Saturday, March 29, 2008

David Chartrand grandstanding again?

Tansi/Good Day Readers:

Remember the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed many thousands? Shortly thereafter David Chartrand announced the MMF was contributing $25,000 to a United Nations disaster fund which had been established. Great you say?

We received an anonymous e-mail from someone in the Federation's Finance Department saying President Chartrand had been advised headquarers could have trouble meeting its next payroll. The writer went on to describe a situation in which at the time Mr. Chartrand was given the news his reaction was since the organization was already significantly in debt what was another $25,000? It was at this point the source offered he was grandstanding.

Here's what we'd like you to consider:

(1) For the past couple years, rumours have circulated on the internet the Federation may be as much as $1-2 million in debt

(2) Blogs have reported the Metis National Council could be $3 million in the red with suggestions money may be flowing from the Manitoba Metis Federation to the MNC to keep it afloat

(3) When was an MMF Provincial Board of Directors meeting held passing a Motion to pledge $1 million to The Friends of Upper Fort Garry? What was the vote outcome or is this another case of David Chartrand acting on his own?

(4) When federal-provincial funders give the MMF taxpayer dollars, is any of it specifically earmarked for causes such as this? If so, how much and in which budget line can it be found? In the alternative, is this an expenditure which must be siphoned from elswere?

(5) Note in the Winnipeg Free Press article the federal and provincial governments have already donated. Why must we now double contribute via the Manitoba Metis Federation?

Please understand. We support this worthy cause, however, we can only conlcude a $1 million donation at this time from the taxpayer funded Manitoba Metis Federation ledership is grandstanding yet again!

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

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bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca
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Upper Fort Garry Site Saved
Developer Drops Apartment Plan

By Bartley Kives
Updated: March 29 at 12:10 AM CDT

A 10-month struggle that pitted heritage advocates against downtown-housing proponents has ended as the Friends of Upper Fort Garry have won the right to build a historical park at the site of Winnipeg's birthplace.
Late on Friday afternoon, Crystal Developers walked away from a $1.2-million deal for a chunk of surplus city land at the corner of Fort Street and Assiniboine Avenue -- an empty parking lot that had become the most contentious piece of real estate in Winnipeg.


Crystal wanted to erect a 20-storey apartment building at the site, which the Friends coveted for an interpretive centre that would serve as a centrepiece for a $12.5-million heritage project.


The Friends had until Monday to raise $10 million of that cash to secure the site. But the deadline was rendered moot when Crystal offered the group two more years to meet their goal.


"At the current rate, we will raise something like $300 million," Friends spokesman Jerry Gray joked at city hall, noting his volunteer group secured $8.2 million from the public and private donations in only 106 days.


Gray thanked Crystal Developers for their "kindness and generosity" by allowing the Friends "far more than enough" time to complete their fundraising.


Only last week, Crystal owner Ruben Spletzer appeared at city hall to insist a deal was a deal. But he said he had a change of heart after Mayor Sam Katz called to tell him the Friends were about to miss their deadline.
"A week can change someone's mind," said Spletzer, insisting he had not been offered any incentives to walk away from his deal with the city.


"When I saw the efforts of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry and the response from the community, we felt we could make our contribution. As a good citizen in a wonderful city, you do your thing."


Spletzer said Crystal Developers will now focus on a development planned for Sterling Lyon Parkway in southwest Winnipeg before possibly pursuing another downtown housing project.


"My dream is gone, so you set aside your dream and look for another one," he said.


Winnipeg needs to move more quickly to create more downtown housing, said Katz, who also insisted Spletzer's about-face does not signal the city does not honour its deals.


"He did not have to do this. He chose to do this," the mayor said.


Councillors who lobbied on behalf of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry were magnanimous in victory. St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who jousted bitterly with Katz in recent weeks, congratulated the mayor for "doing the right thing," while Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt said "there are no winners or losers" after a divisive public debate that he concluded is over.


On Monday, the downtown-development boss will chair another closed-door meeting to decide the fate of the former fort -- this time to ensure the establishment of a heritage park.


The Doer government, meanwhile, will still pursue plans to designate Upper Fort Garry a provincial park, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton said.

"It will take some time, but you already have a clearly designated historical site," he said in a telephone interview from Thompson.

The Friends of Upper Fort Garry still have work to do, as the group must purchase Fort Street's Grain Exchange Curling Club, which sits above the northwest corner of Upper Fort Garry's former footprint.

The Friends will also look at redeveloping land currently occupied by a Petro-Canada station at the corner of Broadway and Main Street, but not until some time in the future, Gray said.


To date, the Friends have raised $3 million from the federal and provincial governments and a further $5.2 million from non-governmental sources, including a $1-million pledge made by the Manitoba Metis Federation on Friday.

The surplus city land destined for the heritage park has a market value of approximately $5.5 million, according to city estimates.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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