by Dave Hall
October 26, 2011 was the deadline for developers to make proposals for seven large pieces of prime real estate scattered across Winnipeg. Unsurprisingly there were lots of proposals, although the City won’t let us see them yet.
The potential sale of so much public space should be of great concern to Winnipeggers. Why sell it? Who wins and who loses? What alternatives may there be to selling these properties? These questions need to be answered before any decisions are made.
The lands under the hammer are seven City owned golf courses: Windsor Park on the Seine River; Crescent Drive, Canoe Club and Kildonan Park on the Red River; and John Blumberg on the Assiniboine River, as well as Harbourview in North Kildonan and Tuxedo across from Assiniboine Park. Taken together, they are the most attractive opportunities Winnipeg developers have seen in decades. It doesn’t take a property developer to imagine the upmarket condos on the riverfront lots, or the suburban housing across from Assiniboine Park, or even the new strip malls or shopping centres. There’s clearly a lot of money to be made.
The decision to sell off these urban green spaces we have collectively owned for decades and in some cases almost a century flows from a consultant’s report commissioned by this administration. The report concluded that “Winnipeg has a surplus of open park space…” and that “…surplus property can…be sold for commercial or residential development.” It’s not clear what ‘surplus’ green space means, but it is easy to know what ‘sold for commercial or residential development’ means. And it won’t be low income housing or rental accommodations for the working poor.
Our current Mayor and Council were eager to hear this song. They responded by putting out requests for “Expressions of Interest” for the use and development of these seven properties. In various statements in Council and to the media, the City’s leading politicians and administrators have made clear that they have in mind the sale of the properties for commercial and residential development.
Little more than a month to put together proposals and a $50,000 deposit requirement ensured that the process didn’t get cluttered up by proposals from sports associations, golfers, community clubs or naturalists. In fact, it appears that only the Nordic Ski Association, which currently operates out of the Windsor Park Golf Course, made a non-commercial proposal.
Mayor Katz and Chief Administrative Officer Phil Sheegl have argued that selling the property would bring in cash that could be used for other good purposes as well as increase the tax base. Both are doubtless true, at least in the short term. The same could be said for selling every inch of green space in Winnipeg.
The question is why sell these properties and why now? Perhaps they hoped there would be little sympathy for golfers. Perhaps they think Winnipeg has become so poor under their guidance that we can no longer afford the amenities that we could afford in the 1920s or 1960s, when these courses were built. Perhaps they just see a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone to make a stack of money off a quick sale of some prime real estate. Not themselves, of course, but perhaps they can think of people who would like to do this.
For residents and wildlife, these are priceless community resources. And there is no doubt that any decision to sell and develop these lands will be permanent. Once they have been built on, there is no way future generations will be able to afford to buy them back for recreational use.
But there is another approach. Instead of asking who we should sell them to, we could ask some different questions first. And instead of limiting the discussion to developers and City Hall, we could involve the community in finding answers.
Are golf courses the best use of these lands? If they are to remain golf courses, can we find more imaginative mixed uses – such as the Nordic Ski Club’s use of the Windsor Park course in the winter? Could the courses be modified to make them friendlier to wildlife, hikers and riparian ecosystems? Just thinking about these questions shows how outrageous the City’s plans for these urban gems are. It’s good to periodically review our common possessions, such as these golf courses and rethink how we use them. But that is the discussion we should be having as a community.
Let’s have some real consultation, where all of us have a chance to put forward suggestions, so we can be proud when we pass these lands on to future generations. Let’s look at ways to make them the focus of healthy communities, where people want higher densities, because it allows easy access to such wonderful green spaces. And let’s look at how to create opportunities for new housing through developing some of the decaying or abandoned commercial and industrial areas of the city, even – dare we dream it – the Weston Rail Yards.
A local group has been formed to fight for just such a public discussion. Outdoor Urban Recreational Spaces (OURS) is fighting this attempt to sell off these urban jewels on the quiet. They are gathering signatures calling for a halt to these sales until a proper community discussion can take place. Anyone interested in OURS or their petition can find them at: www.ours-winnipeg.com.
