Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is renewing his call for a public inquiry into controversial capital projects and real estate deals during the Katz-Sheegl era at city hall after the existence of a second, parallel RCMP probe has come to light.
On Tuesday, the Free Press revealed the existence of RCMP Project Dioxide — a previously undisclosed investigation into a string of real estate deals and an over-budget capital project during the administration — 2004-2014 — of former mayor Sam Katz.
Project Dioxide ran parallel to RCMP Project Dalton, the multi-year, multimillion-dollar fraud investigation into the construction of the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters.
On Wednesday, Jeremy Davis, a spokesman for Bowman, said the mayor had not been aware of the existence of RCMP Project Dioxide prior to the Free Press report.
"While this investigation was not known to the mayor until now, the fact remains that there are many unanswered questions and a public inquiry is still the best way to ensure accountability for taxpayers," Davis said in a written statement.
"The standing ask of our provincial government is the Public Inquiry motion that was supported by all but one member of City Council on February 22, 2017."
Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) was the lone vote against the motion, which called on the provincial government to open a broad inquiry into city hall operations during the Katz era.
Davis noted that Bowman’s motion was intentionally broad, so any inquiry could look into "matters outside just the (WPS) HQ." He also pointed to another motion from Bowman that waived solicitor-client privilege for city lawyers the RCMP asked to interview.
RCMP Project Dalton was formally closed in 2019 without charges.
On Monday, the RCMP confirmed the existence of Project Dioxide in a written statement sent to the Free Press, noting it did not result in criminal charges. But the Mounties offered no information on when and why the probe was closed.
NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine said she was both surprised — and not — after learning of the existence of Project Dioxide.
"At the end of the day, I’m not entirely surprised. There are a lot of unanswered questions about all of that. That is what the RCMP is supposed to be doing. They should be looking into the allegations that have been made for the last many years," Fontaine said.
"They should be investigating this."
Fontaine noted the NDP has repeatedly called on the Progressive Conservative provincial government to launch an inquiry.
"The province has a responsibility to be concerned about what happened and to put that concern into action by calling a public inquiry. There is a significant amount of information and allegations coming forward that I believe warrant a public inquiry," she said.
"Citizens deserve to know what went wrong and what really happened. We’re talking about, potentially, criminal actions. So everybody is just supposed to let those involved off the hook?"
“Citizens deserve to know what went wrong and what really happened. We’re talking about, potentially, criminal actions. So everybody is just supposed to let those involved off the hook?” – NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine
The provincial government, first led by former premier Brian Pallister, and now under the leadership of Premier Heather Stefanson, have repeatedly shot down calls for such an inquiry.
Last month, Manitoba’s top civil court ruled that former City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl accepted a bribe in connection with the WPS HQ project.
On Tuesday, Sheegl’s lawyer, Robert Tapper, told the Free Press his client intends to appeal the ruling.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.