'We're talking about fairness,' Manitoba MP says at town hall on Chief Peguis Trail expansion

Dozens of Winnipeggers from the north side of the city met at a public forum on Monday aiming to put an extension of Chief Peguis Trail at the top of the city's agenda.

Project would see extension of Chief Peguis Trail from Main Street west to Brookside Boulevard

(Julianne Runne/CBC)

Dozens of Winnipeggers met at a public forum on Monday to put the westward extension of Chief Peguis Trail at the top of the city's agenda.

"There have been a number of projects in the south. Money is flowing. But we're talking about fairness. It's time that the North End saw some major development," said Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk (Kildonan–St. Paul).

Mihychuk was one of seven panellists who spoke to a crowded room at West Kildonan Collegiate Monday evening about the project, which would extend Chief Peguis Trail from Main Street west to Brookside Boulevard.

Currently, Chief Peguis runs five kilometres east from Main Street to Lagimodiere Boulevard. The western extension is intended to be another link in an inner ring road or beltway originally envisioned in the 1950s. Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski), who also spoke at the event, said the project would cost over $400 million in total.

Mihychuk said there's federal cash that could go to the project, but there needs to be the political will in Winnipeg to make that happen.

"City hall is coming into an election this year. We'll be back to the voters by 2019. These kind of offers are not there forever," Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk (Kildonan–St. Paul) said after the meeting.

"We wanted to stimulate the economy, to get going, and we need the province to step up and the city to make their priorities."

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said the province wants to engage with the city about infrastructure projects, but the city needs to make the project its No. 1 priority. 

"We believe in the fair say that the Association of Manitoba Municipalities has put forward and the City of Winnipeg has asked for, that they set the priorities for the city or for the jurisdiction, and then they come to the provincial and the federal governments and they look for funding for the projects," he said.

The province will be looking at the No. 1 priority laid out by the city, he said.

"They have to identify it as the next project that's ready to go. You heard at the panel that everybody sort of says there's a limited amount of money, and there is a limited amount of money," he said. "We would, however, like to see the priority list."

He recommended the city consider a public-private partnership funding model for the project.

Extension would benefit all of Winnipeg: Councillor

A petition was provided for participants in the forum to sign and the politicians present urged Winnipeggers to get in touch with their representatives in support of the project.

Proponents of the extension say it would improve access to CentrePort, the industrial development northwest of the city, and could open the door for economic development in north Winnipeg.

Derek Dabee, chair of the Seven Oaks School Division that organized the event, pointed to economic development that followed infrastructure investments in other portions of the city, including Kenaston, Bishop Grandin and Lagimodiere Boulevard.

"We figured all the development that had happened to those other arteries, we will do the same for Winnipeg if we have the completion," Dabee said. "Because we are thousands of homes right now building around the planned track where the super-highway will be, and we have businesses that will come and we have buses [that] want to get to those residences."

"It's a very much-needed project for the north, but I think it's going to benefit the entire city," said Coun. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan).

Sharma appeared before executive policy committee along with Eadie in July to voice concerns the project wasn't included on an infrastructure funding wishlist for federal dollars laid out by Mayor Brian Bowman in 2017.

She also put forward a successful motion to accelerate the project in 2013. Preliminary designs for the project were finished in December, she said.

"We're at a very critical juncture where the functional design for this project is done, and pretty much essentially, it'll be very soon shovel-ready. So big decisions have to be made: Where are we going to be investing our infrastructure dollars across the city?" Sharma said.

With files from Bartley Kives