Tomorrow Winnipeg's City Council will vote on whether or not it should give a private developer $7 million tax dollars to build a less-than-world-class water park on one of Winnipeg's most prized parcels of land. Fervently backed by Mayor Sam Katz, the Hotel & Water park scheme calls for the new attraction to be built in the heart of Winnipeg at the historic Forks. As luck would have it, the proposed site for the new water park just happens to be across from Mayor Katz's very own baseball stadium. As majority owner of baseball's Winnipeg Goldeyes, Mayor Katz has recused himself from Wednesday's votes on both the land sale and the tax dollar give-away. Yet, notably, he only did so after some Winnipegger's worried about the state of the city raised serious questions about Katz and his role in the affair. And, again notably, he only recused himself after he had already done the local media rounds to promote the deal and was secure in the knowledge there was zero chance his confederates in his 'cabinet' would fail to back the scheme at the committee level. As such, j'accuse that Katz's je me recuse was, at its core, a purposefully disingenuous ruse and too little too late to be considered a truly ethical and effective recusal.
The Mayor's insincere ruse aside, there are many other troubling aspects to the present water park scheme before City Council. For instance, whose idea was it to offer the designated land (Parcel 4 at Winnipeg's Forks) exclusively to this particular developer instead of opening it up to other competitive bids? Where is the detailed plan? What happens to the provision that binds the water park developer to issue $700,000 in vouchers per year to low income children for 25 years should the developer go bust and/or sell the property? And finally, why is City Hall so hell bent on ensuring $7 million tax dollars must go to a private water park rather than to our local community centres? As Dennis Lewycky of Winnipeg's Social Planning Council pointed out on CBC radio this morning, the monetary math of the scheme doesn't add up. The plan, he says, "Just doesn't make sense." And because it doesn't make sense, its important City Council say no to this scheme now.
Councillors Steen and Sharma, are you listening? Despite all the propaganda you've heard from Mayor Katz & Co., the proposed water park (at 50,000 sq ft) will, most assuredly, be 'less-than-world-class'. We don't need a substandard 'Wally World-esque' structure at the Forks. We need to stop wasting taxpayer money on back room deals. We need to redirect the funds in question to our existing community recreational facilities. We need to do better by our historic site at the Forks. A piss poor idea from the start, this scheme should be thrown out with the bathwater - anything less would be a civic crime. Councillors Steen and Sharma, Winnipeg deserves better, please vote NO on Wednesday.