Province Announces Location of New Sobering Centre in Thompson

Polaris Centre will be Repurposed to Support Safer, Healthier Community: Friesen

Header Image: Stephen Allen giving Mayor Colleen Smook the keys to the Polaris Buildings.

This announcement was originally published by the Government of Manitoba here.

The Manitoba government is transferring ownership of the former Polaris Centre at the University of the North to the City of Thompson to house a sobering centre in the community, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen announced today.

“Sobering centres have been shown to reduce the number of intoxicated individuals who are hospitalized or held in holding cells. This model is better for the individual, and better for the utilization of police and emergency department resources,” said Friesen. “I’m pleased to announce this next step in the Thompson Sobering Centre project, which will support safety and health in Thompson and the surrounding regions.”

Sobering centres provide short-term recovery from intoxication in a safe setting, where individuals are medically cleared and monitored throughout their stay by on-site personnel. The new centre will provide a 24-7 safe and secure environment for non-violent, publicly intoxicated individuals to stay while the effects of drugs and/or alcohol wear off.

Public intoxication continues to be a significant health and public safety issue in Thompson, with over 2,400 detentions under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act in 2020 and over 1,100 so far in 2021. Public intoxication calls put a significant burden on Thompson’s RCMP detachment, as well as local health-care facilities.

“The Polaris buildings are a critical part of helping our most vulnerable residents find shelter and compassionate care in our community,” said Mayor Colleen Smook, City of Thompson. “We’re now looking forward to working with our community partners to provide that care, and mapping our next steps towards an integrated rehabilitation program.”

The Polaris Centre campus, constructed in 1968 at the corner of Princeton Drive and Station Road, sits on more than four acres of land and includes three buildings totaling 78,617 square feet of floor area. 

“This partnership with the City of Thompson has been terrific and I’m proud that we were able to support the community in this way,” said Central Services Minister Reg Helwer. “Repurposing this site will ensure people of Thompson have access to a safe environment for those that need it.”

The Manitoba government provided $2.8 million to establish and operate the centre, and will continue to work with the City of Thompson to open an interim centre in late fall/early winter while construction of the permanent centre continues.

The province continues to support law enforcement and community stakeholders in approaches to combat and reduce public intoxication and disorder in the downtown Thompson area and extend the Restorative Justice Centre model to the community.

Council Presents 2021 Financial Plan To Public

Last night, on April 29, 2021, the City of Thompson’s Mayor and Council presented the City of Thompson’s 2021 Financial Plan to the general public. The presentation is available, and a recording of the presentation and public comments are available on Youtube here.

The City of Thompson’s total budget is $40, 960, 592 in 2021. The combined mill rate of School District and City taxes has increased by 2% in 2021, from 45.706 in 2020 to 46.620.

This means that for a property assessed at $174, 680, owners will pay $3, 656 in City and School District taxes before the provincial education tax credit is applied, compared with $3, 584 in 2020: a difference of $72 across the whole year, roughly equivalent to a tank of gas at current prices.

The operational budget for 2021 is status quo, meaning that council has only approved those increases that are contractual obligations, including union wages and the local RCMP contract among others. Operational expenses are the day-to-day expenses of running a city: wages, consumables like gas and small spare parts, etc.

However, 2021 continues to be far from an average year in the City of Thompson. Though the last two years have created many hardships, it has also presented opportunities.

Capital Projects, ICIP and Improving Infrastructure

Capital expenditures are the big stuff: the fundamental building blocks that the City and it’s residents. This includes things like roads, water mains, and buildings.

Previously, capital projects like the City’s Road Renewal Program came were exclusively funded through reserves and provincial grants and transfers. For the first time in nearly a decade, the City of Thompson is allocating property tax dollars to capital projects, in order to qualify for infrastructure funding through the Investing in Canada’s Infrastructure Fund (ICIP).

If the City receives ICIP funding, each dollar of City contribution for road work will be met with $5 of provincial and federal funding, meaning in the first year, the City will be able to accomplish $5.7 million in road work while contributing only $955, 142.86.