This proposed sell off will not survive a public debate. Only slipping it through quickly and quietly will work. It’s up to Winnipeggers to react fast enough to stop to it.
Dave Hall is retired, and spends his time enjoying family, friends, and Winnipeg’s green spaces. He doesn’t use a golf club in his walks, but understands those who do.
For a full copy of the State of the Inner City report, click here.
Yesterday the CCPA-MB launched its seventh State of the Inner City report, entitled Neoliberalism: What a difference a theory makes.
The report examines the policy context that structures life in the inner city with a focus on three key areas: Employment and IncomeAssistance (EIA), housing, and second-chance education programs.
Embleton (Urban Circle Training Centre), and Kathy Mallett (Community Education Development Association) spoke to the report, explaining what they see as the impact of neoliberal policies on day-to-day operations and on the people they serve.
Shauna MacKinnon moderated the discussion, after which Together We Have CLOUT, a film about the inner city coalition Community-Led Organizations United Together (CLOUT), was screened.
Today, EIA rates are extremely low, quality affordable housing is increasingly hard to find, and second-chance education programs struggle with inadequate funding. For inner-city communities, these are daily realities that are directly influenced by the neoliberal approach to policy-making.
by Lynne Fernandez
Two issues of concern have recently arisen at City Hall – the twenty-cent transit fare hike — just passed by council — and a new policy to share water and sewer services with exurban municipalities. Both issues are of note for three reasons: there will be significant financial implications for Winnipeggers; they will encourage unsustainable, environmentally damaging behaviour and, the means by which these policies are being implemented lack transparency and thwart any sort of democratic process.
We contrasted these developments with the recommendations by the City’s own citizen consultations in the Call to Action report. The report reflected a strong commitment to community; the belief that growing economic inequality is unacceptable; and, the understanding that modern cities must reverse environmentally unsustainable growth patterns. The voices of those who participated in this report were included in the City’s final municipal development plan, Our Winnipeg, which sets the course for future development. Our Winnipeg is premised on commitments to environmental sustainability and complete communities.
The 40,000 Winnipeggers who participated in the Call to Action will be disappointed to learn just how far the City is deviating from their desires and recommendations. Report participants expressed a strong preference for:
- Commuting responsibly by expanding rapid transit and human-powered traffic;
- Enhancing urban spaces through increased urban density, preservation of agricultural land, development of pocket parks and expanding local businesses;
- Switching to “smart” infrastructure to reduce costs and stress on the environment. Natural systems could include storm and waste-water filtration;
- Working to bring all Winnipeggers to an acceptable living standard through access to essential services and promotion of strategies like urban gardens.
In what appears to be a return to outdated city planning ideas, the City is thumbing its nose at all of these preferences.
Council’s continued flip-flopping with provincial and federal officials is responsible for the lack of funds to complete rapid transit, making its insistence on passing the cost to low-income earners mean-spirited and counterproductive. The twenty-cent transit fare hike will not only discourage people from taking public transit, it will actually prevent many — who cannot afford a car — from being able to move about the city. So in one fell swoop council has managed to undermine any movement towards responsible commuting, and cut marginalized Winnipeggers from access to an essential service: transportation.
In order to ensure that low-income Winnipeggers would have access to reliable transportation to get to school, work, medical appointments, recreational centres — in short, to live their lives — the City should be lowering transit fares for them. The city could sell low-cost tickets to the provincial government so it could then distribute them to Winnipeg social-assistant recipients.
The proposed policy (to be voted on by council on December 14) to grant authority to CAO Phil Sheegl to negotiate with exurban municipalities for the expansion of City water and sewer services represents yet another step away from the kind of development Winnipeggers want. First of all, deals of this sort may have significant impact on Winnipeg’s revenues and development patterns, two concerns which should fall under the watchful eye of city councilors who are elected to protect our best interests. By removing their ability to learn the details of future contracts and debate their implications, there will be no transparency or oversight to ensure these deals make financial or environmental sense. Winnipeggers should be worried on both counts.
