MLA Steven Fletcher says the location of the Fresh Start addictions recovery centre in Calgary is not comparable to the similar centre proposed at the old Vimy Arena in Winnipeg.
Earlier this week, Mayor Brian Bowman’s executive policy committee unanimously voted in favour of selling the shuttered arena for $1 to Manitoba Housing so it could lease the land to the Oake family foundation.
The foundation has partnered with Fresh Start to operate a proposed $14-million, 50-bed long-term addictions facility for men on the Sturgeon Creek site.
Fletcher, the Independent MLA for Assiniboia, says he supports the concept but not the location.
In a series of videos posted Thursday to Facebook, he took aim at discrepancies in statements about the Calgary centre.
CBC broadcaster Scott Oake, who wants to build a similar Winnipeg facility in memory of his son, Bruce, who died from a drug overdose in 2011, originally said the Calgary facility was adjacent to a residential neighbourhood and bordering a light industrial area.
This week, he said the centre was located between a light industrial area and a residential neighbourhood.
It’s more like an "industrial park," Fletcher says in a video of himself outside Fresh Start, saying the facility is isolated from a residential area that’s "in the distance." He calls comparisons between the Calgary and Winnipeg sites "completely disingenuous."
"The goal is to provide information," Fletcher said Friday in an interview. "You can watch the video and come up with your own assessment: is that representative of what we’ve been presented?"
Oake, who approached the City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba government more than a year ago with his proposal, called Fletcher’s videos "disheartening."
It’s not about the precise location of Fresh Start, he said, but the program it operates.
(Fletcher told the Free Press his tour of Fresh Start was "very friendly" and he supports the concept.)
"The point here is the success of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre does not depend on the location of Fresh Start," Oake said.
"We’ve partnered with them so they can administer their program… it’s an extraordinarily successful recovery centre."
The Oake foundation was offered the Vimy Arena as a location after the province reached out to city hall to talk about the proposal.
The arena closed in 2015, after being declared surplus two years earlier, with the idea being that proceeds from its sale would be reinvested into recreational facilities in the area.
When that didn’t happen, Manitoba Housing offered $1, which the property and development committee approved. The 2.5-acre lot is valued at $1.43 million.
It’s a bad deal, said Fletcher, who would rather see the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre be built on the site of the old children’s hospital on Wellington Crescent.
"The city’s giving assets away that are worth millions for a dollar, and is forcing their will on the city without actually doing a comprehensive inventory of what land is available and what would be best not only for citizens, but the Bruce Oake rehabilitation facility itself," the MLA said.
Council will vote on the Vimy site deal Jan. 25. If it goes through, the property will still need to be rezoned, which will require another public hearing.
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