Monday May 28th I had an opportunity to ask the Minister reponsible for Municipal Affairs about the current situation at the Forks Market. My questions and the Minister's responses (from Hansard) are below.
Mr. Gerrard: The minister of municipal affairs is responsible for the oversight, from a provincial perspective, of The Forks, one of our premier tourist destinations.
With the changes that have happened over the last three or four years, which are making alcohol much more available all over The Forks Market–some are very enthusiastic about this, some are not so–but one of the things that I have been getting a lot of calls about is an increase in individuals who are intoxicated and an increase in crime.
And I'd ask the minister: What will be his approach to these issues?
The other thing that I've been getting a lot of calls about in The Forks corporation is that there are a lot fewer children and families coming in the mornings and at lunch and the early afternoons, whether it's on weekdays or on weekends.
And I'm told that this is, in part, because there's been quite a cutback in the activities that are there for children and families in the mornings and afternoons. So my question to the minister who's responsible from a provincial perspective for oversight of The Forks: What his approach is going to be to The Forks Corporation, and how will he address these two issues?
Mr. Wharton: I thank the member for the question, and the member, of course, is correct. One of the responsibilities of Municipal Relations is The Forks board, and certainly share with the member from River Heights that we've had initial talks with the board at The Forks.
And I know that they're a great group of folks that are very–obviously, very motivated to ensure that this prime asset at the junction of the Red and the Assiniboine continues to grow in a sustainable fashion.
And, you know, as far as the question the member had on intoxication at The Forks, certainly I have not been informed of that issue. So I will endeavour, and I have made a note, to ensure that I get some more background on that, because obviously any examples of that happening, obviously, in a public place–whether it be The Forks or whether it be anywhere else, any other park we have in the city or in the province of Manitoba–obviously, that is a concern.
And I would certainly be consulting with my colleagues, and it sounds like it could be a cross‑departmental issue and concern, so certainly I would let the member know that we would–we take that very seriously.
Fewer families taking part in activities at The Forks–again, another area that I appreciate the input on, the member from River Heights for advising me of these concerns. I guess I would ask a follow-up of the member, too, is where he would be getting this information from, so potentially we could follow up and make sure that if there are any concerns for the public as far as activities at The Forks, certainly something that the board's mandate is to ensure that that is what they do.
And I'm not one hundred per cent sure that that is included in their mandate. I know it's a great opportunity, The Forks, to build, and they've been trying to continue to grow that area, whether it be–on a number of fronts, whether it be commercial, whether it be residential or multi-use, mixed–I mean, there's prime opportunity, and I think the member knows that there's been a–several discussions about several opportunities, and I know those discussions are ongoing, and I'm sure that they want to get that right, going forward.
So, with that, again, I thank the member for bringing attention to those two areas, and I ask him again if he could provide us with the information–doesn't have to be today, but certainly can catch me on the side, and be more than happy to look into those two concerns that the member from River Heights has brought forward today.
Mr. Gerrard: I appreciate the minister's attention to this, and we'll provide him with additional information. Certainly, I'm at The Forks very regularly because it's a great place to be, and I hear things, just talking with people, talking to people who are there, talking to some of the merchants and so on. I think it's really important that as one of the premier places that we have in Manitoba that it is really attractive and has a comprehensive approach to bringing in people, and that includes what it historically has done very well, which is children and families to The Forks Market.
There–the other area, which has been brought up from time to time, is that although there's been some significant changes, that sometimes there are spaces there which have been left vacant for quite some time, and so the question would be, you know, is this optimum? Can the space be better managed? Is there a way of making sure that, you know, if somebody leaves, that you're ready to have people moving in soon, and the–historically, I will add one more thing–historically, the merchants at The Forks have made investments, and some of them, very substantial, you know, well over $100,000 and sometimes considerably more, in the space. And there was a change in policy so that merchants who have made those investments, now they cannot pass that lease on, they cannot, you know, use that investment, as small businesses often do, to enable them to have, as it were, a pension, to look after or to live on when they retire. And so that there have been some concerns raised with me as to the approach that's being taken with merchants because of this shift in policy.
So I thank the minister for his attention.
Mr. Wharton: Thank the member again from River Heights. Just regarding the board, the member is likely aware that the board is made up of federal, provincial and municipal leaders, of course, within Manitoba and Canada and Winnipeg. So, you know, it's great group of folks that are obviously working together to ensure that the best investments are made and the–obviously, we take full advantage of the–some of the areas and ensure that we get it right as far as investment in some of these areas that the member from River Heights is talking about that are–that have been sitting empty for quite some time. And, you know, in my initial discussions with the board, in my early tenure as Municipal Relations Minister, it's encouraging to see, you know, the, obviously, the enthusiasm, the excitement about moving forward a lot further and a lot faster than has happened in the past. I mean, obviously, it's–we would like to see it fully done and developed and just a vibrant place. It is an attraction, as we know. I have folks coming in this summer that–coming from the States and–