MLA resents 'personal attacks' over Disraeli
By: Bartley Kives
Updated: May 22 at 08:26 AM CDT
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NDP backbencher Jim Maloway has complained about "personal attacks" from city council, which have included a call for the Elmwood MLA to restrict his "yellow slime" to his side of the Red River.
Over the past month, Maloway has been needling the city over its plan to repair the four-lane Disraeli Bridge and Freeway instead of building a brand-new, six-lane structure -- which could cost approximately double the expected budget of $125 million to $160 million.
After the veteran MLA took out a bright yellow ad in a community newspaper encouraging constituents to castigate city councillors, he was criticized on the floor of council on May 14 by Mayor Sam Katz and Couns. Brenda Leipsic (River Heights), Bill Clement (Charleswood), Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge).
Undaunted, Maloway begin forwarding e-mails from constituents to every member of council, prompting Couns. Gord Steeves (St. Vital) and Scott Fielding (St. James) to sarcastically inquire whether the career backbencher could secure the extra bridge-construction funds required from Premier Gary Doer.
But the tone of the exchange grew more serious late Tuesday night, when Maloway complained to Steeves about "personal attacks" from council.
"What would your reaction be if each city councillor took out an ad attacking you? I am serious, Jim," Steeves wrote back in an e-mail that wound up in wide circulation at city hall Wednesday.
"I want to be clear. I see your involvement in this issue as nothing more than blatant political grandstanding of the worst kind, designed for nothing more than raising your own profile. You could have chosen a much more constructive political role."
St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman was even less diplomatic.
"Keep your yellow slime on your side of the Red River, Maloway," he said, referring to the ad campaign. "We in the west don't need it."
Maloway, a seven-term MLA, is among several politicians and labour leaders considering a stab at the federal NDP nomination in the Transcona riding currently represented by retiring Commons institution Bill Blaikie.
But the provincial politician said he's only waging his war on council to highlight the fact northeast Winnipeg motorists will face a 16-month Disraeli closure, thanks to the city's construction plan.
"There seems to be a bias against the east side of the city," said Maloway in an interview. "It's OK for us to sit in car traffic for one year and four months and end up with one refurbished structure and two antiques in the Redwood and Louise bridges? Try doing that in St. James or Charleswood."
Maloway also criticized NDP-affiliated Coun. Gerbasi, who dismissed the six-lane Disraeli plan last week on environmental grounds, for failing to express similar ecological concerns when the Glen Murray administration approved the rehabilitation of the Provencher Bridge.
To date, Maloway has either criticized or faced criticism from nine out of 16 members of city council over the past week. Only Couns. Lillian Thomas (Elmwood), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) have spoken in support of the MLA's desire to twin the Disraeli Bridge and Freeway -- which would require funds the city does not have.
Maloway said he has spoken to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton about his wishes, but concedes he has not approached Doer, who actually controls the province's purse strings.
City council will eventually cave in to public pressure, especially "once the ballots add up," Maloway predicted.
Council has already approved a plan to pursue a public-private partnership to design, build and finance the repairs to the Disraeli Bridge and Freeway and then maintain the 1.1-kilometre roadway once construction is complete.