Winnipeg city council has given the green light to sell the old Vimy Arena to the province, clearing a major hurdle in the journey to transform the site into an addictions treatment centre.
City council voted 11-3 Thursday to sell the land for a dollar in order for it to be used for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre, named for the Winnipegger who died from a heroin overdose. Councillors Shawn Dobson, Ross Eadie and Jason Schreyer voted against it.
“We are all human and we are all in this together,” Darcy Oake, Bruce’s brother, said to councillors ahead of the vote. “Just because someone was dealt a terrible hand or has a disease we should reach out with open hands and hearts and give them the help they deserve.”
A motion to delay the sale was presented by St. Charles Councillor Dobson, who has been vocal in his desire to keep the treatment centre out of his ward. He said he wants to see the addiction centre open on land that isn’t zoned for recreation.
“None of this aggravation for either party was necessary. We just needed to be more open and transparent,” Dobson said. “The building still has lots of life in it. Most of the houses in the city are older than that arena. I think we should put this whole process on hold for 60 days.”
His motion asked for the city to reassess the value of the land to use it as a year-round recreational facility, but it was voted down.
“The process has been done above board. The appraisal was done the way we are supposed to do our appraisals,” Councillor John Orlikow explained, trying to discredit the notion that the sale process was improperly handled. “Some people have said, ‘I want to keep it a rec centre.’ You can’t have it both ways. We have a plan here to do a public good.”
Councillor Scott Gillingham presented an amendment to the original proposal, asking for the appraised value of the land, roughly $1.4-million, to be put back into the St. James community as part of the 2019 budget. It was passed as part of the overall approval of the project.
“This is a democratic moment, perhaps an historic moment. It may seem like we’re in a hurry. Well, we don’t have these facilities but we certainly have the problem,” Councillor Brian Mayes said. “No one’s trying to disrespect Councillor Dobson here. It’s a chance to make a real difference. It’s the time for action.”
Before the vote, delegates appeared in front of council, with Oake and recovering addict Jonathan Parker speaking in support of the project. Close to ten area residents spoke in opposition, with some saying they experienced threats and harassment after previously sharing concerns about the sale.
As part of Gillingham’s motion, Manitoba Housing will enter into a four-year lease with the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre team, requiring the centre to be built in that four-year window.
The transfer of land to the province still requires zoning approval, public consultations and environmental assessments before shovels can go in the ground, which Darcy Oake hopes comes this summer.