Public plaza at True North Square shouldn't be publicly funded, critic says

The Manitoba government and the City of Winnipeg should not be putting money into the public plaza at True North Square, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says.

Manitoba government, City of Winnipeg to invest $17.6M in development of downtown plaza

The city and province have committed to jointly investing as much as $17.6 million in True North Square. (True North Square)

The Manitoba government and the City of Winnipeg should not be putting money into the public plaza at True North Square, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says.

The province and the city are teaming up to invest $17.6 million in the two-acre downtown development that will include a skating rink, public stage and green space. Construction has already begun on the two lots at 220 and 225 Carleton St. 

Government officials have said the money will be earmarked from a tax increment financing program, which will reinvest tax revenue that will be collected in the area to pay for the public space, skywalks and surrounding roads.

But Todd MacKay, the federation's Prairies director, said he doesn't trust the governments' math.

"They're doing a poor job of spending the money they already have, because they're way into debt already," he said.

"It gives me very little confidence that they're going to be good at spending future money that's coming in. How do they know how much money is going to come in?"

Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said True North Square could very well draw more people downtown, but it may not be able to do that single-handedly.

There needs to be more focus on building a variety of developments in order for downtown to thrive, Distasio said, including the creation of more residential space.

"It's certainly a massive-scale project that will definitely inject some new life, but will it change downtown forever? I don't know," Distasio said. "I think the jury's going to be out on that. We'll see how it unfolds."

'Iconic' public plaza planned for True North Square in downtown Winnipeg

CBC News: Winnipeg at 6:00

5 years ago
The words "transformative," "world-class" and "iconic" were used repeatedly Monday as officials unveiled plans for a two-acre public plaza at True North Square in downtown Winnipeg. 2:05

Meanwhile, as far as financing the plaza with taxpayer dollars is concerned, MacKay said True North should be footing the bill for the entire development.

"The government is not good at projecting how well these deals are going to turn out, and it's been losing on those projections on previous deals like the stadium," MacKay said.

"I don't know why anybody would have confidence that they've got this one projected correctly."


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