Winnipeg, A City for ALL OUR Children – Child Friendly City Policy, Water Parks and Voting Age.

Winnipeg, A City for ALL OUR Children

Child Friendly City policy Document for printing


Children are the future of our city. Children who grow up feeling truly at home here, as safe, active, engaged citizens, will be adults who contribute to making Winnipeg a great city for the generations to come.

Children are also among our most vulnerable citizens, and their hardships or well-being are the best indicators of what our city is like as a home for all of us.

Children are a major population group in Winnipeg; over 20% of our citizens are under the age of 18.[1] As Mayor I will work with city council, community organizations, and individuals to honour the children of Winnipeg and place their well-being at the heart of our decision-making.


Consultation with children themselves and those who work with them is essential. This policy statement sets out strong ideas, which are subject to revision based on future input from the young people of Winnipeg and their families, caregivers and allies.


There is a world-wide movement toward developing Child Friendly Cities.[2] Citizens have already called on Winnipeg to join this movement,[3] and as Mayor I will make this a priority. This will make our efforts for children part of an international network and we will be in a good position to learn from others and share ideas.

The basic principles of a child-friendly city are simple but transformative: to make the well-being of children a fundamental consideration in every aspect of city policy, and to open city governance to the active participation of children and youth.

Children’s Well-Being at the Heart of City Policy

Every issue this campaign is addressing involves children. The more we realize this, the more we will make wise decisions that are good for everyone.

Improving our infrastructure, our transit system and our support for cycling will allow children to move around Winnipeg more easily to visit friends, participate in activities and educational programs, and enjoy our city’s cultural and recreational opportunities.

Improving housing and reducing poverty will affect the lives of children profoundly. Manitoba has high rates of child poverty compared to other provinces,[4] and childhoods spent in poverty diminish hope for the next generation of adults and their children. Here in Winnipeg we confront a particular issue with criminal gangs which enlist their members as children. As a city we need to find ways to offer young people the sense of shared power, community and opportunity that gangs offer in a temporary and illusory way.[5]

As Mayor, I will work to put in place “a systematic process to assess the impact of [city] law, policy and practice on children – in advance, during and after implementation” and an annual “State of the City’s Children” report.[6]

Active Participation of Children in City Governance

“Research has shown there are distinct benefits to including a youth voice in municipal governance. Young people offer intelligence, creative thinking, and valuable perspectives on the world. By treating youth as equal partners in the governance process, a stronger relationship is built between young people and civic government.”[7]

There are various ways to make this ideal a reality. Regina City Council’s committee structure includes a Youth Advisory Committee consisting of ten teenagers together with one adult city councillor and the Mayor.[8] This is similar to youth advisory committees in several other municipalities.[9] Here in Winnipeg, community organizations such as the Winnipeg Public Library have youth councils which could provide a model for setting one up at City Hall.[10] Taking a different approach, the City of Surrey, BC, this summer appointed two youth representatives to each of nine regular city committees. [11] The role of young people in city governments often includes organizing gatherings for broader consultation with children and their families in the community.[12]

Young members for an advisory council or for existing city committees can be recruited through schools, community groups, existing youth organizations and advertising to the general public, including social media. A diverse group of young people will be chosen with the help of community organizations, and new applicants will be accepted year by year. Positions will be open to elementary school children as well as teenagers – young children already participate in socially relevant activities such as We Act, the year-round extension of the annual We Day events;[13] their insights and energy are a resource for all of us. These will be volunteer positions which will be an impressive addition to young people’s resumes and will set the on a course of long-term active involvement in our city’s life.

Lowering the Voting Age to 16

I am committed to ensuring that our youth learn about the importance of voting. Studies show that people who start voting when they are younger will consistently participate in their democracies. With the long term decline in voting participation among all groups, it has become imperative that the municipal arena show leadership in developing innovative ideas that will allow long term renewal of our democracy. I will reduce the municipal voting age to 16 in the city of Winnipeg so that students will not only be able to study democracy in school but be participating members. [14]  This reduction in voting age will need negotiations with the provincial government who I am sure would like to demonstrate innovation in increasing public participation in democracy. People were opposed when suffrage was increased to include non-property owners, women and aboriginal peoples, but the idea of large scale inclusion has become a basic principle in Western democracy. We need greater voting rates if democracies are to maintain the level of legitimacy needed to be relevant. Fewer than 40% of people voted in municipal elections in recent history.


