By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s opposition parties say the provincial government is looking at selling off a shopping centre and connected office tower in downtown Winnipeg.
The New Democrats and Liberals point to a document recently given to them by Premier Brian Pallister in response to questions they had raised about Manitoba Public Insurance.
The document says the Crown corporation plans to improve Cityplace mall for a possible sale.
Manitoba Public Insurance purchased the mall a decade ago for $80 million.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew says owning the mall helps the Crown corporation keep rates low, and any sale would put rates at risk.
Jeff Wharton, the minister of Crown services, says there are no immediate plans to sell the mall and some improvements are being considered to fill 100,000 square feet of vacant office space.
“There are no current plans to sell off Cityplace right now,” Wharton said Monday.
“I know in discussions with MPI that they’re, of course, looking to invest in the property to ensure that they can attract tenants as they go forward.”
The Crown corporation, which has a monopoly on general vehicle insurance in Manitoba, has many of its offices in the building. There are also two floors of retail space that include a liquor store, food court and more.
The government document, titled “Matters Under Advisement”, was prepared in late September to answer questions opposition parties had raised at a budget committee hearing. It says MPI is analysing its Cityplace location.
The objectives of the analysis are to reduce occupancy costs, vacate 70,000 square feet of office tower space and “maximize Cityplace’s value and position the property for potential sale”.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Winnipeg’s downtown has suffered from businesses moving out and the government should keep its workers in place. He also said owning office space can be economical.
“It means you’re not just paying rent to a private company,” Lamont said.