City planners recently tabled OurWinnipeg 2045 and Complete Communities 2.0 with city council. These two documents will guide development in Winnipeg for the next decade or more.
Public consultation on the plan began in 2017. Save Our Seine and OURS-Winnipeg were excited to participate in the process. Together, we organized a forum to gather feedback and ideas from greenspace advocates from across the city. Approximately 60 people from grassroots groups attended the Greenspaces Matter forum on Nov. 23, 2017.
The participants had a lot in common. They were passionate about urban forests, prairie, rivers, and wetlands in their neighbourhoods. They had attended open houses held by developers. They had summoned the courage to speak up at formal public hearings. They all exhibited similar battle scars - frustration, disappointment, and cynicism.
Such is the nature of public consultation. Too often, participants feel like open houses and stakeholder meetings are a waste of time. Developers are required to consult with the public and to submit reports detailing their consultation efforts. Check. They are not required to listen or address the concerns that are raised.
The people at the forum shared a glimmer of hope that the Our Winnipeg consultation would be different. Winnipeg had a new office of public engagement. The consultation was being city-led. There was even a community advisory committee to provide their perspectives throughout the process.
Unfortunately, no one from a greenspace advocacy group was selected to sit on this committee. When the draft plan was released last August, something important was missing - the perspective of greenspace advocates.
These groups had to scramble to review and comment on plans that had been almost three years in the making. The city planners were keen to have our feedback. They even extended the deadline from a few days to a few weeks to give us more time to make comments. But time was very limited to make any significant changes to the plans.
The final draft was recently tabled with city council. There is still one major stumbling block. The plan paves the way for city-owned greenspaces to be converted to housing. The city hopes we will support the plan at the forthcoming public hearing.
This might have been possible if the public engagement had been more collaborative. The stumbling block would have been identified earlier, and addressed. But for that, we needed to have a seat at the table.
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital and the executive director of Save Our Seine.
St. Vital community correspondent
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.