Our City, Our Community: Creating Connections in Winnipeg
There’s a palpable tension in Winnipeg that’s been growing over the past few weeks. You might find this surprising, given we just won the Grey Cup for the first time in decades, but it’s there. This tension revealed itself when the City presented their four-year budget process, in which they anticipate having to make cuts to libraries, fire services, Transit, and more. The budget cuts stem from a variety of different revenue shortages, for example, cuts to Winnipeg Transit funding, a legal case holding up growth fees, and rapid growth in bedroom communities whose taxes do not contribute to the City’s tax base. The fear of declining services in the inner-city has caused some to call out urban sprawl as a culprit for the cuts. A popular blogger in Winnipeg had their article, Waverley Wexit, go viral in recent weeks. In the article, the author (jokingly) suggests Waverley West leave the city. Many citizens, angry with the most recent budget proposals, seem to agree.
We can’t go on like this.
Back in 1972, we decided to amalgamate all of the communities surrounding the City of Winnipeg. One of the main concerns about amalgamation was that the suburbs becoming a part of the city would wield disproportionate power, and take money away from the inner-city. That may have happened, but they’ve also become a part of the city and nowadays, it’s impossible to imagine Winnipeg without St. Boniface, Transcona, the Kildonans, and all the other neighborhoods that make us vibrant and unique.
To suggest that Waverley West, Sage Creek, or any other of the new communities being built in Winnipeg are the source of the problems we’re having is a bit naive; our City has always been a mosaic of different communities coming together, a reflection of the broad ideals our nation strives towards. We’re the City of Folklorama, we’re the Heart of the Continent, a welcoming home for new immigrants. Our sense of community must be grounded in our diversity, whether that be respect for newcomers to Canada or respect for the people living in Waverley West.
How then, in the face of budget cuts that seem to pit communities and branches of the municipal government against each other, do we find ways to come together? One way is to support local businesses. Support newer businesses, like Paint with Pinnacle and Activate Games. And keep supporting businesses like Cantor’s Meats, Korban Funeral Chapel, and City Bread that have been owned by Winnipeggers for generations and have given a lot back to Winnipeg and Winnipeggers. City Bread, for example, donated a large sum towards a new bakery for the Culinary Arts students at Red River College.
On the subject of Red River College, supporting the businesses that are being created by graduates of our post-secondary institutions is another great way of building community. Our tech sector has been growing rapidly in the last few years and supporting these startups with your business or by investing in them helps keep Winnipeggers in the city and helps grow our economy.
Although investing money in the city helps to grow our community, you can’t buy everything here, and there’s only so much any one person can do to contribute to our economy. There are, fortunately, a growing number of other ways to contribute, thanks to the rise of social media. When you’re at local businesses, take a picture if you like what they offer, and post it online, be it on Instagram or other platforms. Tag them in your posts so other people know about the great businesses in the City of Winnipeg.
You don’t only have to post about businesses, either. Did you take a nice stroll on the grounds of the Legislative Building? Take a picture, make a post. Enjoying the celebrations at Festival du Voyageur? You know what to do. Enjoying a beer at the Common? Let the people know! Our city’s cultural clout has been growing rapidly ever since the Jets came back and it shows no sign of slowing. The more Winnipeggers and foreigners see about our city’s vibrant culture, the more likely they are to spend money here, to visit, and to live here.
Follow local businesses and entrepreneurs on social media and tell your friends about them. Take the time to attend local markets, be they the Downtown Farmer’s Market or Third + Bird. Wear merch showing off our sports teams. Go to the free events the city puts on, from the Jets’ playoff street parties to the Santa Claus Parade. In other words, be an active participant in the culture; get out and enjoy what Winnipeg has to offer, and let other people know you did.
Another way you can promote community in our city is to be involved in activities and planning. Be civically active. Join community groups and check for volunteer opportunities to help local charities. Check SpeakUp Winnipeg to learn about issues where the city is seeking citizen input. Follow the City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Transit, the Winnipeg Police Service, and other municipal branches on Facebook. The more people who volunteer their time and energy, the more tightly knit our community will become. What’s more, you’ll be able to have a say in how Winnipeg grows and changes and you can help make it an even better place to live!
Don’t have the time to volunteer? That’s okay, community is built in subtle ways. Next time you’re walking down the street, smile at people you see. When you’re waiting at a bus stop, strike up a conversation with other commuters. When you’re in a store, talk to the owner, and when you leave, thank the person at the till. Kindness, openness, and a willingness to meet new people - these traits all help build a community.
Even if the world feels more stratified and divided, there’s no reason to point this energy at ourselves. We can create a world of connection, one where love and understanding are at the root of our community - a world that reflects Canada’s grand aspirations. Be the change you want to see - community starts with you.