Opinion: Winnipeg Has Serious Problems, Portage & Main Is A Distraction

Winnipeg Portage and Main

WINNIPEG, MB – Much of the talk after Mayor Brian Bowman’s state of the city speech revolved around the idea of reopening Portage & Main, and the progress that has supposedly been made towards that.

It’s an interesting issue, and it makes sense that there is some talk about it. However, the longer that discussion goes on, the more of a distraction it is from Winnipeg’s real problems.

Considering all the time those in power spend talking, it’s quite remarkable how little actually changes in Winnipeg. The same parts of our city that were poor 30 years ago, are poor today. Much of our city still struggles with rampant poverty and crime.

Consider some of the stats:

  • Per Stats Canada and the Winnipeg Police Service, Winnipeg is the most violent city in Canada, and the crime rate rose 6% between 2014 and 2015. Overall crime went up 7%, and property crime was up 9%.
  • Our rate of homicide, sexual assault, and robbery are above the national average.
  • Winnipeg’s child poverty rate is far above the national average.
  • Winnipegger’s living in the poorest areas of our city die a shocking 18 years earlier than others.
  • The unemployment rate in some parts of Winnipeg is near 10%, and that only counts those actively looking for work. You only have to walk or drive through much of our city to see that parts are an economic wasteland.

Poverty & life expectancy data courtesy mypeg report.

Winnipeg’s serious problems require urgency, not distraction

Crime, poverty, joblessness, and early death. This is the reality for far too many of our fellow Winnipegger’s. These problems make all of us less safe, and less prosperous. Higher crime leads to increased taxes to cover policing costs. Social services are strained past the breaking point by dealing with poverty. Our economy suffers when many are not in the workforce.

Considering these challenges, it’s shocking how little they get talked about in big speeches, and it’s surprising how little urgency there seems to be among those in power. Unfortunately, too many of those at the top seem to see their job as being a cheerleader for the city, rather than a problem solver.

After all, the elite would rather hear about how everything is great, rather than see attention go towards fixing problems. Those who benefit from a system rarely wish to change it.

Our leaders must treat Winnipeg’s problems as an emergency

Think about it this way: When you look at the rates of crime, poverty, and early-death, Winnipeg has the equivalent of a third-world country within our own city. Considering all the time we spend talking about fixing other countries, why not focus on those who are suffering right next to us?

Our elected city leaders should be spending every waking moment coming up with ideas to fix Winnipeg’s serious problems. They should spend far less time talking in city hall, and way more time visiting the parts of our city that have been ignored and left to struggle for decades.

A discussion about Portage & Main, fancy state of the city speeches, endless galas, and events where the same people talk to the same people about the same things – none of that does any good for our city.

Those in power need to get out of the elitist bubble, stop with the distractions, and focus on Winnipeg’s real problems. That is the only way our city can have the future we all deserve.

Spencer Fernando, MyToba News

Spencer Fernando is a columnist and reporter for MyToba News. You can read more of Spencer’s writing at his website
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  • Margaret MacLennan says:

    I think it would be a travesty to reopen Portage & Main. I can see many fatalities at that corner as it has been closed for so long and it is such a busy corner reopening it dose not make sense. Council should put their energies into looking after the poorest areas in the city.

  • Ben says:

    good article, but PLEASE don’t use an apostrophe to make “Winnipeggers” plural

  • Tom says:

    “Our leaders must treat Winnipeg’s problems as an emergency” …

    Only if it’s in their best interest to do so. Otherwise, you can bet they’ll delay and delay.

  • Bruno says:

    It is no big deal for the city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies.
    It is not coming out of their pockets.The tax payer is footing the bill.
    Leave things as they are. and spend the money where it is needed.

  • Brian Thompson says:

    They won’t spend money protecting its employees. But millions on a dumb, useless project like this