Councillor Brian Mayes, St. Vital Ward, Winnipeg City Council



What’s missing from the City’s new Infrastructure Report?

The City of Winnipeg Public Service unveiled a massive report on the state of the city’s infrastructure on March 16. It’s an attempt to “remove partisan politics from decision making about infrastructure”. The report attributes a replacement value to all of the city’s assets. The trouble is that there is a thin line between “removing politics” from decision making and removing democratic input.

I have now sat through at least three cases where city staff claimed that cost numbers alone would justify shutting and demolishing old city buildings. The most famous example of this came at Sherbrook Pool which staff argued was beyond repair and no longer needed. Luckily, former Councillor Harvey Smith did not listen to this argument, and succeeded in convincing former Mayor Sam Katz that the building was indeed worth saving.   Removing “politics” from that debate would have brought on the bulldozers.

On a St. Vital level, I have now seen this argument play out twice. The St. Vital Library is just over 50 years old, but when I was elected in 2011 there was enormous pressure from staff to close and sell the building. Eventually, after much public input I decided that we should renovate, not demolish. This was not an easy fight but, with the support of then Councillor Dan Vandal, Council voted to renovate the library (scheduled re-opening in April, 2018). Again, if we just looked at “the staff numbers” – the library would have been demolished.

Finally, I continued the work of my predecessor, Gord Steeves, to keep the Old St. Vital Fire Hall (1914 construction, corner of St. Mary’s and St. Anne’s) from closing, despite the best efforts of city real estate staff to declare the building surplus and have it demolished. Through the combined efforts of Steeves, former MLA Nancy Allan and myself we were able to secure over $600,000 in early 2014 to renovate and restore the building. Despite all of this effort, city staff still tried to get the then-newly elected Mayor Bowman to change course, and unload the building in early 2015. To his credit, the mayor refused, saying in a masterpiece of understatement “this building seems to be important to Councillor Mayes”.   Again – some democratic input saved a St Vital landmark, where the “objective” city staff would have sold the land off.

In the end, the new report does have some useful information – but we should not forget that heritage and community interests also have value.

Canoe Club Proposal

The lease for the city-owned Canoe Club golf course expires in May, 2019. In late 2017, a proposal to shorten the current golf Course by about 5% to include six tennis courts came forward from the city. This proposal did not get significant support from the community. We have listened and are coming forward with a new proposal.

This new proposal eliminates the tennis courts. It also builds on the suggestions made at the public meeting that some funding should be used to upgrade existing facilities.

There are a number of practical limits on what can be considered for the Canoe Club site. The city has budgeted $1 million for recreational amenities for the site in 2019 but this is ONLY for one-time capital expenses, and does not include on-going operating funding. Simply eliminating the course and making it into parkland (while desirable from a public access viewpoint) is not under consideration as there is no money set aside to start maintaining additional park space.

New proposal

Recreational land is important to residents of St. Vital. However, the number of golfers in Winnipeg and throughout North America continues to decline. Meanwhile the popularity of soccer continues to grow.

The new proposal involves shortening the current sixth and seventh holes, by a total of 275 yards, in order to create a new grass soccer field at the SE corner of the Canoe Club site. A safety fence would be added behind the new sixth green.

  1. There is an existing soccer complex immediately east of the current Canoe Club golf course site. This complex is operated by Boni Vital Soccer, which pays the city $1/year but maintains the complex with no cost to the City.
  2. The soccer complex was upgraded in 2015 with a $1 million turf field (provincial funding) and $500,000 upgrade to the clubhouse building (city and provincial funding). Later this year the City plans to add lights to the new turf field, as originally planned by the province in 2015. This will also Boni Vital Soccer to earn revenue that can be used to replace the turf field when it wears out after 10-12 years.
  3. After careful review of many options, the city golf staff have agree that the soccer and golf can “co-exist” with two holes being shortened. The continued operation of the golf course was not viable with many other options that were explored (e.g. cricket, walking paths through the course and barbeque pits).
  4. The public survey conducted in spring 2017 indicated that more than half of respondents (653/1,160) supported the idea of soccer being an option for the site.
  5. The new field could also be used by Glenlawn Collegiate for its student programming, as well as the YMCA for some of its programming.

