In preparing for this week’s cover feature about development in downtown Winnipeg, we in the editorial staff of The Uniter found ourselves asking, “What is downtown?” The answer might seem obvious, but definitions were somewhat elusive. While we were able to answer these questions with a little digging, it helped illuminate how many questions about our city have difficult, nebulous answers.
Many aspects of Winnipeg that residents might assume are commonsense truths are, in actuality, pretty significant question marks. We hear pretty frequently that the return of the Winnipeg Jets is the driving force behind new development and infrastructure downtown. But trying to find confirmation of how profitable the Jets actually are, how much money they bring into the city or how they influence decision-making turns up a lot of opinions and speculation, and very few hard numbers.
This raises a question that I find fascinating: how many of the “facts” we know about Winnipeg are actually unfounded assumptions? I’ve written in the past about Winnipeg’s self-image, how the city mythologizes itself and the points at which its facts and fictions blur. Which of our stories are actual histories, and which are myths?
Winnipeg artists like Guy Maddin and John K. Samson have wrestled with these ambiguities in their art. They’re key to the character of Winnipeg. But how do Winnipeggers wrestle with them when their romanticized Winnipeg bumps up against a colder reality?
I’m not sure there’s an answer to that question that isn’t equally as ambiguous.