As Mayor I will work with youth advisors, community organizations, City Council, and City staff, to coordinate and build on Winnipeg’s existing programs and services that make our city a good place for children and families. Here are some examples.

Block Parents: This is a volunteer network of adults providing safe havens for children in emergencies, and making our neighbourhoods safer.[15] This valuable program has become inactive in several provinces; we need it to continue here.[16] We will maintain and strengthen the City’s support of the Block Parents program through Winnipeg Police.[17]

Community Gardens: The City makes it possible for community groups to set up gardens on public land.[18] These gardens can be an excellent way for city children to work with the earth at first hand, and to be involved in growing their own food as well as the flowers and other decorative plants which beautify our city and make for a healthier atmosphere.

The process for setting up a community garden should be simplified and streamlined. Also, at present the rules around boulevard gardens are confusing and there have been mixed messages from the City about what is permitted. The use of boulevard space for flower or vegetable gardens by citizens in front of their own houses should simply be encouraged.

Cycling: The city’s Active Transportation Plan[19] must see greater priority given to encouraging cycling, which a healthy and child-friendly way of getting around the city and spending time outdoors. Tragic recent events have drawn attention to how much still needs to be done. Much better infrastructure is needed for safe family cycling and I will make this a priority.[20]

Family outings and festivals: Winnipeg has the Manitoba Museum, a first-class Children’s Museum, and the soon-to-open Canadian Museum of Human Rights; a constantly improving zoo; the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival and many other destinations for satisfying family outings.

The downside of these attractions is often their expense. As one parent of a young boy noted, “my feeling about the Kids Fest was a sickly one, seeing the fences go up and thinking ‘as if we are going to let some children in and keep others out!’”[21] The museums and zoo are quite expensive as family outings.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival has set a good example this year by introducing free admission for children 12 and under with their families. The City needs to work with festivals and institutions to explore possibilities for free admission, sliding scales, and family passes which could be used for repeated admission to the same attraction or visits to several different ones.


Other festivals must also ensure that program if it continues to receive city funding under the Child Friendly City Policy must have child Friendly programing for all citizens.

Free transit: The Downtown Spirit free bus service has been recognized as an important service to Winnipeggers, especially those living in poverty.[22] Children five and under ride free on all of Winnipeg Transit when accompanied by an adult. These are important measures, because transit can be a significant cost to families. If it is not affordable, children will be limited in the possibility of getting around in the city and participating in activities, or they may be deprived of other needs because of the cost of transit.

We need to consider extending free transit beyond what is already in place, and making sure that transit is affordable overall. Many cities worldwide, including several in the USA, have made some component of their public transit free for everyone; we should compare these programs with our Downtown Spirit bus and see if we can do more.[23] The Victoria, BC region has taken an imaginative approach to encouraging family transit use, providing free transit to up to four children age 12 or less when riding with an adult. This is an option we should consider.[24]

The fare structure should not be based on any notion of Winnipeg Transit paying for itself. A good and affordable transit system is good for the whole city, and for families and children in particular.

Libraries: The Winnipeg Public Library is an excellent network of family-friendly and youth-friendly resources, in buildings it is a pleasure to spend time in, with friendly and helpful staff, offering books, videos, computer access, and programming such as reading groups and lectures, year round.

We will build on this resource by improving library hours. Most children are in school Monday through Friday and many adults are at work on those days. Therefore it is particularly important for libraries to be open on weekends. But as it stands, most of our libraries are closed on Sundays, and almost all are closed both Saturdays and Sundays during the summer. This needs to change.[25] The cost to do this would be minimal because Quebec City Libraries in 2008 started opening for extended periods when people actually needed them. Instead of having a full complement of staff, staffing was staggered throughout the day and evening to allow more citizens to use this important resource.

