Originally published in The Lance on September 2, 2020.
In 1993, the city approved Plan Winnipeg Toward 2010.
A map showed the city’s Major Open Space (MOS). Six of these spaces are part of the Seine River Greenway: Whittier Park, Lagimodiere-Gaboury Park, St. Boniface Golf Course, Windsor Park Golf Course, Niakwa Golf Course, and Bois-des-Esprits.
In 2000, the city approved Plan Winnipeg 2020 Vision. It stated: “The city shall retain those areas
designated as Major Open Space for recreational uses and the preservation of natural habitats.” The
intent was clear. These spaces would be protected forever.
This is what citizens expect. It is what citizens believed when they stood in front of bulldozers to save
the forest that became Bois-des-Esprits.
Winnipeg’s population is growing but we have less green space than many other cities. More people
used the Seine River Greenway this year than ever before. The pandemic reminded us that natural
spaces are vital to our well-being. In the future, we will need more green space – not less.
This fall, the city is poised to approve OurWinnipeg 2045. Unlike the plan from 20 years ago, it does not
state that MOS will be retained. It merely says that MOS will be shown on a map. The plan stresses an
urgent need for housing. It sets an “intensification target” and a policy to make development in built-up
areas easier. This puts MOS at great risk.
You must read the 180-page Complete Communities 2.0 to fully grasp what the future holds for MOS.
The preamble to the policies for MOS says they are important to the entire city. It recognizes that
people love these spaces for their beauty, natural features, and recreation. But, it points out that their
large size and character makes them very attractive for development. That is exactly why we need strong policy to protect MOS for the next 25 years.
Complete Communities 2.0 does not offer this protection. It does not state that MOS shall not be used
for other purposes. It does not say that conversion would require a unanimous vote at council. Instead,
it lays out the steps to convert MOS to other uses. Projects involving less than 2 acres can be “processed” on the basis of a report. No public consultation, public hearing, council vote?
This plan views our city’s biggest and best natural spaces as underutilized land that can be re-imagined
for housing – not as a lasting legacy to future generations.
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital and the executive director for Save Our Seine (www.saveourseine.com).