As we look ahead to 2013, here is a list of what is hoped for Winnipeg in what will be the 140th anniversary of its incorporation. Almost all of these wishful scenarios are just that — wishful. But, while they may be implausible, none are impossible.
1. Plagued by scandal, Mayor Sam Katz resigns in disgrace. In the by-election to replace him, a dark horse, Cory Booker-esque candidate emerges who is intent on fixing at least a few of the things broken in this city. Not worried about upsetting either CUPE or the gang at the Scottsdale Golf and Country Club, this candidate regards being mayor as a full-time job to be taken very seriously. She or he wins easily.
2. The Provincial government stumbles across the concept of opportunity costs. Recognizing Manitoba’s grim fiscal situation, and the dwindling demand for convention centres across the North America, the provincial governments announces they will withdraw their $51-million contribution to the expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Meanwhile, the numerous provincial government-owned surface parking lots around the Convention Centre are sold to developers who promise to build sidewalk-oriented housing.
3. Reforms come to the City bureaucracy as it becomes apparent that archaic zoning regulations and the slow permit approval process hampers the creation of “complete communities” outlined in Our Winnipeg, the city’s long-term planning document. These reforms make opening a business, or redeveloping or building in old neighbourhoods something a little more easier to do, and more of this small-scale development begins to occur.
4. Traffic calming measures are put in place downtown and in other central neighbourhoods. In an effort to make streets less hostile to pedestrians, City officials remove the dangerous, freeway-esque curved turning lanes found at intersections like River and Osborne, Higgins and Main, and Portage and Memorial. This doesn’t stop Winnipeggers from being bad drivers, but it does slow them down a little.
5. Winnipeg gets over its Panama Canal complex. Finally rejecting the absurd notion that the success or failure of a city is determined by outside forces (such as the Federal government, or American retailers), Winnipeg’s collective civic consciousness starts to value ingenuity, competition, co-operation, and adaptability.
6. Passenger rail service to Winnipeg Beach is resurrected, giving citizens without cars a chance to get out of the city on hot summer days and evenings. (And if this is deemed to grandiose of an idea, transit service is extended to the beach at Bird’s Hill Park.) Remember the $51-million the Province didn’t spend on expanding the Convention Centre? Here’s one alternative.
7. Some hole-in-the-wall taqueria opens that sells cheap, legit, delicious Mexican food. It’s centrally located and open late. You know, just like in every other city in North America.
8. A real heritage issue arises, with all the urbanist conundrums that go along with it. Nearly all of the recent heritage issues in Winnipeg have involved a building being demolished for either a parking structure, or a “temporary” parking lot. In 2013, a heritage building is threatened by a credible proposal to build something that will actually contribute to the urban environment, rather than just take away from it. Something like a big, glassy condo building with retail on the ground floor.
9. Buses run later and more frequently. Despite outcries from the local transit union and the Taxicab Board, buses on major routes begin running later than 1:45 am. Meanwhile, transit service in distant, low-density suburbs is curtailed, and more buses are added to overcrowded major routes on streets like Portage Avenue, Main Street, and Henderson Highway.
10. The Bombers win the Grey Cup. Remember: this is a list of implausibilities, but not impossibilities.