Each dollar contributed towards water and sewer work will be met with $3 of provincial and federal funding. In the first year, the City would be able to accomplish $6.8 million in water and sewer work while contributing $1.8 million.

The total value of these multi-year projects combined adds up to $88 million, with the city responsible for 22% of the cost.

This funding is not a regular opportunity, and cannot be deferred with the expectation of receiving it in another year. Therefore, Council determined that taking advantage of this opportunity was critical.

Should the City not receive the ICIP grant, the money raised will not be spent, and Council will determine the next steps around what to do with the funds that were collected.

“We hear every year that road work is an extremely high priority for our residents. Road and water renewal is not a luxury, and has already been part of our capital renewal plan for years. This is an opportunity to speed up that process considerably while freeing up more resources for other community services.”

Colleen Smook, Mayor of Thompson

COVID-19 Stimulus Funding

COVID-19 has created a unique situation, as many typical sources of revenue were required to close. Between 2018 and 2020, the City of Thompson has reduced its expenses by $1.9 million, and efforts continue into 2021. These reductions helped ensure that potential shortfalls in the 2020 and 2021 budgets were largely balanced out.

Nonetheless, like other municipalities, the City of Thompson received additional COVID-19 stimulus funding from provincial and federal sources. As the City of Thompson did not have significant shortfalls to recover, it was able to divert these funds on the following initiatives:

Funded ItemsFunding Amount
ICIP Funding Matching Dollars (Pending Projects)$433,900
Jumpstart Park100,000
Increase Street Sweeping Program60,000
Outdoor rink upgrades50,000
Beautifying Thompson (Flags, Christmas, etc.)40,000
RCAF Snowbirds40,000
City Efficiency Audit40,000
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design20,000
Trails- Biking, Running15,000
Community Gardens10,000
2021 COVID-19 Stimulus Funding Allocations

“Since the beginning of our elected term, City Council and administration have been working hard to ensure Thompsonites get more for their tax dollars. Those efforts are starting to come together, and while they mean a small increase now, they’re incredibly important for the long-term health and sustainability of our community. We can’t let COVID-19 derail our future.”

Colleen Smook, Mayor of Thompson

All Northern Manitobans Over 18 Years Of Age Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccination

Header Photo: Mayor Colleen Smook Receives her first vaccination dose on April 7, 2021.

As of April 26, 2021 at 11:45am, all Manitobans who live within the Northern Health Region, or who work in the region regularly, are eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Individuals are encouraged to make their appointments by calling (toll-free) 1-844-626-8222 (1-844-MAN-VACC) or visiting

Prompt Vaccination Is Critical As Third Wave Looms

As variant cases become more prevalent in Manitoba and infections increase, the province is, in many ways, racing against the crest of a third wave to ensure vaccinations are delivered promptly.

In the announcement, Dr. Joss Reimer (medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force) stressed the importance of vaccination for Manitobans:

“The vaccine is one way we can slow the spread of this virus and control the third wave of COVID-19. We are seeing that everyone, including younger people, is experiencing more severe outcomes from COVID and it is important that we adjust our eligibility criteria to reflect what we know, so we can protect those at risk. More than one-third of Manitobans have been immunized, and I’d encourage everyone to do the same as soon as they are eligible.”

Dr. Joss Reimer, Vaccine Implementation Task Force, VACCINE ELIGIBILITY EXPANDING TO PROTECT ADULTS
IN NORTHERN MANITOBA, SEVEN OAKS WEST, Province of Manitoba, April 26, 2021

Looking Back: Cold Weather Shelters and COVID-19

With the worst of winter seemingly behind us in Thompson, we wanted to shed a spotlight on the Cold Weather Shelter program coordinated by the Thompson Homeless Shelter every winter.

