpet local businesses – and recently published expense claims show they often put their money where their mouths are. 

The city’s open-data portal is now populated with every council member’s individual expenses from 2016, divided by expense categories like parking, office supplies, and “business meetings.”

Under the “business meetings” expense type, there were 176 entries total. Each expense claim includes the “vendor,” often a location, the “expense type,” so either a ward expense or chairmanship-related expense, and, of course, the amount.

The Winnipeg business that led the way for hosting city councillors' meetings more than any other was, somewhat unsurprisingly, the City Hall-proximate Grace Café.

Sixteen business meetings were expensed at the small café at 510 Main Street, with the most expensive costing $228.59, the most affordable costing just $5.55, and an average cost of $28.52.

But when councillors hold court over coffee away from city hall, they also tend to support local—St. James area Coun. Scott Gillingham frequented Joe Black Coffee Bar and San Vito Coffee House, for instance.

If pints fit the business meeting better than caffeine, a rarity, as far as the expense records show, the King’s Head Pub seems to be the preferred destination, with the average tab ringing in at $94.97. Peg Beer Co. was the lone brew pub to make an appearance.

Each councillor’s spending reveals a little bit about their favourite local spots.

Mayor Brian Bowman’s spending suggests he’s a fan of Exchange District eateries Peasant Cookery and Kay’s Delicatessen, Coun. Devi Sharma’s shows a predilection for deli as she favours Pastrami and Things Delicatessen.

Overall, while the odd meeting takes place at a Keg restaurant, Subway or Tim Hortons, a Winnipeg-unique business like Stella’s, Mon Ami Louis or Kum Koon Garden attracted councillors approximately 58 per cent of the time.

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Matthew TenBruggecate said that’s something member businesses “obviously support,” adding that local-franchisees are also benefitting from the remainder.

“That’s a fantastic choice for them to be having their meetings at these businesses… and having that reinvestment locally,” he said.

Coun. Russ Wyatt, who filed more business-meeting-related expenses than any of his council colleagues, said local matters to him, but it usually comes down to a question of proximity and time management more than anything else.

“Usually (I’ll go) wherever it’s convenient to get to the next meeting,” he said. “If that’s downtown, I’m downtown, if it’s another part of the city, it’s another part of the city.

“You go where you need to go.”

City auditor Brian Mansky said the numbers disclosed at this point are “very preliminary,” as he’s just now digging into the audit work for a full report on councillor expenses he’ll present in June. 

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