Many people move from Winnipeg to municipalities like West St. Paul so they can enjoy more luxurious homes while paying lower taxes. Most of these people still work in Winnipeg and so use our infrastructure heavily without contributing to its upkeep by paying taxes to the City. Although we do not yet know what sort of costing will be offered to these municipalities, it is likely that they will be able to “free ride” on Winnipeg’s lower costs to provide water and sewer services without contributing a fair portion for its upkeep. So not only do Winnipeg tax payers end up subsidizing exurbanites, but our tax revenues diminish every time a Winnipegger relocates. Without elected official oversight, we just don’t know if these deals will be a win-win situation for exurbanites, and a lose-lose situation for the rest of us.
Modern cities should be increasing density and preserving surrounding farming and wild areas. This proposed policy will make it easier for bedroom communities to flourish and enlarge our environmental footprint. More cars will commute back and forth on more regional roads, and fewer people will use (and contribute to) less-polluting public transit. It is unlikely that these contracts will have a mechanism to encourage conservation of water, thereby allowing the municipalities to drain precious resources even further.
The 40,000 Winnipeggers who participated in the Call to Action and Our Winnipeg consultations were hopeful that the City would take concrete action towards a more sustainable, democratic, equitable and modern city. If these two policies go through, the City will go a long way to making sure that doesn’t happen.
Lynne Fernandez is a political economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
For a PDF version, click here.
by Shauna MacKinnon
There has been much progress in addressing the issues facing Winnipeg’s inner city in recent years, but there remain many challenges. This reality frustrates no one more than those individuals working on the front lines with people who continue to be deeply affected by poverty.
Many people have committed their lives to improving the inner city, some for decades. It deeply saddens them to see that in spite of their best efforts, life seems to be worse for many individuals and families than it was thirty years ago. But they also recognize that their efforts can only go so far. They know that what happens in the broader social and political context has implications for individuals and families. They know that what is most needed right now is a significant change in public policy, beginning with a commitment by governments to invest in people sufficiently and over the long term.
By Errol Black
Yesterday, December 7, Justice Douglas Campbell ruled that “Agriculture Minister Gerrry Ritz broke the law by failing to put the matter [of the future of the Canadian Wheat Board – Bill C – 18] to a farm vote first.” The ruling confirmed that the opponents of Bill C – 18 (farmers, directors of the CWB, and the opposition parties) are right and the Harper government is wrong.
Ever since this round of the debate on the future of the CWB was initiated, Harper and Ritz have insisted that they would break the monopoly of the CWB and create an open market for wheat and barley – regardless of the law. In response to Justice Campbell’s ruling Ritz said: “I can tell you that, at the end of the day, this declaration [by the court] will have no effect on continuing to move forward on [grain marketing] freedom for western Canadian farmers. Bill C-18 will pass.”
Ritz’s reaction confirms yet again that Harper and cabinet bullies like Ritz believe themselves to be above the law. This tendency is very worrisome; in the words of the Honourable Justice Campbell:
When government does not comply with the law, this is not merely non-compliance with a particular law, it is an affront to the rule of law itself […].
The question is: what can citizens do to convince the Harper government to comply with the law and put the issue of the future of the CWB to farmers?
Unfortunately, given the Harper government’s contempt for the rule of law and its reckless habit of disregarding the wishes of Canadian farmers in particular and Canadians in general, we should be concerned about the sorts of legislation and policy changes that we’ll be confronted with in the immediate future.
To date, virtually every action of this government is based on promises and commitments that originate with the National Citizens Coalition – under Harper’s leadership – and the Reform Party, including:
- Abolition of the Long-gun registry;
- The omnibus crime bill (Bill C -10);
- Tax cuts for big corporations;
- Anti labour interventions in collective bargaining in the federal jurisdiction; and
- A repudiation of Kyoto and measures to limit the assault on our environment.
The one thing that is common to all of these actions is that they cannot be justified on the basis of factual or analytical evidence. Indeed, the Harper government doesn’t even bother to try and justify these actions. Listen to Minister Toews on Bill C – 10, for example, or Labour Minister Raitt on the anti-labour interventions.
Other matters in the works that are suspect are the austerity measures initiated by Finance Minister, Flaherty, and the expanded role for Canada’s military in combat interventions under the auspices of NATO and the U.S.
The destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board has direct and obvious implications for Manitoba, but we also need to understand the negative impact Harper’s other policies will have on us. Bill C10 will dramatically increase the provinces’ spending on jails and do nothing to make us safer (with the added effect of decreasing spending on essential services); the coming austerity measures will further decrease revenues and provide justification for cutting of all kinds of social programs.
Did those Canadians who voted for Harper understand who/what they were voting for? Did they knowingly bestow such power? What were they thinking?
For the sake of us all, I hope they are having second thoughts.
Looking for information about housing in Winnipeg? Look no further – here you’ll find all kinds of facts and statistics about housing in Winnipeg and Manitoba.
References are available at the bottom of the page, in case you are looking for more details.
Core Housing Need
Definition of Core Housing Need
“Acceptable housing is defined as adequate and suitable shelter that can be obtained without spending 30 per cent or more of before-tax household income. Adequate shelter is housing that is not in need of major repair. Suitable shelter is housing that is not crowded, meaning that it has sufficient bedrooms for the size and make-up of the occupying household. The subset of households classified as living in unacceptable housing and unable to access acceptable housing is considered to be in core housing need.”(1)
Core Housing Need
In 2006: (2)
- 11.3 % of all MB households lived in core housing need (46,900 people)
- 24.0 % of MB renter households lived in core housing need (28,800 people)
- 6.2 % of MB owner households lived in core housing need (18,100 people)
- 22.3 % of those who immigrated to Canada between 2001 and 2006 lived in core housing need in Manitoba (1,600 people)
In 2006: (3)
- 37.3 % of Winnipeg tenant-occupied households spent over 30% of their income on housing.
- 11.6 % of Winnipeg owner-occupied households spend over 30% of their income on housing.
Renting in Manitoba
Current Vacancy Rates
In April, 2011, the vacancy rate was (4)
- 0.7 % in Manitoba, the lowest vacancy rate in the provinces
- 0.7 % in Winnipeg
- 0.5 % in Thompson
Winnipeg’s Rental Universe
(This data only applies to apartment buildings with three or more units)
The rental universe in Winnipeg (5)
- has declined in 15 of the past 18 years.
- Lost 835 rental units, of which at least 450 units were permanently removed from the rental universe, between October 2009 and October 2010 (leaving 52,319 units).
Since 1992, Winnipeg’s rental universe has declined from 57,279 units to 52,319 in 2010, a decline of about 9 percent (6). At the same time, the population of Winnipeg has increased from 677,000 to 753,600, an increase of about 11 percent (7).
- The result is a drop in the number of rental units per 100 people from 8.5 units to 6.9.
In April 2011, the average rent was (8)
- $718 in Manitoba (compared with 696 $ in April 2010)
- $725 in Winnipeg (compared with 703 $ in April 2010)
- $692 in Thompson (compared with 652 $ in April 2010)
In 2011, the Median Market Rent in Manitoba was: (9)
Affordability of Average Rents in Winnipeg (10)
EIA and Rent in Winnipeg (11 and 12)
Manitoba Housing “owns the Province’s housing portfolio and provides subsidies to approximately 34,900 households under various housing programs. Within the portfolio, Manitoba Housing owns 17,600 units of which 13,100 units are directly managed by Manitoba Housing and another 4,500 units are operated by non- profit/cooperative sponsor groups or property management agencies. Manitoba Housing also provides subsidy and support to approximately 17,300 households (including 4,700 personal care home beds) operated by cooperatives, Urban Native and private non-profit groups.” (13)
In 2010, 15,803 international migrants came to Manitoba, and 12,340 immigrants moved to Winnipeg. (14)
The population of Manitoba increased by 15,800 people from 2009-2010 (from 1,219,600 to 1,235,400). (15)
The population of Winnipeg increased by 9,700 people from 2009-2010 (from 674,400 to 684,100). (16)
National Social Housing Construction
In 1993, the federal government withdrew from housing. Until then, about 10 percent of the housing built each year in Canada was affordable to lower income households; since then it has been less than one percent. (17)
(1) CMHC 2011, Canadian Housing Observer.
(2) CMHC 2006, Canadian Housing Observer. Also offers data on types of family, Aboriginal status, and period of immigration.
