Winnipeg city council has voted against a controversial plan to lease out four city-owned golf courses to a private company, but opened the door for a potential sale of John Blumberg Golf Course.
By a narrow margin of 8-7, councillors councillors voted against privatizing the operation of four courses — Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Crescent Drive and Harbour View.
City officials had urged councillors to approve the plan, which was narrowly passed by the usually-unified executive policy committee last week, but it needed the support of two-thirds of council in order to pass.
Numerous delegations presented their cases to council earlier prior to Wednesday afternoon's vote, with those against the proposal receiving applause.
Following the vote, Mayor Sam Katz said something still has to be done with the golf courses, which he said are losing money.
"We have a serious problem. I guess now we have to come up with other options on how to address the scenario," Katz told reporters.
"At some point in time, maybe someone will say, 'You know what? Golf is a core service and let's just subsidize it.'"
Deputy mayor Russ Wyatt, who supported the leasing plan, argued that council has to make tough decisions about what constitutes core services and should therefore be publicly run.
John Blumberg course's days numbered?
However, council voted 9-6 to approve a plan to declare the John Blumberg Golf Course as surplus, meaning the city can entertain offers from potential buyers.
The golf course was named after John Blumberg, who was a city alderman.
His great-grandson, also named John Blumberg, said no matter what happens, he hopes the name can still be associated with the property.
"Being the only Blumbergs in town, we take a significant pride in the name in the sense that it's associated with the course, so it means a lot to the family," he said.
It is not yet known if the property will remain a golf course or if it will be sold for other development.
Winnipeg's city-owned golf courses are losing almost $850,000 a year, according to city officials, who had called on council to let GolfNorth Properties Inc. take over operation of the four golf courses.
The Ontario-based company, owned by former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie, would pay the city $100,000 to $150,000 annually for 20 years under the arrangement.
In exchange, GolfNorth would operate the courses, invest about $4 million, and keep almost all the profit it makes. The city would still own the land.
But the proposal came under fire by a number of councillors, who have also taken exception to the city's advertising campaign — which claimed to be from a group called "Responsible Winnipeg" — to garner public support.
A spokesperson for Mayor Sam Katz originally said the Responsible Winnipeg campaign would cost $90,000, but the mayor's office said on Wednesday the costs are closer to $70,000.
Estimated spending for the campaign, which included newspaper and radio ads, bus signs and social media, totalled $69,591.71, according to the mayor's office.
But at Wednesday's council meeting, Couns. Paula Havixbeck and Harvey Smith put forward a motion demanding a full accounting of the advertising campaign.
They called it a misuse of taxpayer dollars, especially when it comes to promoting a policy not yet passed by council.