The course would be shortened by 275 yards. However, the course was shortened by a similar amount in 1965, and was shortened again in 1990 when the new condos were built on the first hole, reducing the first hole yardage by 180 yards.  The course will still be hundreds of yards longer than Crescent Dr., and longer than the front 9 at Windsor. Additionally, the plan calls for a new green complex and bunkers at the sixth hole, and two new tee boxes at the seventh hole, both significant upgrades.

Cost estimate: $500,000

Building on existing:

-       Proposal is to use $150,000 for the Windsor Community Centre garage project, and Windsor school basketball court repair.

-         Proposal is to use $150,000 for Norberry Community Centre upgrades, which could include two tennis/pickleball courts.

Remaining funds to be determined. Possibly including outdoor classroom with Louis Riel School Divison at or near Dean Finlay Park.

What other option were explored?

The City considered converting the existing ninth hole into public access for walking, barbecues etc. but city staff concluded that the new 9th fairway would be too close to the public space for safety, and that neighbors to the north of the existing 9th fairway would not support a new use for that part of the course.

Public Access: The City will continue to look at improved winter access to the site. Many residents have requested cross country skiing access. As St Vital ward already has more public facilities than other areas for cross country skiing (free access at St Vital Park, paid access at Windsor Nordic Centre) as well as easy access to trails at Churchill Drive Park, it is unlikely there would be budget support for another cross country ski facility.

However, the City’s only snow shoeing facility is in the west end, and the proposal is to try a winter snow shoe facility as a pilot project at the site.

As stated before, any recommendations would be subject to council approval of the plan, and of the budgeted funding.



Canoe Club Background Materials

1. The May, 2011 report to City Council from the City’s Auditor includes an external study of the City of Winnipeg’s public golf services. The report includes the statements: 

“In September, 2010 , City Council approved the construction and development, by a private sector firm, of a health spa complex at the Crescent Drive Golf Course… We believe this partnership provides a template for moving forward on the other City owned, operated and maintained golf courses….”

“The consultant recommends that the City divest itself from the operation of public golf courses… Any surplus property can then be sold for commercial or residential development to raise capital for reinvestment in other open park space…. Recommendation #11 “Assiniboine, Canoe Club and Wildewood are three facilities whose sale is advised upon lease expiration.”

(Note this report was adopted by Council by a 10-6 vote. No action taken to date to sell courses)

2.  City of Winnipeg 2016 survey of resident on civic issues: Golf services ranked 25/26 in terms of civic services (telephone survey), Online survey ranked golf services as 25/25 priorities.

 3. Participation

City’s 2011 report stated that while the number of golfers had remained static over past two decades, the number of courses in North America increased from 15,000 to 19,000 and the average number of rounds per course decreased from 40,000 to 32,000 (Canoe Club has 15,000 rounds per year).

Golf Facilities in Canada 2015 reports p.18 “The vast majority of total course closures were public, stand-alone courses … Nine hole facilities were by far the largest casualty, outpacing 18-hole closures by more than 2 to1.”

Macleans, 2014 “Why Canadian Golf is Dying” “When 40 percent of kids under 15 play soccer and five per cent play golf you realize you need to appeal to a different market.”

 4. Length of Course

Canoe Club, if shortened, will play to 2,353 yards (using only front tees on #5) versus 1,376 yards at Crescent Drive (i.e. 70% longer than Crescent Drive)

Canoe Club has evolved over time:

1918 par 36    2,700 yards; 1935 par 34       2,938 yards; 1964 par 34      2,800 yards;

Now par 34    2,607;             Proposal par 33         2,353 yards

 5. Cost to maintain as park, other park options

Ignoring the one-time costs to dismantle clubhouse, Canoe Club is 20 hectares (48 acres) and park maintenance is $10,000 per hectare. Churchill Drive Park is 26 hectares, similar in size to Crescent Drive Park (regional park).