In a recent Executive Policy Committee (EPC) meeting on Jan. 20, Mayor Brian Bowman introduced a motion seeking to give all 18 councils in the Winnipeg metropolitan region a voice in the regional planning process through Plan 20-50.
Led by the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (WMR) board, Plan 20-50 aims to provide a blueprint for regional planning in the Winnipeg capital region over the next 30 years. The capital region includes the city of Winnipeg and 17 surrounding rural municipalities.
Plan 20-50 is “probably one of the most significant planning documents in a generation,” Bowman says. “Getting it right and making sure there’s appropriate buy-in from the municipal councils as well as our residents is obviously going to be key.”
Adopting a regional plan for the Winnipeg capital region follows in the footsteps of many major cities in Canada and around the world, according to Colleen Sklar, the executive director of the WMR.
She says the WMR has consulted with over 450 people on over 800 touchpoints to see how conditions for circular economies and communities could be created in the capital region.
“What a regional plan does is it allows communities within a region to come collaborate and co-operate across multiple jurisdictions,” Sklar says.
Sklar says the relationship between the metro and regional community in Winnipeg has generally been characterized by competition. As the rural communities in the capital region continue to grow, she says this way of structuring isn’t ideal.
“Across the globe, regions that are prosperous economically, protecting their environment and providing good lives for residents are all moving to models of collaboration as opposed to competition,” Sklar says.
On the other hand, balancing the interests of rural municipalities and those who live in the city could potentially pose an obstacle. In previous years, tensions between city dwellers and rural municipality residents who commute to the city but pay considerably less property tax than those within city limits ignited a debate over whether toll booths should be implemented.
In a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report published in 2019, it was suggested that a commuter fee be implemented for those who live in exurban communities but commute to the city every day as a way to stimulate Winnipeg’s infrastructure and increase city revenue.
Bowman says the desire for rural municipalities to have a say in regional planning has been voiced by the mayors of Selkirk and West St. Paul. He says there have been increasing concerns shared by municipalities that want to make sure their perspectives are considered and that their interests are represented in the development of the plan.
“We want to co-ordinate it as best as we can,” Bowman says. “If it can be improved, that’s a good thing.”
The motion will receive a vote from members of the city council on Jan. 28.
Published in Volume 75, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 27, 2021)