I will also work with school boards to ensure that any new infrastructure related to libraries is built next to schools. Various levels of government must learn to share and plan long-term. The new Transcona library must be built with schools boards so that our children have access to knowledge and city resources which are there to serve them.

Swimming Pools and Water Play: Fun and play are part of what keeps us healthy and happy as individuals and as a city. “Recreation provides direct benefits to individuals and families including physical health, quality of life, mental health, family health and stability, and social inclusion…. Investment in recreation in low-income neighbourhoods leads ­to a reduction in crime, anti-social behaviour, and gang involvement.”[26]

Winnipeg offers a few free outdoor swimming pools through the summer as well as free indoor swims at various pools year round.[27] We need to ensure that more of these facilities are open to all citizens and encourage active living. There are splash pads, for young children’s summer play, in several parks.[28] The city has also made the important decision to re-open and maintain the Sherbrook Pool, which offers affordable and accessible recreation to residents of a low-income area. All this is excellent for children’s and families’ pleasure in city living, and their physical health.

We will build on this good foundation in a number of ways. We need to make sure the spray pads have shaded areas. We can provide free swimming lessons: we already pay lifeguards – in addition to watching swimmers, they can also be teaching. We care the able to form swim clubs during the summer and keep our children active.

A group of working-class mothers have told me they feel the city needs an indoor water park. Currently in Winnipeg these exist only in hotels. They spend large amounts of money and time traveling to Grand Forks or Minnesota to take their children to water parks and would love to spend their money in Winnipeg. The City of Calgary operates Wave Pools with slides that are very popular. Kids and families get use these facilities at a very reasonable cost.[29] [30]Besides the benefits to families, children and society, something like this would be a draw for tourists and boost our city’s economy.[31]

I am committed to building 4 new aquatic centers in the city, which are connected to local schools. These aquatic centers will be large enough to serve the local population and one center will also serve as a year round tourist attraction. The cost will be $15 122 500. The price per square foot is $263 (2003 price) converted to $302.45 using Stats Canada Industrial Price Index[32] with three pools at 10 000 square feet and one 20 000 square foot aquatic center.

A center like this could be expected to generate revenues of that would cover 50% of all costs to maintain the facility. Further savings could be found by using automated payment machines instead of employees.

Winter Activities: Winnipeg’s long, cold winters can be difficult for all of us. The City already offers many outdoor activities such as skating, skiing and tobogganing;[33] there are winter festivals like Festival du Voyageur; and there are many indoor opportunities for activities as well, many of them listed in the City’s seasonally updated Leisure Guide which is available to the public in print and on line.[34]

We need to make sure that information about these opportunities is widely available and easily accessed. The City’s website and publications should let people know not only about City programs but about community efforts such as the Cinematheque’s “Cabin Fever” free winter movie series.[35] We must not rest on our laurels, but make sure year by year that there are indoor and outdoor opportunities for recreation and physical activity throughout the winter, in every part of the City, and that financial need is no barrier to participation.


There are also ways in which our City is failing our children and their families, and I will focus on serious improvements in these areas. Two of the most important of these areas are transit improvement, and poverty reduction, which I have made separate statements about. In addition, the following issues need to be addressed:

More Child Care: Winnipeg has high quality day care providers, an essential service for many families and for our society as a whole. “The childcare sector has a significant economic and social impact in Winnipeg. It enables parents to work, and reduces poverty. Childcare, just like a transportation system, is a part of the urban infrastructure that enables people to get to work. Employers need childcare, since their bottom line is hurt when they can’t recruit and retain staff. Good quality childcare, research shows, is good for children, good for mothers, good for their families, and good for society. Investments in early childhood development yield high public as well as private returns. Economists have estimated returns between two to seven times the original investment.”[36]

But there is not nearly enough quality and affordable child care available in Winnipeg. “Manitoba has a licensed childcare space for only one in five children who needs care.”[37] Although the provincial government has taken overall responsibility for child care in Manitoba, the city must get involved. Ten years ago, the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba, based on widespread community consultation, called for a “made-in-Winnipeg” strategy for child care.[38] The time has come to respond to this call.

