When I arrived at the Winnipeg airport after four days in beautiful Montreal for the Canadian University Press National Conference, I was overcome with embarrassment and regret.
Among the first things you see as you leave the tarmac is a giant ad for the Casinos of Winnipeg looming over the luggage pick-up area.
As you depart from the airport, you are confronted with a massive billboard for the South Beach Casino. The landscape subsequently devolves into a sprawling expanse of big-box stores, fast food restaurants and empty parking lots. Couple this with the chronic neglect and disrepair of our city’s core, and it becomes undeniably clear that you are entering a much poorer city, both economically and culturally, from the one you just left.
After scaling the narrow, lively and incredibly dense streets of downtown Montreal, driving down the eight-lane Portage Avenue into a flat, crumbling city core caused me to shudder.
As per 2006 Statistics Canada data, the Island of Montreal has a land area of 365.13 sq. kilometres and a population density of 4,438 people per sq. kilometre.
Winnipeg has a land area of 464.01 sq. kilometres and a population density of 1,365.2 people per sq. kilometre.
If Winnipeg was as dense as Montreal, its entire population of 633,451 people could fit into 142.73 sq. kilometres.
Maybe that’s why Winnipeg looks like this:
And Montreal looks like this:
When I got home, I immediately searched the name Bartley Kives on the Winnipeg Free Press website to find local news from the past week.
Kives reported that just 415 out Winnipeg’s 12,660 Chinese-Canadians live in Chinatown while 3,375 Chinese people have congregated in the suburban, south Fort Garry area.
He also slammed Winnipeg’s embrace of Target stores, writing that “it certainly doesn’t make sense in low-density Winnipeg, where the last thing the over-extended infrastructure needs is another enormous big-box store surrounded by a sprawling parking lot.”
On the financial front, the city announced that it will likely use one-time revenue from city reserves to balance the 2010 budget after Winnipeg failed to resolve a $10 million legal dispute with Manitoba Hydro. This practice has been widely criticized.
To top it off, Gord Steeves apparently wants to run in the provincial election but doesn’t want to risk losing his council seat to do it.