Category Archives: Winnipeg politics

Winnipeg’s most pressing land use issue

For decades I’ve been a reader of a unique American publication called the Planning Commissioners’ Journal, a voice of sanity on city planning issues. The editor of PCJ, regrettably, is working on the magazine’s final issue, and asked readers to send comments about their community, and the land use challenges it faces.

Here’s what I had to say about Winnipeg: Continue reading

Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village: Be careful what you wish for

Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village is expanding, crowding out its neighbours, a Vietnamese restaurant and a popular video rental store. The expansion will turn the entire ground floor of the new building into a pharmacy. Some cosmetic touches planned for the front of the building will fail to conceal the fact that three separate businesses at street level will be replaced by one.

In other words, diversity at street level will be replaced by uniformity. That’s what Jane Jacobs – a Torontonian who set the world of city planning on its ear – would be saying if she were still with us. In her classic Death and Life of Great American Cities, she argued…

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Wal-Mart: Feeding off sprawl and giving it a push

An article in a developers’ house organ, Urban Land, brightly relates stories of empty retail spaces being filled by such innovative uses as medical clinics and libraries. The article says the empty spaces are a result of “recession and prolonged economic stagnation”.

That’s not the whole story… Continue reading

The price Winnipeg pays for subsidizing new roads

It’s not news to residents of central Winnipeg that our streets are in terrible shape, but it would be interesting to know just how bad the situation is overall. The Winnipeg Sun answered that question recently. The paper reported that, by the city’s own reckoning, more than 20 per cent of our streets are rated in poor condition, the lowest rating, meaning that the street must be completely rebuilt, or at least undergo major rehabilitation.

Wayne Glowacki, Winnipeg Free Press

A few days later, the Winnipeg Free Press picked up the story and added some figures to show that the roads are continually getting worse and that the city isn’t anywhere near having the resources it needs to repair the streets quickly enough to keep pace with their deterioration.

Instead, the city has, in effect, given up on attempts to solve the problem. A public works official admitted to the Sun that the city’s priorities are shifting away from streets in poor condition to those that have not yet reached that state, on the premise that it is better to maintain what is viable than to salvage what is not. Since the streets in worst condition tend to be those in the poorest neighbourhoods, the neglect of downtown streets is tantamount to the ghettoization and decay so distressingly familiar in American cities. Continue reading

Who benefits from non-partisanship in local government?

Most news stories that mention municipal partisanship proceed from the assumption that partisanship in local government is an unalloyed evil. As I pointed out in my last blog entry, it is elites, not ordinary voters who benefit from non-partisanship. If the NDP, the Conservatives and the Liberals participate in municipal politics, we should be thanking them for it, not stigmatizing them.

Parties help us to nail down what prospective councillors actually stand for. The most important consequence of municipal non-partisanship is to make it easier for our representatives to conceal what they actually advocate.

All parties participate in local government, not just the NDP

Yesterday the Winnipeg Free Press published a well-researched piece by Bartley Kives that provided a clear demonstration of something I tell my students every year: Most Winnipeg city councillors – and, for that matter, most Canadian city councillors – claim to be free of party ties. Though they feel obligated to say this, everyone knows it’s not really true.

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Walmart supercentre: Are we asking the right questions?

Walmart wants to turn its big-box store on Winnipeg’s Regent Avenue into a supercentre. Councillor Russ Wyatt says the city should require improved access for motor vehicles and bicycles, as well as trees to soften a bleak parking lot vista. The city’s chief administrative officer, Phil Sheegl, says he’s concerned about the developmental fallout from a negative decision.

In the city’s interest, Mr. Sheegl should perhaps be more concerned about the fallout from a positive decision. A series of studies covering Walmart and similar big box developments, summarized here, suggest that neither Mr. Wyatt nor Mr. Sheegl are taking a sufficiently critical look at this development proposal.

According to these studies, big box stores: Continue reading

The bait and switch: Whose fault is it?

In a previous post, about the bait-and-switch, I quoted a specialist in the economics of sport as saying that it has become standard practice in bidding for the Olympics to start by low-balling the cost, and then, once the city is hooked on the idea of being an Olympic host, to add new features that balloon the cost. Dennis Lewycky commented on the post with two questions:

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Winnipeg’s slippery slope: Giving up control of our water system

Winnipeg has agreed in principle to extend its water and sewer systems into an adjacent area of the Rural Municipality of Rosser. The land in question is next to the Winnipeg Airport, and could eventually be part of a multi-billion dollar centre for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution – potentially a huge property tax bonanza.

A precedent is therefore set that will inevitably lead to demands for other such extensions. Already plans are underway for a similar extension of infrastructure into another adjacent municipality, West St. Paul, this time to support residential development outside Winnipeg’s boundaries. Both deals are contingent on service-sharing agreements that have not yet been negotiated.
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Does Winnipeg have to kiss rapid transit good-bye? A twisted tale

The seemingly endless rapid transit debates in Winnipeg have taken a strange turn. Mayor Sam Katz, who began as a firm rapid transit opponent, relented in 2008 when he and former premier Gary Doer announced the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor, connecting downtown to the University of Manitoba. As recently as 2009, a second leg of the rapid transit system, eastward to Transcona, was on the city’s wish list of infrastructure improvements.

Many Winnipeggers have probably concluded that, after more than 30 years of dithering, a rapid transit system is finally a done deal. That conception may have been reinforced by Mayor Katz’s more recent declarations that he would prefer a much more expensive rail system to the bus rapid transit line now under construction.

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