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Katz knew golf plan doomed 'months ago'

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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz

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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz

Mayor Sam Katz said he has known for months a plan to lease four city golf courses to a private management firm was doomed to fail at council.

"We all knew that you wouldn't get the two-thirds vote," said Katz. "Two weeks ago I could have told you the votes were not there. Two months ago I could have told you the votes were not there."

That raises the question why Katz and Coun. Russ Wyatt spent $90,000 on the Responsible Winnipeg ad campaign promoting the plan to sell John Blumberg Golf Course and hire an Ontario-based firm to operate four other courses. The campaign, which was condemned as a waste of taxpayers' money by several city hall politicians, initially asked Winnipeggers to lobby their councillors to approve the plan.

Katz said the ads were meant to ensure Winnipeggers had all the facts, and to counter an anti-privatization campaign launched by CUPE, the union that represents many city workers.

Katz said several councillors who were elected with union support would never endorse a proposal to lease city facilities, but it was important Winnipeggers know the plan is one response to significant budget challenges.

The proposed lease of the Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Harbour View and Crescent Park golf courses requires a two-thirds majority of city council, which means it won't pass at Wednesday's meeting if more than five of 16 councillors vote against it. At least seven have pledged to vote no.

The sale of John Blumberg could still pass. Declaring the 81-hectare patch of riverfront property surplus to the city's needs only requires a simple majority to pass. Selling the land at some later date requires a two-thirds majority.

Wyatt, a key architect of the golf- course plan and ad campaign, said he has been more optimistic than Katz that the plan could garner enough votes.

"I always knew it was going to be a challenge," said Wyatt. "We'd hoped that common sense would prevail at the end of the day."

The golf-course proposal sparked another skirmish during Thursday's finance committee meeting when Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck attempted to propose a motion asking for a full accounting of how the $90,000 was spent.

Wyatt, the chairman of the finance committee, would not suspend the rules to allow Havixbeck to propose her motion, saying she had not given him the courtesy of adequate notice.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 B2

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Updated on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 8:13 AM CDT: adds photo

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