Among other specific steps, we can make sure to communicate with the provincial government so that the importance of child care is understood and that every step is taken to make more spaces available. We need to review city zoning regulations to make sure they are not discouraging child care providers – and consider requiring child care spaces as a requirement for rezoning, as the City of Vancouver has done.[39] The city could offer subsidies for child care in addition to those offered by the province. And perhaps the city could open its own child care centres as several Ontario cities have done.[40] For families who do not need daily child care, drop-in centres need better support and publicity.

Transportation outside the City

Winnipeg is surrounded by opportunities for rewarding family day trips, especially in the summer: pick-your-own berry farms; Birds’ Hill Park; Lake Winnipeg; and a little further afield, the Whiteshell, the Narcisse Snake Dens, or Spruce Woods / Spirit Sands. But how are lower-income families to get to them? For those who don’t own vehicles, or can’t afford the increasing price of gas, there are few options. Historically, Lake Winnipeg was once accessible to lower-income Winnipeggers by train, but getting there has required a car for many years now.           Beginning last summer a new company, Winnipeg Beach Bus, has introduced limited service to Grand Beach as well as Bird’s Hill Park and some events like the Icelandic Festival in Gimli. The City should seize the opportunity provided by this initiative from the private sector, partner with this company and build on its work to make pleasure trips outside of the city accessible and affordable for all.


To sum up, I will quote the vision statement of the city of Surrey, British Columbia, as it seeks to become a Child Friendly City. Here too, we seek:

  • A community where children and youth are valued community members and actively contribute their time, ideas and perspectives to civic life.
  • A community that promotes social connectedness, where children and youth feel safe, have freedom of movement, green space and opportunities for play and imagination.
  • A community where all children and youth are able to access enriching and engaging programs and services that promote their healthy development regardless of their family’s income or background.[41]

Annex A.

Economy Hotels with Waterparks[42]

Economy hotels are typically brand names like Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Microtel, Red Roof Inns, Rodeway Inns, Super 8 and Travelodge. In the USA, average room rates are $56. Having an indoor waterpark can increase the average room rate up to $96 for an economy hotel.

Coy and Haralson surveyed economy hotels with less than 100 rooms and indoor waterparks. The average hotel had 74 rooms and 8,196 sf of indoor waterpark. That’s a ratio of 110 sf per room for the indoor waterpark. All economy hotels in the USA have an average of 115 rooms. Coy and Haralson determined that hotels in this category can generally support an indoor waterpark up to 12,500 square feet in size using the number of rooms times 110 sf rule of thumb, assuming demand is present.

In the Economy hotel category, the term “waterpark” may be an over-statement, as many of the projects are really indoor pool enhancements — such as adding a small waterslide, a water spray and some play equipment. Nevertheless, if you have a 60-room Super 8 or Days Inn, your market may be able to support up to a 6,600 sf indoor waterpark.

The 51-room AmericInn in Orr, Minnesota has a 2,435 sf indoor pool. The indoor pool has a 30 foot tower in the corner of the pool building to accommodate a 20 foot high slide tower. This extra height gives owner Jim Langer the competitive advantage of having two waterslides, two pools and a spa inside his pool building. Is it an indoor waterpark by definition? Probably not, but don’t tell Jim. His hotel is the first choice among families, anyway. You can reach Jim Langer at 218-757-3434.

In Canada, the rule of thumb is different. Coy and Haralson surveyed economy hotels with less than 100 rooms and indoor waterparks in Canada — resulting in an average hotel with 69 rooms and a 2,918 sf indoor waterpark. That is a ratio of 42 sf of indoor waterpark per guest room.

The largest concentration of Economy Hotels with indoor waterparks is in Canada, particularly in Alberta, home of West Edmonton Mall’s giant indoor waterpark and home of Amusement Leisure Worldwide of Calgary. David Orr, president of ALW, says his company has installed waterslides and play structures in dozens of Super 8s, Days Inns, Comfort Inns, HoJos, Travelodges and Imperial 400s throughout Canada. In some projects, slides and play equipment were simply installed inside indoor pools while other projects required the construction of a shell building to house the addition of an indoor waterpark.

