Evaluating Portage Place
Re: Beware of mall deal (Letter, March 4)
Letter writer Irwin Corobow warns against governments agreeing to the revised terms being proposed by Starlight Investments to redevelop Portage Place. He concludes his letter suggesting that "governments substantially funded the development of the current Portage Place, which has turned out to be a failure."
While Portage Place did not turn out to be the panacea for downtown Winnipeg many had hoped for, it is not true that governments funded most of it. With the exception of the public spaces (mainly the atrium at Edmonton Court), the shell of the spaces occupied by Prairie Theatre Exchange and IMAX, the extra infrastructure to accommodate two towers at either end and the underground parking, Cadillac Fairview paid for the bulk of the building, with its share estimated to have exceeded $70 million including tenant improvements (1986 dollars).
At the time it was built, no one could have anticipated the changes which have taken place in the world of retail, with the rise of big-box stores such as Walmart, online shopping with the likes of Amazon and, more recently, the pandemic. But whether the Portage Place development was a failure is up for debate.
At the end of the day, it was estimated that North Portage Development Corporation’s $76 million of government funds leveraged more than $300 million in private investment in the north Portage area. This investment happened on land the private sector agreed to lease (i.e. not own) for a 75-year period. In addition to Cadillac Fairview’s investment, the private sector paid for the Investors Group’s new head office, as well as about 1,100 new housing units (e.g. Fred Douglas Place and Kiwanis Chateau).
Over the years, the community has benefited as the Forks North Portage Corporation has been able to use much of the money earned from the land leases, as well as parking revenue, toward making The Forks a major destination for our city.
Harry Finnigan, Winnipeg
Remove unethical officers
Re: Chief, union clash as officer morale takes a hit (March 4)
I share the grief of those affected by the recent premature death of two police officers. Like them, the majority of officers do their duty ethically and impartially: their distress at anti-police sentiments and calls for defunding is understandable.
However, among them, there are bad apples whose actions smear the entire force. Closing ranks and protecting racist, sadistic and unethical officers may be collegial, but is it ethical?
Unless they are exposed and weeded out by more ethical colleagues and their union, society cannot be blamed for seeking urgent reform. Additionally, the entire justice system, including the judiciary, must give as much credence to the evidence of victims of alleged police brutality as it does to that of involved officers.
The best tribute to the departed officers would be for their colleagues to initiate cultural change within the department and make the Winnipeg Police Service a positive example to the rest of the world. There is also no better way to improve morale.
Shashi S. Seshia, Winnipeg
Reading Thursday’s front page, I was greeted with the Winnipeg Police Service’s melodramatic lamentation of the "anti-police protests, campaigns, growing hatred and cynicism toward police officers" which proved to be just too much for poor Officer Friendly. Rather than taking accountability for its complete and utter lack of meaningful mental health support, the WPS is blaming Black Lives Matter for the suicide of a police officer.
First off, it’s ironic that the so-called "Free Press" is playing defence for the boys in blue now that the exercise of state violence has come under legitimate scrutiny — a "free press" is supposed to keep the state in check, not toady up to it.
Second, while the suicide of a 43-year-old man is a tragedy, it’s a greater tragedy to see a victim of suicide turned into a martyr for the Blue Lives Matter movement. I guess the WPS couldn’t miss out on this golden opportunity to build political capital. Which party is more disrespectful to the memory of the deceased — those adopting a principled stand on systemic racism and police abolition, or those cashing in on the deceased’s memory to rally the baby boomers committed to "backing the blue"?
The WPS has long resorted to backhanded tactics to stymie accountability for its ongoing violence against Black and Indigenous people, but this is a new low. The Free Press has made its allegiance clear. For shame.
Let Speaker exert control
Re: Political heavyweights from all parties pen letter to remind leaders ‘democracy is fragile’ (March 2)
The open letter to our esteemed legislators from experienced political figures reminded me of my one visit to the legislature’s visitors’ gallery during a session. I observed the Speaker admonishing the honourable members to consider that there were also children present and for them to temper their language and behaviour. From that, I presumed the Speaker was in effect a referee, and one who had the authority to maintain order and enforce rules.
I then consider that if I purchased a book that was completely blank but for the title, I would expect I had the right to return the book and have the vendor provide me with a book, complete with the content to be expected from the title. In a legislative parallel, how can the Speaker permit the passage in first reading of 19 bills without content? This appears an abrogation of legitimate control.
Leonard Lewkowich, Winnipeg
Re: Vaccination process faulty (Letters, March 4)
Why designate a single spot in the middle of downtown, which is hard to reach for many, to give the COVID-19 vaccine?
There are mall parking lots with plenty of space available for drive-thru vaccinations. All it would take is a large tent, a couple of clerks with computers, someone qualified to give the shot, and a printer.
One would drive in, with coat off. A clerk would record the required personal information. The driver would move ahead and stop for the injection. Then roll forward again and be handed a printed card indicating they had been given the shot. And then drive home.
Bill Ewing, Winnipeg
Creative idea for Esplanade
Re: Wanted: money-making biz for Provencher Boulevard footbridge (March 3)
The solution to this pesky problem is dual use.
In the winter, city councillors responsible for the finance of public works should be required to hear all budget-related expenditures for this purpose at the Esplanade exclusively. That would mean parking their car and hiking to their meeting on that bridge and back. This exercise may be uncomfortable in January, but good for the conscience of one who carries a public purse responsible for future projects.
The summer is easy. Sell ice cream.
Ken Kinrade, Winnipeg