Portage Place revamp, green power, parades, death threats: mayoral candidate roundup
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/09/2022 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A plan to transform the Portage Place mall to offer a non-profit community centre and affordable homes has won the support of a mayoral candidate.
Rana Bokhari says she would back a recent proposal to revamp the downtown Winnipeg site, which was created by local non-profit agencies and community groups, especially its call for Indigenous leadership of the project, if she’s elected Oct. 26.
“I just think that Portage Place, for newcomers and Indigenous people, has been a community spot, whether it has been called that or not… It’s always had that beauty to it,” Bokhari said Wednesday.
The future of the mall has triggered speculation for years, especially after a $400-million Starlight Investments proposal to redevelop it stalled out in 2021. After the Toronto-based company asked for its deposit back on the mixed-use development plan, many stakeholders deemed the deal dead.
Bokhari said she’s aware the city could sacrifice the potential tax revenue from a larger private development to make the community proposal a reality. But she expects those lost tax dollars would be offset by savings, predicting the creation of more affordable homes would reduce the need for municipal emergency crews to respond to unsheltered Winnipeggers.
“I would argue that the amount of tax dollars that are being spent on mental health… and all these other social community issues, I think in the long run (this) will be the most cost-effective, cost-saving measure,” she said.
Specifically, the local groups’ joint proposal calls for Portage Place to become a non-profit community centre, with hundreds of new rent-geared-to-income social housing units, as well as a grocery store, food bank, community vegetable garden and low-cost food court.
The group also wants Indigenous developers to have the first chance to own the property, with public ownership if that’s not possible.
A key supporter said governments should contribute to the vision, since the City of Winnipeg approved a $20-million incentive package and the province promised $28.7-million worth of education tax rebates to support Starlight’s project.
“If governments are willing to put forward tens of millions of dollars for a private-sector initiative… there’s every reason to believe that the money should be available (for) a community-led project,” said Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.
Energy efficiency: Gillingham
Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham promised to convert the city’s municipal accommodations division into a new Winnipeg Green Properties and Green Power department, seeking funding from other governments and partners to do so.
The department would aim to speed up energy-efficiency retrofits of civic buildings and pay to add solar and geothermal generation at some of those properties.
Gillingham would aim to create at least one megawatt of city-owned renewable energy by 2026, which he expects would produce enough savings to repay the extra cost in about five to 15 years per project.
“We’re leaving money on the table if we aren’t more aggressive in our quest for green energy dollars in Winnipeg,” he said, in a news release.
He did not estimate the city’s cost to fulfill the pledge.
Composting, retrofitting: Shone
Elsewhere, mayoral hopeful Rick Shone also offered new green initiatives, promising to implement a city-wide composting program, hire a city planner to focus on green development, require all new city-owned buildings to meet LEED environmental standards (where possible), retrofit existing civic buildings to improve energy efficiency and prioritize infill projects over greenfield development.
“By making these changes, we can make a real difference in reducing our footprint while building a more sustainable and resilient city,” said Shone, in a news release.
Grants for parades: Motkaluk
Meantime, mayoral hopeful Jenny Motkaluk focused on Winnipeg’s largest parades. Motkaluk said she would provide $50,000 grants to each of the Santa Claus, Pride, Manitoba Filipino Street Festival and Nagar Kirtan parades.
“Those kinds of events, they require a lot of organizing and today they are all organized by volunteers, which is wonderful, but if they were able to have a permanent staff person, they would be a lot more successful,” she said.
When asked why the city would fund large events that are already popular, Motkaluk said stable grants would ensure they continue. “These are things that showcase Winnipeg and the things that we value… to the rest of the country and the world,” she said.
Receiving death threats: Woodstock
As other candidates made new promises Wednesday, mayoral contender Don Woodstock told media he’s received recent death threats and reported them to police.
“Since Don Woodstock’s recent comments at a previous debate, credible threats of violence to his personal safety have now become a police matter,” the candidate’s media advisory states.
On Sept. 22, Woodstock told the audience of a mayoral forum Indigenous men must “come to the table” to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and suggested Indigenous men are often perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women.
Indigenous leaders have widely condemned the remarks as racist.
On Wednesday, Woodstock refused to reveal details about the threats, stating he will share more information Thursday.
“This is very serious and I don’t want to treat it lightly,” he said.
The advisory also noted Woodstock will make a policy announcement about mandatory incarceration for first-time offenders convicted of physical abuse and uttering threats. He did not explain how a mayor would alter criminal punishments, which fall under federal jurisdiction.
The Winnipeg Police Service confirmed threats against Woodstock were reported Sept. 26, and are being investigated, while declining further comment.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.