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  • Winnipeg Tribune

Will Province Act on Red Flags in $5M Judgement Against Winnipeg?

Saturday, July 29, 2023 - From the beginning, when Andrew Marquess acquired a 47-acre parcel (Parker Lands) in a swap with the city for land he owned in Fort Rouge, the entire concept of his Transit Oriented Development (TOD) was surrounded by controversy. But over time, as he played ball with City Hall and the planner assigned to deal with Gem Equities on the Fulton Grove file, he delivered over a dozen drafts of a planning document and had a right to be treated fairly.

The disputes over undisclosed city demands for a retention pond and forest retention and a delayed application process took a decade to wind through the courts. But King’s Bench Justice Shawna McKenzie soundly thumped the civic legal beagle arguments.

“I am satisfied that the efforts over time of both (Planner Braeden) Smith and (Senior Planner Michael) Robinson to slow down or prevent the applications from going to the approval process caused the Plaintiffs to suffer loss.”

While that might sound concerning enough, there were other factors cited by the Court that Premier Stefanson and the Minister of Justice and should have taken note of:

Of particular concern is that on a few occasions concerns were raised by individuals in the public service about conduct that was deemed inappropriate, and notwithstanding that, the conduct of some parties continued.”

Were these people blowing the whistle whistleblowers? Is it a technicality that they weren’t because they only told some bosses, “hey this is wrong,” and not anyone else?

The Province needs to address why their warnings were not heeded, why they didn’t report these self-evident ethical breaches to a higher authority (like say, then-Mayor Brian Bowman), and more importantly, why they didn’t feel safe as

And another aspect of the judgement the government needs to address is what the court ruled was the ‘root cause’ of the $5M worth of misdeeds and abuse of power:

The evidence is also clear, in my view, that the impetus and motivation for this deliberate interference with the plaintiffs’ applications were primarily the wishes and demands of the area councillor and the desire of some public servants to accommodate those wishes.

According to the court, Orlikow directed an early delay in the roll-out until after the 2014 election. He tried to influence a planning decision about proposed residential densities because it could hike the cost of his desired expropriations. After the judgement, he told the media, “Let’s move ahead now. I may support it, I may not, but I will keep an open mind.”

Does the City Charter allow any of that? What does the Minister of Municipal Affairs think?

City councillors are ducking the scandal about Orliko. A couple even support him, apparently believing as a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner stated, “Councillors can create hardship for Winnipeggers and businesses by using our departments and personnel with no consequences.

It’s fair to ask how often City Hall has treated investors that way, scaring off capital investment in infrastructure, jobs, and tax revenue. People keep asking if this case is the tip of the iceberg. In this case the losses are massive, which the public isn’t aware of - yet. While this was all going on, the City dried up reserve funds to cover their overspending. This is not the stewardship a City can sustain.

If the current situation is underpinned by illegal actions, abuse of authority, and reliance on the taxpayer to backstop poor decisions, logic suggests the provincial government needs to show leadership and right the ship. They should - at the very least - a review and reform of the City Charter be put on the table by the Tories for the provincial election? You can bet some taxpayers would like to see it.

What do you think? Please send us your comments to be shared in our opinion section. Your voice matters. Send them to Opinions expressed by Marty Gold do not necessarily reflect those of the Winnipeg or any affiliated partners.


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