Winnipeg city officials angry PPCLI moving

The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry will be relocated from Winnipeg to CFB Shilo, near Brandon. Defence Minister Art Eggleton made the announcement Thursday at Kapyong Barracks, the unit's base in Winnipeg, finally ending intense speculation about the future of the unit.

Six hundred and forty soldiers, along with about 500 family members, will make the move gradually between 2002 and 2004. The loss of the Princess Pat's will represent a $58 million loss to Winnipeg's economy.

But Eggleton says the federal government is committed to minimizing the hurt. "This site [Kapyong] has excellent potential for redevelopment. We are keenly interested to see that the potential turns into concrete opportunities that will benefit this community. In preparation for the disposal and future use of the site, the federal government will enter into discussions with the community here in Winnipeg."

Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville will head a committee examining future uses of the base land. The province's senior MP, Ron Duhamel, says there is reason for optimism. "When CFB Portage la Prairie, now Southport, was closed, there was a certain amount of pessimism. The various levels of government, with the private sector, worked together to see what could be done to replace the loss. We've done it before and we're going to do it again."

Premier Gary Doer says he is pleased with the decision to leave the PPCLI in Manitoba. Doer says his goal from the beginning was to prevent the movement of the soldiers and their families to Edmonton.

A big issue for many military families was quality of life in Brandon and finding good jobs. Although Eggleton made specific mention of the Maple Leaf meat packing plant in Brandon, military wife Kelly Cheesman says many women are still worried. "The job opportunities aren't very good. If you have a really good job here, like if you work in a lawyer's office or an accounting office, what's there in Brandon? Nothing. I can't see a woman working in a law office, being a secretary, going to go pack meat. What consolation is that?"

Some Winnipeg city councillors are angry with the defence minister's announcement. Bill Clement, the councillor representing the Kapyong Barracks area, says he's not satisfied with the way the government intends to handle the disposal of the land. Clement fears the land will be turned into an urban reserve, and he's worried the city would lose millions of dollars in taxes.

Chief Harvey Olson of the Brokenhead First Nation, northeast of Winnipeg, says his community has 'first dibs' on purchasing the land under treaty agreements signed years ago. The band, he says, would use the prime city real estate to create an urban reserve that would be an economic success.

Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray does not want to see more shopping malls replace the army base on Kenatson Boulevard. He says there's already enough retail space what the city needs is people. Murray wants Ottawa to put money into redeveloping the land. One possibility, he says, is bringing other government programs to the city.