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This article was published 12/6/2009 (3904 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
City officials are accusing the Doer government of jumping a recreation-funding queue by expanding Southdale Community Centre ahead of four other projects Winnipeg considers higher priorities.
In May, city council approved a long-term plan to open, close and renovate Winnipeg recreation facilities, as determined by the Greater Council of Winnipeg Community Centres, a volunteer-run body that was handed the tricky task of allocating scarce recreation funds back in 2004 in an attempt to depoliticize the contentious process.
The GCWCC decided Winnipeg's top recreation priority was an amalgamation of the Sturgeon Creek and Silver Heights community centres, followed by expansions of the Winakwa, Linden Woods and Park City West community centres.
But on Friday, Ottawa and Manitoba announced a plan to spend $4 million toward the $6-million first phase of Southdale Community Centre's eventual $12.6 million expansion, a project that ranks No. 5 on the GCWCC's priority list.
The announcement allows the Doer government to follow through on a 2007 election-campaign pledge that Mayor Sam Katz and then-GCWCC president Steve Bemrose criticized as meddling. That election saw the NDP expend a lot of effort to seize Southdale, where former TV personality Erin Selby defeated Tory incumbent Jack Reimer.
Now, the head of the council committee responsible for community centres fears the province has subverted what was supposed to be an apolitical process.
"Everyone knows what's behind this. There's been a commitment made in the past," said St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves, council's Liberal-affiliated protection and community services chairman.
"There is a queue, and (Southdale) is not first in line. It's somebody else's first priority and clearly I can't say it's the city's priority," Steeves said. "I have nothing against the people of Southdale and I don't want to rain on their parade, but if money is moving around for political reasons, there has to be a counterbalance."
St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, whose ward includes Sturgeon Creek Community Centre, said he too was surprised by the Southdale announcement. But the Tory-affiliated councillor declined to lambaste the NDP government until he finds out whether the $5-million Sturgeon Creek and Silver Heights amalgamation will also receive provincial funds.
The City of Winnipeg is not contributing money to the Southdale expansion project, which will include a new hockey rink. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said the project has been a long time coming and congratulated Selby and St. Boniface Tory MP Shelly Glover for making it happen.
"We certainly know that the community has always felt they have less recreation space than their community needs," Doer said.
St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, whose ward includes Southdale, claimed the province grew tired of waiting for Winnipeg to make a decision about community-centre funding.
"It became evident the city wasn't going to fund Southdale no matter what," said the NDP-affiliated councillor, accusing Mayor Katz — his chief antagonist at city council — of "trying to hurt me politically by not funding any recreation projects in St. Boniface."
Vandal said the long-term plan developed by the GCWCC represented five years of "paralysis by analysis" by the city.
— With files from Larry Kusch