January 21, 2020

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Editorial

Too long without action on Kapyong site

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/4/2018 (656 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"All in good time" is one of those calming phrases employed by parents and other even-tempered elders who preach patience to those who become agitated when events unfold more slowly than one might reasonably expect.

But even the most placid and imperturbable among us would have to agree with this: the redevelopment of the former Kapyong Barracks in southwest Winnipeg is taking a long, long, LONG time.

The Kapyong Barracks site has been vacant since 2004.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Kapyong Barracks site has been vacant since 2004.

The former military base has sat vacant since 2004, when the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, marched across the parade ground for the final time before relocating to CFB Shilo near Brandon. The 14-year interval has seen the buildings on and around the 160-acre site disintegrate to the point that the only next step is demolition — something residents in the surrounding area agree cannot happen soon enough.

The reasons for the seemingly interminable delay in redeveloping Kapyong — one of the most desirable and valuable pieces of real estate in Winnipeg — are layered and complex, ranging from simple, snail’s-pace bureaucratic wrangling to court challenges over First Nations’ rights to the land to an inclination by the various involved parties to focus on whose fault it is that nothing is being done rather than how to work together to get something done.

This last unfortunate state of administrative affairs is not uncommon in situations involving multiple layers of government and affiliated stakeholders. Just ask the people of Churchill, almost a year removed from the washout of their rail connection to the rest of the province, about the frustrations created when scapegoating is given higher priority than solutions.

Nearly a decade and a half into Kapyong’s uneasy slumber, it seems we’ve all become accustomed to driving past a massive urban blight during our various north-south travels. The base has been an ugly nothingness for so long that most of us have stopped thinking about the possibilities and lost opportunities and simply accepted the weed-infested grounds and vacant, crumbling structures as an unfortunate, permanent scar on our urban landscape.

The federal government has handed off responsibility for Kapyong to Canada Lands Company, the federal corporation that handles land sales. The province has had little involvement in the ongoing surplus-property saga, and the city, for its part, has stated it can’t move ahead with its proposed widening of Kenaston Boulevard until the fate of the former base becomes more clear.

The Treaty One First Nations — seven Manitoba First Nations that successfully sued Ottawa over its original plan to transfer the Kapyong land directly to Crown corporations without first consulting with Indigenous groups — have expressed an intention to establish an urban reserve on the site, but have offered scant details regarding what such a development plan might entail.

And so the property sits, vacant and deteriorating. This far into the process, the pointing of fingers is, well, pointless. What is required is for one or more of the interested parties to reach the conclusion that while inaction on Kapyong doesn’t carry a direct cost, every day the site sits empty represents a lost opportunity for economic development and advancement of the hard-work task of reconciliation.

There’s encouragement to be drawn from reports that an announcement related to Kapyong’s fate is expected around the middle of this month. One can only hope it’s a substantial revelation. Winnipeggers deserve no less.

In the meantime, here’s another bromide often employed by those patience-touting parents and assorted wise elders: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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