Winnipeggers who oppose the possible sale and development of city-owned golf courses came away empty-handed and angry after councillors opted not to discuss the issue.
More than 70 people came to city hall on Tuesday morning to voice their concerns about the future of city-owned golf courses, which have been losing money and could potentially be redeveloped.
But not long after the Property and Development Committee meeting began, an agenda item recommending more public input into the golf course issue was nixed.
“This committee does not have the authority to deal with this item,” said Coun. Russ Wyatt.
Frustrated, the crowd exited the council chambers, with many wondering when they will have their say.
“We got toasted,” said John McLennan of OURS Winnipeg, a group that favours more green space in the city.
The group had brought a petition with nearly 6,000 signatures from people who support its cause. However, members had no place to drop off the signed petition.
Private proposals sought
This past fall, the city sought proposals for the development or operation of its seven golf courses: Canoe Club, Crescent Drive, Harbour View, John Blumberg, Kildonan Park, Tuxedo and Windsor Park.
The city invited bids from anyone interested in taking over operation of those golf courses, as well as bids from those who may want to develop the golf course lands into residential or commercial properties.
“They don’t have any public consultation about it,” said McLennan, whose home overlooks the Windsor Park Golf Course.
“They hold a meeting and then they tell everybody to go home because they don’t want to hear us. Bad politics.”
Coun. Jeff Browaty, who chairs the Property and Development Committee, acknowledged that the city handled Tuesday’s incident poorly. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Browaty said. “The city, I do believe, has done a bad job getting the correct information on the process out there.”
However, Browaty said there has also been fear mongering that has led people to believe all of Winnipeg’s public golf courses will be sold off and paved off.
Final decisions could take months
Coun. Scott Fielding, who chairs the city’s finance committee, said he does not expect any final decisions to be made for months, since public consultations must be held first.
However, Fielding said Winnipeg cannot afford to keep all seven of its public golf courses, which he said have been losing about $1 million a year recently.
“It’s tough putting more police officers on the street and putting more money toward community centres and infrastructure when you’re losing a million dollars a year on golf courses — which, in my opinion, isn’t a priority for the City of Winnipeg,” he told CBC News.
Fielding said while it’s time to sell some of the city’s golf courses to private developers, he stopped short of suggesting the city should get out of the golf course business altogether.
“I don’t think we’d have the support of council to get rid of all of the courses, but I think we do need to make some changes,” he said. “Bleeding a million dollars a year for golf isn’t sustainable.”