The City of Winnipeg has launched a campaign that encourages voters to lobby councillors to support a plan to sell off John Blumberg Golf Course and hand over operations of four others to an Ontario firm.
On Friday, council's alternate service delivery committee will consider a plan to sell the 81-hectare John Blumberg site and sign a 20-year lease with GolfNorth Properties to operate and maintain the Harbour View, Kildonan Park, Windsor Park and Crescent Park courses.
That plan also requires the approval of the city's executive policy committee on May 22 and council as a whole on May 29. A two-thirds majority of councillors will be required to sell off the John Blumberg course, which is considered green space, although only a simple majority will be required to declare the land surplus, Mayor Sam Katz said.
It is not certain the overall plan will pass, as a wide-ranging coalition of councillors opposes aspects of the golf proposal.
In the interim, the city has launched a website called Responsible Winnipeg encouraging citizens to contact their councillors and tell them to vote in favour of the plan. Accompanying the website is a print and outdoor advertising campaign.
The website also includes information about the golf-course plan, added Katz. The city has been criticized in the past for not getting its position out to the public and failing to counter misinformation about privatization, the mayor said.
Some components of the campaign did not include the city's logo on all materials. Katz said that has been corrected.
The campaign cost approximately $90,000, using funds from council's policy budget, he said. GolfNorth Properties took no part in the campaign, he added.
Campaign criticized as unethical, wasteful
Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi called the website and ad campaign unethical and a waste of public funds.
"Citizens are being given the false impression that 'Responsible Winnipeg' is a legitimate community group that cares about an issue. Real advocacy groups that represent real people are not allowed to use the city logo and our web platform," she said in a statement.
Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith said the campaign is a waste of time and will not change his opinion to vote against the plan.
St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, a member of executive policy committee, has also said he will vote against the golf-course proposal.
Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said she is not certain how she will vote, but criticized the campaign as wasteful.
In an email councillors Wednesday evening, city spokesman Steve West said the website is separate from the city's own website.
"The public service is not in the position to comment on the site or its content. If you have any questions about the website, please contact Deputy Mayor/Chair of ASD Committee Russ Wyatt," West said.
Wyatt defended the campaign, insisting the city has a responsibility to tell the public that its Golf Services special operating agency loses money.
"We've been hammered for the last eight or nine months by a nasty, malicious and misinformed CUPE campaign, which included TV ads," said Wyatt, referring to the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500, the city's largest union.
Wyatt said he remains optimistic "common sense will prevail" and the golf-course plan will be approved by council.