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Federal officials fume after consultant publicly faults city's Kapyong traffic plan

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2018 (666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Senior bureaucrats shepherding Ottawa’s delicate transfer of the former Kapyong barracks lands were outraged when their contracted planner wrote a Free Press opinion piece critical of the City of Winnipeg's plans to limit pedestrian access to Kenaston Boulevard.

"This is not helpful at all," wrote Chris Elkey, vice-president of real estate (west) at Canada Lands Co., the Crown corporation that helps Ottawa manage, develop and transfer former government properties.

Hundreds of emails obtained through a freedom-of-information request show CLC staff were caught off-guard by the July 23 opinion piece by Andrew Baigent, a Vancouver-based planner with the firm Urban Systems.

An aerial view of the former Kapyong Barracks land.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

An aerial view of the former Kapyong Barracks land.

Ottawa gave CLC control of the 164-acre Kapyong property following the Canadian military's 2004 move. After a lengthy court battle, the government has agreed to turn two-thirds of the land over to seven Treaty 1 First Nations, with CLC overseeing the rest of the redevelopment.

An interim deal inked this spring has allowed city officials to start planning on how to use the strips of land surrounding Kenaston Boulevard.

In early July, the Free Press published an internal letter Baigent wrote to CLC, arguing the city’s current plan to expand Kenaston to six lanes from four would create an "urban freeway," moving a large amount of traffic along the corridor "while lending little consideration to surrounding lands, land uses and the general built form and scale of the area."

Feds cagey, locals curious about Kapyong

OTTAWA — The flurry of Canada Lands Co. emails about a July 2018 Winnipeg Free Press op-ed illustrates some of the federal government’s touchiness around discussing the Kapyong barracks project, with scant information shared with the public in the three years since Ottawa conceded in its legal battle with the Treaty 1 First Nations.

The military has provided written statements about demolition dates, but no officials have given on-record interviews. Locals have long sought clarity on what will be built on the site, and Treaty 1 attracted widespread interest earlier this month when it finally unveiled an initial plan at a business gala.

OTTAWA — The flurry of Canada Lands Co. emails about a July 2018 Winnipeg Free Press op-ed illustrates some of the federal government’s touchiness around discussing the Kapyong barracks project, with scant information shared with the public in the three years since Ottawa conceded in its legal battle with the Treaty 1 First Nations.

The military has provided written statements about demolition dates, but no officials have given on-record interviews. Locals have long sought clarity on what will be built on the site, and Treaty 1 attracted widespread interest earlier this month when it finally unveiled an initial plan at a business gala.

CLC has been similarly circumspect, stressing the deal is still being negotiated between Ottawa and Treaty 1. But that agency is the only entity in charge of briefing Jim Carr, the sole Manitoban in the federal cabinet, about the talks.

Since last December, the agency has declined numerous interview requests. In February, the Free Press contacted CLC to request a tour of one of its similar properties.

In emails obtained through a freedom-of-information request, CLC spokesman Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern pushed to have vice-president Robert Howald talk on-record with the Free Press.

“This is great news as we can leverage this opportunity to better introduce CLC (what we do and how we do it) to communities in Winnipeg, even before we play a role,” he wrote. “We have a very good story to tell when it comes to working with (First Nations)."

Others had concerns about “a big spread on CLC.” In the end, the Crown corporation provided some written statements, and the reporter visited the site unannounced.

“The Winnipeg Free Press is moving full-steam ahead with its series about Kapyong,” wrote Gomez-Wiuckstern.

— Dylan Robertson

Baigent further outlined his rationale for integrating pedestrian crossings and transit options and cycling infrastructure into Route 90. His op-ed warned Winnipeggers were about to miss "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and panned the existing plans.

"Instead of simply ‘accepting’ that Kenaston needs to be developed as a large urban expressway with limited access, huge buffers and pedestrian bridges to keep people away from the street, perhaps a different vision warrants discussion," he wrote in the Free Press.

Baigent’s tone sparked a flurry of emails within three hours of appearing online.

"Did we give consultant permission to write an op-ed (in) our contract?" wrote CLC vice-president Robert Howald.

Elkey responded the contract "clearly restricts the consultant from making public statements," despite the fact "the work has been completed."

Kapyong site concept

Kapyong site concept

Over the lunch hour, CLC regional director Deana Grinnell deemed the op-ed "regrettable," and the consultant's firm "appears to have been attempting to protect their own reputation."

That evening, Howald said he was "very upset," as CLC had to smooth things over with city staff and the seven First Nations. "Our consultant has been told he had no right under contract to engage in (the) op-ed. And to cease and desist from engaging in our project."

CLC spokesman Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern said Monday the CLC had finished working with Baigent, who did not return a request for comment.

"We do regret the comments made, but we haven't taken any further action against that consultant, because our priority really is to move ahead with this project," said Gomez-Wiucksternadding that CLC has not commissioned Urban Systems since.

Download Canada Lands Co. response to Free Press op-ed

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 8:34 PM CST: Updates story.

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