The rises and falls of a prairie city

Photo: Assiniboine Park Pavilion. Source: Winnipeg Foundation files

The 1990s opened with the federal government reducing its transfer payments to the provinces in order to deal with its own deficit. Provincial governments are still complaining.

During the 1980s, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney attempted to introduce various amendments to the Constitution designed to make it possible for Quebec to join the other provinces in supporting the Act. In June 1990, after seemingly endless negotiations, it appeared the Meech Lake Accord was close to receiving the support of all provinces. During the approval process, Manitoba MLA Elijah Harper refused to give his support to the Accord because it ignored Indigenous issues. With that, support crumbled in other provinces and the Accord failed to be ratified. Shortly after that, in July, the Oka Crisis began. For many Canadians, it was their first glimpse into the tensions between government and Indigenous peoples.

In 1993 Yvan Dumont was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, the Province’s first Métis Queen’s representative. In June of the same year, Kim Campbell won the Progressive Conservative Leadership, defeating Jean Charest and becoming the first female Prime Minister of Canada. Her time was short lived, however, when Jean Chretien won a majority in the election of October 1993. Two Winnipeggers, Lloyd Axworthy and Jon Gerrard, were appointed to the cabinet. In celebration of Axworthy’s support for our community, a fund was established in his name at The Winnipeg Foundation in 1998.

In 1992, the Canada 125 Corporation was established to lead Canada’s 125th birthday celebrations. It concluded its mandate by proposing Canadians build a Trans Canada Trail that would run from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Today, the route has been built across the country by many local groups. It is now called the Great Trail of Canada and runs through Winnipeg.

In 1993, smoking was banned in the Winnipeg Arena, except in the basement. Ten years later, Winnipeg would be one of the first cities to ban smoking in restaurants.

That same year, residents of Headingley seceded from Winnipeg saying its needs were not being met by the capital city. Also in 1993, it was revealed that the inspiration for the cartoon of Walt Disney’s Snow White was a Winnipeg waitress, Kristin Solvadottir. The character was drawn by Charles Thorson, a Winnipegger who went to Hollywood and worked for Walt Disney.

The Winnipeg Jets left the city in 1996, moving to Phoenix, Arizona. It was a crushing blow for many in the city. Winnipeg was not without a hockey team for long as the Manitoba Moose came to the town later that year, however return of NHL hockey would not come until 2011.

In 1997, Winnipeg experienced the “Flood of the Century” ¬ the most severe flood since the early 1800s. It resulted the evacuation of 28,000 people and damages totaling $500 million. Luckily, the Red River Floodway, completed after the 1950 flood, diverted some of the water away from Winnipeg, but flooding outside the city was extensive.

In 1999, tempers flared at a Winnipeg School Division (WSD) Board meeting over the issue of introducing anti-homophobic curriculum. Despite objections from some, the Board of Trustees passed a motion to ensure all staff were aware of existing anti-racist and anti-harassment policies.

On July 23, 1999 Princess Anne officially opened the second Pan Am Games to be held in Winnipeg. Approximately 5,000 athletes from 42 nations participated at the games. An enormous number of local people ¬ 20,000 volunteers ¬ worked to make the games a success. Financially, the 1999 games ended with a surplus of $8.9 million dollars, half of which was gifted to The Winnipeg Foundation to establish the Pan Am Legacy Fund in support of the National Sports Centre-Manitoba, known today as the Canada Sport Centre Manitoba.

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