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A coalition of neighbourhood groups says Winnipeg has to abandon its "growth-at-all-costs" mentality to deal with the unexpected forces brought by climate change.

Transition Winnipeg says the conditions that led to the frozen-pipes crisis from the brutally cold winter signals Winnipeg needs to alter its fixation with constant suburban growth.

James Magnus-Johnston, spokesman for Transition Winnipeg, says Manitoba's capital city needs to reconsider how it manages growth and its development priorities.

"This doesn't mean that we don't want to have businesses thrive and good livelihoods," Magnus-Johnston said. "The public may not be sold on the concept of climate change, but it doesn't matter because we'll still be stuck with the costs at the end of the day."

Transition Winnipeg is formally releasing its first report, Winnipeg's Great Transition -- Ideas and Actions for a Climate-Resilient, Low-Carbon City, this morning at Mountain Equipment Co-Op's third floor public meeting space. It's a slick, professional document outlining alternative growth strategies Winnipeg can consider.

The group has invited several mayoral candidates to this morning's event, hoping to find out how they envision Winnipeg coping with climate change.

"With the end of cheap oil and with climate change presenting challenges for the road ahead, how can we improve our level of well-being as we transition towards a low-carbon, resilient future," the report asks.

The report contains sections on energy, food, transportation, urban planning, economy, community and society. It envisions city hall putting a break on the proposed series of subdivisions planned for vacant land on Winnipeg's periphery linked by a crumbling road network. Instead, it envisions the city's future consisting of a network of pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods organized around a rapid- transit hub, a local shopping place and education facilities; high density housing and public spaces powered by a combination of solar, geothermal and biomass sources.

What the report is proposing isn't new or new to Winnipeg:

  • During the height of the frozen-pipes crisis, St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal called on the city to revise its long-range planning to anticipate similar situations brought by climate- change forces.
  • A civic committee recently adopted a development strategy for growth along Winnipeg's waterways that is striking similar to Transition Winnipeg's neighbourhood strategy.
  • An administrative report concluded development fees are not paying the full cost of services required by new suburbs.

"We're pretty good at planning for one or two years at a time but we're pretty poor looking 10, 20 years down the road," Magnus-Johnston said.

Transition Winnipeg is a fledgling coalition, with member groups based in South Osborne, north Winnipeg, St. Boniface and West Broadway.

Magnus-Johnston has a master's degree in economics from Cambridge University and is the Canadian director for the Washington-based think-tank Centre For Advancement of the Steady State Economy. He is one of the lead authors of today's report .

Magnus-Johnston links constant suburban growth with unsustainable sprawl and a growth strategy that is susceptible to damage brought by climate change.

"How can we move away from the one-trick pony of growth-all-the-time-at-all-costs or else we can't manage our infrastructure," Magnus-Johnston said. "Let's try to start thinking outside the box so we don't have to borrow from the future to pay for our infrastructure."

Read Transition Winnipeg's full report at www.onegreencity.org on Winnipeg's Great Transition.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca