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Published: October 10th 2009
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Steve Ashton said yesterday that if he becomes premier, he'd like to relocate the Canadian Pacific rail yards out of north-central Winnipeg and build housing on the land.

CP's Weston shops eat up a swath of land from Keewatin Street to McPhillips Street and from Selkirk Avenue almost south to Logan Avenue. The company's adjacent Winnipeg yards run from McPhillips to Main Street, as the southern limit of the North End.

"This is very strategic land. You're right in and around the downtown area," Ashton said. "These are the arteries that built this city and these are the arteries that can rebuild it."

Ashton's idea is to have all three levels of government pay to relocate CP's yards to the CentrePort area north of the airport, then clean up the lands and develop them for public and private housing, parks, and possibly even a rapid transit corridor or an urban farm.

"It's a monumental task but it's an idea whose time has come," he said. "It will have significant costs but it will also have significant revenues."

Ashton is not the first politician to propose moving the railyards. MP Pat Martin, former federal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy and others have mused about it in the past, but Ashton said two things make it more viable today. One is the increase in Winnipeg's land values. The other is the introduction of tax increment financing, which diverts a portion of property taxes from education funding and into community revitalization when there is an increase in the assessed value of designated properties.

"For me this is about making a clear commitment to our capital region and ensuring we get the growth we've been waiting so long for," Ashton said. "I don't want to see us build our city as the bargain basement capital of Canada."

A spokesman for Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said the city encourages initiatives on infill housing and development, but added that "if this is a priority of the other levels of government, then we certainly would encourage them to incur the costs since the city currently faces many competing financial priorities, including addressing our multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit."

A spokesman for Canadian Pacific said the company would not comment unless it received an official proposal, which it has not.

Ashton also pledged yesterday to pump millions of dollars into the Exchange District, mostly to increase housing opportunities.


TCRC Division 76 Winnipeg - 2014