Construction costs for an indoor waterpark attached to an Economy Hotel will vary between $237 and $263 per square foot. Here is a typical development budget for an indoor waterpark:


 . Hotel A Hotel B Hotel C
Number of Rooms 60 85 100
Size of Indoor Waterpark 2453 SqFt 2720 Sq Ft 9373 SqFt
. . . .
Cost of Waterpark Items
Building Shell $269,830 $299,200 $1,031,030
HVAC $36,795 $40,800 $140,595
Pools & Mechanical $100,100 $134,200 $762,740
Spa Pools $15,575 $15,400 $17,850
Snack Bar $8,500 $17,000 $25,500
Support Areas $19,890 $15,390 $54,000
Theming $30,000 $50,000 $150,000
Waterslides & Recreation Equipment $100,000 $115,000 $287,000
Construction Costs $580,690 $686,990 $2,468,715
Cost per sf of waterpark $237 $253 $263

Prepared by JLC Hospitality Consulting with data provided by Amusement Leisure Worldwide.


[1] 2006 census data: ages 0-14 add up to 17.7%; ages 15-19 are another 6.8%

[2] This is supported by UNICEF; see Various Canadian cities are involved, including Surrey, BC, which has detailed information on the ideals and practicalities of their steps in this direction, on their website: (The documents there could be good resources for further ideas for this policy statement.) On Edmonton’s commitment see

[3] For example,

[4] Campaign 2000 Manitoba Child and Family Report Card 2013,

[5] See the recent book Indians Wear Red and the authors’ summary here:

[6] UNICEF, Building Child Friendly Cities, p. 4 –

[7] “Surrey appoints 18 youth representatives to its advisory committees,”

[8] See and Not so Winnipeg, see

[9] Calgary has had a Mayor’s Youth Council since 1992, Edmonton is establishing a Youth Council, see p. 13.

The Government of Manitoba has a youth advisory council, since 2003, though its members are ages 15-24.


[11] “Surrey appoints 18 youth representatives to its advisory committees,”

[12] See on youth forums in Surrey, and pages 4-6 of the Regina Youth Advisory Committee’s report at


[14] Not only will turnout increase for the remainder of young voter’s lives, the turnout of their parents will increase as well: “A 1996 survey by Bruce Merrill, an Arizona State University journalism professor, found a strong increase in turnout. Merrill compared turnout of registered voters in five cities with Kids Voting with turnout in five cities without the program. Merrill found that between five and ten percent of respondents reported Kids Voting was a factor in their decision to vote. This indicated that 600,000 adults nationwide were encouraged to vote by the program.”






[20] This point was suggested by Melanie Richters, whose dedication to family cycling is profiled here:

[21] Alon Weinberg, personal communication to Justin Jaron Lewis.

[22] Page 4,

[23] See the links at

[24] Another comparison: Regina Transit charges about the same as Winnipeg for an adult transit ticket ($2.50 in Regina, $2.55 in Winnipeg) but much less for a monthly pass: $62 rather than $84.70; and high school students, a monthly pass in Regina costs $47 compared to $58.90 in Winnipeg.,

[25] If it appears impractical for budgetary reasons to add so many open hours to the libraries’ schedules, an alternative would be to rearrange the existing schedules to open later in the day. Currently many libraries open – on their open days – at 10 am. This is not much use to children in school and adults with regular work schedules. If necessary we could limit library hours to late afternoons and early evenings on weekdays, to open up hours on weekends.

[26] Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: Fast Facts: The Sherbrook Pool and the struggle for inner-city health and recreation

[27] Free pools:



[30] file:///C:/Users/ouelletr/Downloads/SROI+BeltlineExecutive+Sum.FINAL.pdf







[37] Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba, “Manitoba Needs a Public Childcare System” The figure is about the same for Winnipeg, see



[40] For example: Ottawa,; Toronto



  2 comments for “Winnipeg, A City for ALL OUR Children – Child Friendly City Policy, Water Parks and Voting Age.

  1. July 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I think you have every one of my concerns addressed.

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