Winnipeg councillors lament loss of Amazon deal

A Winnipeg city councillor is calling out The City of Winnipeg on what he calls “a missed opportunity” to have a major Amazon distribution centre built in Transcona, potentially bringing thousands of jobs to the area.

Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor Kevin Klein said in a news release that he recently learned about a group representing Amazon that had approached the city about building a new facility in the industrial area of Transcona.

“As part of their proposal, Amazon requested that an underpass be built at Dugald Road and Ravenhurst Street. The City of Winnipeg saw no benefit and declined,” said the release, “A second proposal was then made by the group, this time with Amazon offering to cover the cost of the underpass and potentially with the city issuing a TIF (tax increment financing) over several years to cover some of the cost. Again, the city saw no value in the opportunity and declined.”

Transcona councillor Shawn Nason says he found out about Amazon’s interest six months ago, “The land owner in this case back in February let me know that there were some conversations with Amazon, they were seeking a TIF for building an underpass in the range of 65 to 80 million dollars.”

But Nason says that by the time he was made aware of the proposal, Amazon had already moved on.

“It’s unfortunate, by the time it came to by attention it sounded like it was pretty much a done deal, and there wasn’t life left to it from the landowner’s perspective.”

Nason says he raised the issue as a missed opportunity at the February 24th council meeting, although he did not mention Amazon by name. “We have a big city, and when opportunities like this come around … we as city officials should be aware of it … we should be included in some dialogue. It doesn’t seem to have occurred in this case.”

The City said in an email to CTV News Winnipeg that conversations held with potential stakeholders are confidential, and therefore cannot be shared with council, “The City will at times participate in multi-stakeholder discussions, including Economic Development Winnipeg, with the aim of attracting large, multi-national businesses to Winnipeg. As part of those discussions, multiple considerations would be discussed, and all efforts would be made to reach an agreement that benefits Winnipeg taxpayers, contributes to the economic growth of the city, and meets the needs of the proponents.”

Nason says he’s still not aware of who Amazon was having these discussions with. He wishes they had come to him first.

“It boggles my mind how the city of Winnipeg works when it comes to these large economic opportunities. I would prefer if Amazon as a retailer is looking to establish, if they come to the councillor, and the councillor can work with the public service, and we can all be on the same page,” he said.

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