Sunday, May 20, 2007

Missing the Point

While it is sure to generate much less discussion in the media or public at-large than the infamous Jets thing did, a recent announcement made by the PCs in what are thankfully the dying days of the provincial election. The plan calls for a major redevelopment of Point Douglas: reclaiming industrial lands, particularly on the south side of the Point and replacing them with new affordable housing (in a neighborhood where a decent houses can still be had for less than $65,000, "affordable housing" is not the first thing Point Douglas needs), new businesses, and (here's where it gets goofy) a man-made lake which would be at the eastern tip of the point, land that is currently owned by Point Douglas' biggest land owner, Gateway Packers. This will be, they say, a way to help keep the young and urbane from leaving the province.

As pleased as I am to have positive attention bestowed upon my neighborhood, this idea isn't going to send my (Liberal) vote the Tory's way. (I'm sure it won't do anything to loosen the NDP's strangle-hold on the neighborhood's voting population, either.) While it sounds like a good idea overall, but it totally lacks substance.

It's a little like the "bring back the Jets" announcement which, as the notorious Black Rod blog pointed out, could and should have been about how Manitoba under the PCs would be so much more booming and optimistic than it is under the NDP. It could regain lost prominance nationally, and we could even see NHL return to Winnipeg. What happened, of course, was that the idea seemed novel and goofy, and the Tories delusional. In the same way, when it comes to the Tory's plans for reviving downtown Winnipeg (certainly something that is essential to Manitoba's economy), no one will be able to get past the man-made lake shtick.

A truely progressive, conservative party, one that wasn't seemingly trying in ernest to ape the Manitoba NDP, could help shed Winnipeg's tragic megaproject-will-save-us mentality, and instead focus on creating ways to add both quantitative and qualitative value to downtown neighborhoods like Point Douglas, so that developers, entrepreneurs, and residents are lured to it. The best way this could be done is through building a better transit system, but also through reforming (or doing away with) Modernist zoning and traffic engineering, which have for sixty years wrought immeasurable damage to Winnipeg's urban quality; enforcing smart growth; re-working the tax system. The value added to Point Douglas' existing character and proximity, would mean that the private sector, rather than governments, would gradually begin building condos, houses, apartments, boutiques, grocery stores, and sidewalk cafes of their own initiative.


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