The City of Winnipeg is growing at a rate faster than it has in decades, and a gathering of prominent Winnipeg leaders and community builders agreed that how the City manages this growth will be critical in determining its future prosperity.
On September 26, 75 participants gathered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to discuss their visions for Winnipeg over the next 25 years. Chief Planner Braden Smith presented to the group, noting that the City is committed to a collaborative process:
“We don’t have all the answers, we don’t even have half the answers,” Smith said. “We need to reach out to our community groups and to community leaders like you to hear your vision for our community.”
The City invited participants that would reflect the many different sectors impacted by City policy, including social services, education, land development, the arts, and economic and business development. We are hoping that participants will use their leadership positions within their sectors to promote and spread awareness of the larger OurWinnipeg process.
“I really enjoyed the diversity of perspectives that the participants brought to the mix,” said Sudhir Sandhu, CEO of Manitoba Building Trades. “We had developers, we had academics, social service agencies, and it really makes for a very interesting interplay that demonstrates the interconnectivity of all the issues that we’re talking about so you can’t address one in isolation while ignoring the other.”
Discussions were held in a roundtable format on five overlapping topics intended to reflect the entire mandate and spectrum of City services. These were:
- How We Grow
- Community Health and Safety
- Quality of Life
- Getting Around in the City
- Civic Engagement and Governance
These topic areas were further informed by three overriding sustainability lenses (economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability) that should resonate across and within each of the topic areas.
While growth should be welcomed it is not without challenges, warned participants.
“I think that urban sprawl is really worrisome to me,” said Erin Keating of Transition Winnipeg. “As we continue to grow as a city we really need to spend the time re-thinking what the city looks like as a whole, building separate communities that are walkable and socially-minded where communities have people that help each other, grow local food… If we don’t think about it in advance we’re locking ourselves into this for an unsustainable future.”
“We want to make sure that Winnipeg is capable of renewing itself and growing well,” said Eric Vogan, President of the Urban Development Institute, a land development advocacy organization. “We need to figure out where we might grow, where people can go, where industry can go, where services are going to be available, and try to facilitate that.”
As OurWinnipeg provides high-level policy guidance covering all aspects of City operations, accommodating growth wasn’t the only item participants addressed.
“I think reconciliation is an important topic that needs to continue on beyond 2016 the Year of Reconciliation,” said Dawn Sands of the North End Community Renewal Corporation. “I think it’s really important that we talk about how we’re integrating and welcoming newcomers into our community. How do we work together to build a community that we all want to live in?”
All agreed long-term planning is crucial: “You can’t make sound business decisions, nor can you make public policy decisions, if they aren’t rested against a plan or if they’re not tied to long term objectives,” said Chris Lorenc, President of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.
“I think it’s important that you have that road map of where you want to go,” said Michael Juce, Director of Advocacy for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “Of course things are going to change and situations are going to come up and unexpected events will arise, but it’s very important to have that long term vision so you know where you’re going.”
The feedback received from this event will be thoroughly compiled and will form part of the analysis in a report released at the end of Phase 1.
Braden Smith, Chief Planner, summed it up: “Throughout this process we would like to make sure we hear from as many Winnipeggers as possible. We think that if we do this and do it right through purposeful conversation, the community we build together will in the end be truly reflective of its citizens, their leaders, and community aspiration.”