Will Selinger Ever Turn Off the Spigot?

Commentary, Equalization, Frontier Centre

Day by day over the past two months I became more and more angry and frustrated as I watched Premier Greg Selinger buy the votes of Manitobans with their own tax dollars.

He has made announcement after announcement totalling millions of dollars the government doesn't have and probably never will have.

I have waited impatiently for the deadline on government promises. The announcements don't stop on Tuesday, but they become campaign promises from the leader of one of the parties vying for power instead of fiats from the premier.

My only moment of pleasure during this "announcement season" came from CentreVenture CEO Ross McGowan in a Free Press story regarding the Chipman family's proposed development across Portage Avenue from the MTS Centre. "It's going to be a tremendous addition to the city," he was quoted as saying. "We are seeing for the very first time in a long, long time (a development that) is all private investment. That is the key to revitalization. We move from pure public to pure private sector."

Those happy thoughts were dashed when I read further and found the city was contributing $5 million toward the parkade that is integral to the development.

Numerous grand and glorious buildings are going up at the University of Manitoba and even more at the University of Winnipeg and Red River College. Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface has also opened a grand new building.

We have a new football stadium under construction and many renovations to the MTS Centre. The Metropolitan Theatre redevelopment is going ahead, albeit with $3 million of public funding in the mix.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is rising above skyline of The Forks. A major Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion is all but a done deal.

A new main police station is under construction on the site of the old post office at Smith Street and Graham Avenue.

Assiniboine Park has been placed under a new governance model and the fruits of this move are starting to appear in the form of numerous projects around the park and zoo.

Kildonan Park has also quietly seen numerous upgrades including a soon-to-be-opened hiking trail stretching north along the Red River from the park to the city's boundary with West St. Paul.

Hospital upgrades and additions are everywhere. A new women's hospital has final approval and a privately funded hotel is part of the plan for the ever-expanding Health Sciences Centre complex. Every other hospital in Winnipeg has either just completed or is underway with plans for and/or construction of additions and renovations.

Main Street alone has seen a new headquarters for the United Way. A couple of blocks north is the new Winnipeg Regional Health Authority building. Next to it is the old Bell Hotel conversion and another block north is the new Youth for Christ Youth Excellence building. Further north is a brand-new Manitoba Public Insurance building.

We have a new airport and, beside it, a brand-new central post office. Right beside the airport, $250 million in new roads and overpasses are being built along with tens of millions of dollars in sewer and water pipes for a new government-sponsored industrial park

We have a new rapid transit corridor nearing completion. A new Disraeli Bridge and pedestrian bridge are under construction, as is the Chief Peguis Trail eastern extension.

The $700-million floodway expansion and the eastern section of the Perimeter highway are nearly complete.

This is a very impressive list. Winnipeg appears to be booming. Population figures are rising and new construction seems to be everywhere.

The sad reality, however, is every one of these projects is either funded totally by government or subsidized to a large extent by it.

So the question becomes: Will Winnipeg ever reach the critical mass that will result in truly private development on a scale that equals or exceeds public-sector development? We can only hope.