Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman gave a different sort of state of the city address Friday.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s speech was streamed virtually, and, instead of speaking in front of an audience, Bowman sat down for a pre-recorded conversation with Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chair, Shreeraj Patel.
Much of the conversation centered around how the pandemic has impacted Winnipeg.
Bowman outlined city initiatives from the past year aimed at helping local businesses including allowing deferral of penalties on property and business taxes and the waiving of parking fees and residential parking restrictions.
“We’ve weathered a lot of storms in our history and I’m proud of the way our community has come together to weather this storm,” Bowman said.
“We have a long way to go yet but as we continue to inch toward vaccines for more of our residents, I believe our community is positioned to emerge from this storm stronger than before.
“The sooner we see vaccines in the arms of more Winnipeggers, the sooner we’ll have a chance to gather with our friends and family again and that’s why I’m calling on all Winnipeggers to get vaccinated once you are eligible.”
At last year’s state of the city address — held in January in front of an audience before COVID-19‘s arrival in Winnipeg — Bowman called for collaboration between levels of government on three key files: illicit drugs, homelessness and Lake Winnipeg’s environmental state.
He reiterated his calls for better partnerships with other levels of government Friday.
In particular he said the city needs support from both the federal and provincial governments for the $1.8 billion in upgrades needed at the North End Sewage Plant.
Bowman also said other levels of government need to do more to help support Winnipeg’s homeless and vulnerable citizens, calling municipal governments “the safety net” when support systems are not provided by other levels of government.
“When individuals are in need, they call 911 and we answer the call. But unfortunately, we only have 3 dispatchable options,” Bowman said in a release.
“Far too often, individuals need other services and one of the things we’ve been exploring through the Bloomberg Harvard initiative is a 4th dispatchable option to better connect individuals with the support they need, at the right time.”
Bowman ended his discussion with by announcing plans to introduce a motion at city hall calling on the city to create a new equity, diversity and inclusion policy to encourage hiring practices that would “better reflect the community we serve.”
“All of this work is important because we want Winnipeggers to know and feel in their hearts that they’re respected and they’re getting the dignity that all Canadians should come to expect,” Bowman said of the motion he plans to introduce at next week’s human rights committee meeting.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure every Winnipegger feels that Winnipeg is a place they’re proud to call home.”