One year later, Winnipeg mayor looks back at the COVID-19 pandemic
WINNIPEG -- In a year that took the lives of 645 Winnipeggers, Mayor Brian Bowman looked back on the COVID-19 pandemic that began 12 months ago, and forward to a future where the impacts have yet to be felt.
In an interview with CTV News, Bowman discussed how he thought the city handled the pandemic, and what needs to be addressed going forward.
Overall, Bowman said he was proud of the way the city and its residents handled the pandemic, but said looking back, the one thing he would have changed was making face masks mandatory in city facilities and on transit earlier.
“I think we could have possibly implemented that a little bit earlier. I think that would have put a little bit more pressure as well on the other order of government to move sooner than they did,” said Bowman.
With city finances taking a big hit, and Winnipeg Transit accounting for tens of millions in lost revenue, getting people back on the bus safely is important. Bowman said getting people vaccinated is key to restoring ridership, but noted improving the transit system for a growing population as important for future growth.
“We kept the buses running during the pandemic as best we could because it fuels the economy and keeps Winnipeggers moving,” Bowman said. “It’s a challenge for municipalities across North America and around the world are going to be grappling with for some time.”
When asked about business, two topics came to the forefront; patio fees and impact fees.
The backlash from restaurants about the $500 temporary patio fee was substantial, with Bowman saying the fee, while heavily discounted from its original cost, will probably be waived.
As for impact fees, Bowman said he plans to move forward despite the uncertain economic future, and the failed first attempt to impose the fee on developers. He said with a city that has grown by almost 70,000 people since he first took office, someone has to pay for the infrastructure.
“We need to make sure we are growing the city in a sustainable way, and so I was very pleased that the legal decision confirmed what we’ve been saying for years that growth is not paying for growth and that the city has a legal right to impose an impact fee.”
Bowman said to move forward, the city needs to engage in dialogue with the industry and see where things go.