A group set on ensuring pedestrians will be able to cross Portage and Main is asking Winnipeggers to open their wallets and hand over $100,000 for a marketing campaign to influence the result of the city's referendum on the matter.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/8/2018 (1203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group set on ensuring pedestrians will be able to cross Portage and Main is asking Winnipeggers to open their wallets and hand over $100,000 for a marketing campaign to influence the result of the city's referendum on the matter.

The Coalition for Portage & Main announced a GoFundMe campaign Thursday aimed at raising money for advertising, signs and rallies before the civic election Oct. 24 that will include a question about whether to reopen the intersection.

"People haven’t heard about the accessibility issues. People haven’t heard about the safety problems. People don’t understand that we have to fix this intersection anyway. We’re going to be spending money here anyway. Why wouldn’t we try to fix a planning mistake from the 1970s when we do it?" Adam Dooley, a coalition spokesman, said.

The GoFundMe page had raised $3,300 from 71 donors by early Thursday afternoon. It was first launched Aug. 14 and raised $1,000 within three hours. Organizers said $100,000 is just an initial goal and they hope to overshoot that mark and raise more.

When asked if there were plans for unspent money, Dooley said the coalition would consider donating leftover funds to the Winnipeg Foundation, or perhaps kick the money into construction costs – although no definite plans have been set.

"I think it’s unlikely that would happen. I think it’s more likely that we’ll run through every single penny," Dooley said.

"We’re expecting we’re going to do some direct mail. We’re expecting we’re going to be paying for boosted posts on social media, Facebook, that kind of thing. If budget permits, we’ll also be doing other advertising. I think anyone who is familiar with mass market advertising knows it costs a lot of money."

In addition to the GoFundMe page, the coalition has also set up a website under the name Vote Open WPG where people can support, and learn more about, the campaign.

Coalition spokeswoman Alyson Shane said the support received so far has been overwhelming and that the coalition has heard from people motivated to vote yes in the coming referendum for a variety of reasons, including safety, accessibility and economic concerns.

Shane also said she was personally assaulted by a man in the underground concourse when she was 19 years old, which – in part – motivates her desire to see it reopened.

"There was a man passed out, or who looked like he was passed out, in the stairwell, and as I was going past he reached out and grabbed onto my backpack and tried pulling me down. It was horrifying," Shane said.

"After growing up in the suburbs, that was one of my first experiences with downtown Winnipeg and it absolutely coloured my perception of it. From a female perspective, having to go down a dark stairwell just to be able to cross the street feels unnecessary and unsafe."

The potential reopening of Portage and Main has been a contentious issue in civic politics in recent months.

On July 19, city council voted 14-1 in favour of a motion put forth by councillors Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) to add a question on reopening the intersection to the ballot in the coming civic election as a non-binding referendum.

It will be the city’s first referendum in 35 years. Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), who is not seeking re-election, was the lone dissenter. Both Mayor Brian Bowman and mayoral hopeful Jenny Motkaluk have said they will respect the outcome of the referendum.

On Thursday, Dooley said he considers the fact there’s a referendum on this at all is a bit ridiculous, but now that one is on the table organizers will work to make sure the yes camp is well represented.

"City council decided to have a plebiscite. We didn’t make that decision, they did. I think we’re all a bit disappointed that we have to do this. Let’s be honest, it’s crazy that we’re having a plebiscite over such a small infrastructure project," Dooley said.

"This is a $6 million project that will have an immediate, tangible benefit on downtown. It’s the economic heart of our city – let’s do this."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.