(3) City of Winnipeg 2006. 2006 Census Data – City of Winnipeg.
(4) CMHC 2011. Rental Market Report: Manitoba Highlights.
(5) CMHC 2011. Rental Market Report: Manitoba Highlights.
(6) CMHC 2011. Personal communication from D. Himbeault.
(7) City of Winnipeg. 2011. Population of Winnipeg.
(8) CMHC 2011. Rental Market Report: Manitoba Highlights.
(9) Government of Manitoba, date unknown. Housing Income Limits and Median Market Rent
(10) CMHC 2010. Winnipeg CMA Rental Market Report
City of Winnipeg 2006. 2006 Census Data.
(11) CMHC 2010. Winnipeg CMA Rental Market Report
(12) Government of Manitoba. Employment and Income Assistance Facts.
(13) Manitoba Housing and Community Development. 2010. Annual Report 2009-2010.
(14) Government of Manitoba. 2011. News and Resources.
(15) City of Winnipeg. 2011, May 1. Population of Winnipeg.
(16) City of Winnipeg. 2011, May 1. Population of Winnipeg.
(17) CMHC. 2011. CHS – Public Funds and National Housing Act (Social Housing).
CMHC. 2011. CHS – Residential Building Activity.
This year’s State of the Inner City report examines the impact of neoliberalism on Employment and Income Assistance, housing, and second-chance education program policies in the inner city. The report will be released on December 14 at Thunderbird House; look here for more information.
As has been the case every year for the past seven years, our community partners set a clear direction for us to follow as we moved forward with this year’s State of the Inner City Report. In past years our partners were most interested in telling the positive stories while also pointing out where policies might be improved. But things took a bit of a different turn this year.
Although initially the focus for this year’s report was on education, at a second meeting the discussion moved us in a different direction. One participant raised concerns about the unreasonable expectations placed on community organizations. She described the devastation she sees around her that has resulted from growing poverty and inequality. She described what she believed to be a failure on the part of all levels of government to do what is necessary to resolve this problem.
The discussion became lively as other participants jumped in, affirming her frustration.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-MB invites you to join us for the release of the:
2011 State of the Inner City Report
Neo-Liberalism: What a Difference a Theory Makes
Wednesday, December 14th
Circle of Life Thunderbird House
715 Main Street
Presentation 12 noon
RSVP By December 9:
by Errol Black
The evening of Friday November 25, 2011, the BUFA Bargaining Team at Brandon University issued a terse statement to members declaring that their 45 day strike at Brandon University was over:
A tentative agreement has been reached between BUFA and the Employer after 10.5 hours of intensive negotiations today. Details of the agreement remain confidential pending a ratification vote….With the tentative agreement, the strike ends tonight at 11.59 p.m. There will be no picketing tomorrow. Classes will resume at 6:00 p.m. on Monday.
The statement concluded with an acknowledgement of the tremendous courage, commitment and solidarity of BUFA members “You won this, guys! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
BUFA went on strike October 12, when it became clear that the Employer, Brandon University Administration, and an anti-union labour lawyer hired by the administration were not prepared to engage in serious negotiations to get a new collective agreement. BUFA had no choice. A strike vote was taken. Seventy per cent voted for strike action. The University Administration and their lawyer interpreted this as a sign of weakness and invited faculty members to cross the picket line and return to work. Less than a handful took the President up on her offer to come back (and these were people who had already turned their backs on their colleagues).
In subsequent weeks, the collective bargaining process moved through conciliation and mediation without resolve. All the while, the union asserted that the University refused to bargain. The University Administration and their lawyer said they couldn’t bargain on wages because of a government mandated restriction on what they pay and called for binding arbitration.
All the while BUFA Union was not only dealing with an Employer dedicated to undermining the union and one of the most expensive anti-union lawyers in the country, who apparently believed that he could break the strike and ultimately the union, but also an increasingly hostile public and sustained hostility from The Brandon Sun.
However, BUFA was not completely isolated. They were supported by other campus unions, the Brandon and District Labour Council, the Brandon University Students Union, many alumni, and, faculty union brothers and sisters in CAUT affiliated universities across the country who showed up every week to demonstrate their recognition of the issues involved in this strike.
