Mayor Bowman to Support Motion Recommending Portage & Main Referendum

WINNIPEG - A Council motion recommending a referendum on the future of Winnipeg’s Portage and Main intersection will be supported by Mayor Brian Bowman.

“I will support the motion coming forward to Council tomorrow proposing that a question on the future of Portage and Main be added to the municipal election later this fall,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “The debate over whether or not to open the intersection to pedestrian traffic has demanded a lot of attention and while important has taken away from other pressing issues facing our growing city that require more attention and debate.”

Mayor Bowman said he continues to stand up for downtown Winnipeg, and remains committed to building a downtown and a city that is safer as well as more accessible, connected, and vibrant for all Winnipeg residents, but recognizes the issue of allowing pedestrians to cross Portage and Main above grade can be a polarizing one for many Winnipeg residents.

“I have always said Portage and Main is more than just an intersection – it’s where Winnipeg has intersected with life – so I certainly respect that Winnipeggers have passionate views on the intersection’s future,” said Mayor Bowman.

“Since taking office, I have been listening to both sides of this debate very closely, and I agree Winnipeggers should be provided an opportunity to have a direct say on this matter. Building and positioning a city for a population of a million people requires a vision and a plan that is about more than just an intersection, and allowing residents to have a direct say on this one specific city building effort while also being able to choose an overall vision for a city that is growing every year is important for a city like Winnipeg,” said Mayor Bowman. 

“Most importantly, even though a referendum isn’t binding on a future Council, Winnipeggers will expect the results will be honoured and respected which I am committed to do,” said Mayor Bowman. 

Mayor Bowman highlighted the fact Winnipeg’s population has exceed three quarters of a million people for the first time in its history with more than 50,000 additional people living in Winnipeg today than four years ago, and a downtown population estimated to be over 17,000 and growing with significant residential capacity scheduled to hit the downtown market in the coming years including Artis REIT’s new mixed use residential, office, and retail tower currently under construction at 300 Main Street.

The Mayor stressed that no authority has been provided by Council to the public service to proceed with allowing pedestrians to cross the intersection. The Mayor said the priority right now for the intersection and the concourse below are bricks and mortar improvements following decades of neglect and deterioration.

The infrastructure improvements approved by Council for the intersection include rebuilding and repairing sidewalks and curbs in collaboration with private sector investment at the intersection, and to address surface drainage, water leakage, asbestos abatement, and ventilation modifications related to the concourse in conjunction with upgrades planned at the Richardson Plaza.

“Rebuilding our city’s regional and local roads has been my priority over the last four years,” said Mayor Bowman noting that more than $400 million has been invested into Winnipeg’s regional and local road network over the last four years with Council approving a record annual investment in road renewal in 2018 totaling $116 million.

If the proposed motion is adopted by Council tomorrow, it will not be the first time Council directed that questions be included as part of a civic election. Council directed that questions relating to nuclear disarmament and the validity of English only language laws be included as part of the 1983 civic election. No incremental administrative costs are required with the addition of a single, yes/no question making a referendum on the opening of Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic a cost-effective way for Council to engage Winnipeg residents.