A new report says if the province, city of Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities don’t start co-operating, Manitoba runs the risk of losing prime agricultural land, compromising its sustainable water supply and losing billions in economic opportunities and efficiencies.
The report, commissioned by Winnipeg Metropolitan Region and done by Dentons Canada LLP, warns that the area’s “hesitancy” to collaborate further and “fragmented planning processes” will cost the province vital economic opportunity in the future.
“Without greater regional collaboration, the Winnipeg Metro Region will be at risk of affecting core services” like water supplies, sewer services, and losing more prime agricultural land to housing, says the report.
“Put simply – the current situation in the Winnipeg Metro Region is unsustainable and needs to be fixed,” writes Robert Murray, Managing Director of Dentons.
The report recommends a new regional planning authority to oversee development, land use and more be appointed by the Province.
The Winnipeg Metro region is defined as 18 municipalities, including Winnipeg, covers almost 8,000 sq. km. of area, and is the economic powerhouse of the province, said the report.
The report states that the region should focus on collaborating on regional land use, infrastructure planning, shared services and economic development to take advantage of opportunities to share and attract businesses to the area.
But before that can be done effectively, a cultural shift needs to happen, states the report.
“Elected officials may fear reprisal for establishing regional service delivery,” it says. “There may be a perception of compromised accountability, more complex decision-making and reduced transparency.”
Breakdowns in relationships between local governments during failed experiments along similar lines in the ’60s and ’70s have contributed to this perception, said the report, but it wasn’t the systems themselves that were the problem.
The report said Winnipeg and Manitoba should look towards Edmonton’s metro region as an example of managing growth and economic opportunities.
“The Edmonton Metro Region believes it will realize $5 billion in efficiencies and cost savings for the Region over the next 30 years … and will realize 160 square kilometres of land savings during the same time.”
East St. Paul
The report is music to the ears of East St. Paul mayor Shelly Hart, who says she has struggled co-ordinating basic infrastructure services with the city of Winnipeg.
A road that runs underneath the perimeter highway linking the two communities has been built, but remains barricaded, mostly due to fears of extra traffic due to a development plan that has since been withdrawn.
Hart wants the road opened, but it remains tangled in red tape, she said.
“It’s exceedingly frustrating. We want to work with Winnipeg to open the road and there’s nothing but roadblocks.”
“We have Highway 59 to the east and Henderson to the west, this extension is needed,” she said.
This isn’t the first time local studies have pointed to regional collaboration as a way to solve infrastructure and economic development opportunities.
A 226-page report done in 2003 identified the need for greater collaboration between Winnipeg and the 17 surrounding municipalities.
The result? Mosquito larviciding zones were extended beyond Winnipeg’s borders — and nothing else.
The way forward is establishing a culture of co-operation, reads the Dentons report, and it outlines 29 steps that should be taken over the next three years by the Province, city of Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities to make it happen.
Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday afternoon the report is the start of an historic collaboration, and he plans to see it through.
“Doing nothing, hoping for the best isn’t in my nature.”
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