The Manitoba government intervened on November 21, to order a vote on the employers last offer, with an apparent intention to force compulsory arbitration if the vote failed. Votes were scheduled for next week.
However, faced with these conditions, the University Administration and BUFA resumed bargaining on November 25. The outcome of this day of bargaining confirmed what the BUFA executive and bargaining team had been saying all along, namely, that they could obtain a new collective agreement if the University would engage in serious negotiations.
The outcome also confirmed what most of the people on the BUFA picket line understood from the outset: collective action based on principles, commitment and solidarity will prevail.
There are lessons for all of us coming out of this strike. We will try and clarify what these lessons are in future PolicyFix posts and in CCPA – Manitoba publications.
Errol Black is a CCPA Manitoba board member
By Errol Black
Deveryn Ross’ column on the Brandon University strike in the November 24 Winnipeg Free Press (“Administration, province will wear this one“), represents a significant advance on his first column on this issue October 13, 2011(“BU strike needs adult supervision“).
That first article was published the day after the strike started on October 12. In this article, Ross cites some of the factors contributing to the strike and the likelihood that it could last for a very long time. Unfortunately, Ross wasn’t able to cobble the pieces together in a way that produced a coherent analysis. On the contrary, he ended up trivializing the issues and blaming equally the University Administration and BUFA for the strike: “While they battle over picayune issues such as whether faculty members will get free gym memberships, they are apparently oblivious to the harm they are doing to a university that already has more than enough problems.”
He concluded that “[I]n the interests of both the university and the students, the situation requires an adult to step in and take charge.” Specifically, he proposed that Labour Minister Jennifer Howard emulate Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and “impose a solution,” a recommendation that seemed to reflect disdain for the democratic rights of workers and their right to protect those rights through fair, collective bargaining.
Over the past six or so weeks, however, Ross has been doing research on the strike and he’s changed his tune. He is now digging closer to where the bone is buried. He now understands that the BU administration went into collective bargaining with a well-defined strategy which was contracted out to Grant Mitchell for execution. The plan was a simple one. Stall, delay, refuse to bargain, confuse the issues, and force BUFA into taking a strike vote.
As so often happens in these situations, the grand plan hatched by the University very quickly unraveled. The strike vote was taken. Support for strike action was around 70%. The University apparently interpreted this result to mean that BUFA would retreat and seek to negotiate a settlement. But BUFA didn’t retreat and a strike was called. Then the University thought they could exploit the divisions in the Union by simply inviting faculty members back to work, thinking presumably that the people who voted against strike action would be eager to cross the picket line. However, solidarity prevailed and the strike continued.
The University has stuck to its original strategy since the strike started. Stall, delay, refuse to bargain and confuse the issues. The University stuck to this strategy through conciliation and mediation, pushing the line that the Manitoba government had put limits on how much they could raise wages and pleading for the government to impose binding arbitration. As well, they fed a lot of nonsense to the media (especially the print media) that was intended to, as Ross clarifies, discredit BUFA members and put the blame for the strike on them.
It is unfortunate that Ross’ October 13 column was not nearly as clear-sighted as today’s; a lot of the misguided attitudes we heard during the early days of the strike were likely inspired by his earlier piece. Nonetheless, Ross clears up a lot of misconceptions today: he concludes that the blame for the strike and the failure to get a negotiated agreement rests squarely on the University. It is important to have this on the record. It is also important to have on the record the fact that the only people who were concerned about the situation of the students (apart from the students themselves) were the members of BUFA.
Ross also blames the government for what has transpired. “The Selinger government doesn’t escape culpability in this debacle. It dictated BU’s initial salary stance and refused to take reasonable steps to pre-empt the strike.” This claim about the government dictating BU’s initial salary stance is what the University and their lawyer told everyone. It is my understanding that this claim was bogus. We should endeavour to find out where the truth is.
The other question that we need to address is: how did it come to pass that all three universities employed the same lawyer, Grant Mitchell, to negotiate with their faculty unions to achieve a uniform outcome on wages?
Hopefully Mr. Ross hasn’t quit digging around.
Errol Black is a CCPA Board Member.