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Editorial: Council makes moves on long-term projects late in their term

With municipal elections in Manitoba coming up on Oct. 26, there is little time for the current mayor and current councillors to achieve any goals they haven’t already.
city hall close up stock shot
By the time there is a new pool in Thompson, it will be 2024 at the earliest, more than five years since the old one was shut down for safety reasons in February 2019.

Thompson city council moved two projects forward by passing a pair of resolutions at their Aug. 22 meeting, though those votes will not bear fruit until the next term.

With municipal elections in Manitoba coming up on Oct. 26, there is little time for the current mayor and current councillors to achieve any goals they haven’t already.

When they first took office a little lees than four years ago (not counting Coun, Andre Proulx, who was elected in a 2019 byelection after tying with Chiew Chong for the eighth-most votes in the 2018 general election), councillors probably didn’t imagine that one of the defining features of their term would be making Thompson into a pool-less city and then trying to get it back on the path to having a pool once again. They didn’t know there was going to be a pandemic, either, but that’s the nature of governing. You have to play the hand you’re dealt, not the one you expected you might be when you were on the campaign trail.

By the time there is finally a new pool in Thompson, assuming the next mayor and councillors don’t decide to completely change direction and turn down $11 million from higher levels of government, it will be 2024 at the earliest, more than five years since the old one was shut down for safety reasons in February 2019. An entire kindergarten class will have grown up in a city where there was nowhere to learn to swim, a rite of passage in many people’s childhoods and a very useful survival skill in a region where lakes and rivers are plentiful. Passing a resolution to approve a contribution agreement with the provincial and federal governments on Aug. 22 didn’t reveal any new information. The city and everybody else knew that there was $11 million waiting to be claimed, but it does move the city closer to being able to tender the project and find out exactly how much it’s going to cost. (Hint: it will be significantly more than the $13 million the city has from the infrastructure program and Vale Manitoba Operations right now, and still significantly more than what it will have once it puts in the minimum of $4 million that it is required to by the terms of the infrastructure grant.) Unfortunately, Mayor Colleen Smook’s prayers that the first stages of construction would begin by this August, a hope she expressed back when the funding was announced in the spring, have not been answered.

Similarly long has been the process of creating something useful at 128 Hemlock Crescent, which has sat vacant and unused for well over a decade. Some of the current council members were early in their political careers when they first voted on a variance to allow less than the required amount of parking at that location in 2016, when Manitoba Housing wanted to develop low-income housing on the property. Unfortunately, after the Progressive Conservatives were elected as Manitoba’s government that spring, the project was shelved. Now it is Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre as the lead proponent, and that’s a good thing, as they are a local organization with more of a stake in ensuring the residential development is a success than Manitoba Housing. Hopefully, any members of council who are still around six years from now won’t have to vote on the same proposal again. Thompson needs affordable housing now, just like it needed it back in 2016. In fact, it probably needs it more, since the years that passed between then and now then saw one of the Princeton Towers buildings shut down and boarded up for safety reasons. It’s likely that Thompson will have a new pool before that building reopens to tenants.