Roughly 70 residents in Thompson are considered chronically homeless, but the Thompson Homeless can only accommodate 24 at a time. Though the Shelter-in-Place Program ran by the YWCA has accommodated an additional 25 residents in 2020/2021, that still leaves an excess of roughly 20 residents without homes who need to seek alternative shelter on a nightly basis.

When temperatures reached a critical threshold (in our case, -35C), the warming shelters at Thompson’s ice rinks continued to be used as cold weather shelters by the Thompson Homeless Shelter to accommodate this overflow of residents.

The shelter’s services were accessed 250 times by residents over the course of 30 days this year (sometimes by the same individual, multiple times).

Federal Reaching Home Funding Helped Purchase A New Van.

Through a grant from the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, the Thompson Homeless Shelter has purchased a new van for transporting people to the emergency shelters.

The van helped the Thompson Homeless Shelter to transport patients without homes to COVID-19 testing and other medical appointments, and offer transportation to cold-weather shelters more reliably when partners were not available.

Emergency Services Work Together To Get Residents to Warming Shelters.

Emergency cold weather shelters are located at the outdoor skating rinks, far from downtown. However, starting at 10:00pm, the shelter worked with Keewatin Tribal Council to provide transportation from the shelter downtown to the cold weather shelters, so that sheltering residents don’t need to make the journey.

If a resident is excessively intoxicated and poses a risk to themselves or others, they’re picked up by RCMP or CSO’s and taken to the RCMP holding cells in Thompson. Conversely, individuals who are being released from holding cells late in the night are dropped off directly to the cold weather shelters by RCMP officers if they’re open.

Thompson Fire and Emergency Services are also notified when the shelters open, so that families in distress can be transported to the shelters if they have nowhere else to turn.

Pandemics Are Tricky When It Comes to Emergency Shelter, But Hygiene Has Controlled The Spread.

Operating the Thompson Homeless Shelter and the cold weather shelters present a challenge during the pandemic particularly during the winter: turning people away is simply not an option when temperatures are frigid. Social distancing is challenging in the shelters, but staff have stressed masks and hand-washing when indoors.

Thankfully, Thompson has been lucky that transmission among our homeless population has been relatively low. Staff at the THS also monitored residents for potential risks and symptoms, and provided transportation to and from testing sites, vaccination appointments, and medical appointments more generally.

Thompson’s 2021 Construction Season Off To Strong Start With $3.6M in Construction Registered As Of March!

Following a busy construction season in 2020, construction plans in Thompson are already off to a strong start in 2021, based on permits already filed as of the end of March this year.

Thirty-three permits have already been filed with the City of Thompson’s Inspections department, with a total construction value of $3, 647, 802.42. The construction is entirely made up of investment from the local private sector, including one new business.

This compares with 11 permits filed by the end of March 2020 valued at $1, 831, 554, most of which was filed prior to Manitoba’s state of emergency.

More commercial permits are anticipated later in the year, based on existing construction projects underway in the community.

“Last year was a challenging year for businesses in our community,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “But construction in Thompson continues to hold strong as our residents and entrepreneurs continue to find new opportunities in Thompson.”

Building Permits Highlight $11, 486, 226 in Construction Completed in 2020

Despite the uncertainty and restrictions around COVID-19, construction investments remained steady in Thompson for 2020. Property owners invested $11, 486, 226 in construction in 2020, slightly up from $11, 019, 004 in 2019.

The value of residential alterations jumped to $878, 901 across 48 projects in 2020, more than threefold from $272, 685 across 34 projects in 2019. Residents also built 16 garages last year at a total value of $253, 685, up from one garage worth $35, 000 in 2019.

Commercial properties saw $7, 071, 511 in alterations across 21 projects this year, up from $3, 006, 772 across 24 projects in 2019. One new commercial project saw an investment of $864, 000.

Public institutions, including schools, saw $1, 692, 430 in alterations.

“With people stuck at home due to the pandemic, many have chosen to improve their homes and their businesses,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “We’re excited to see those Thompsonites investing back into their community and their life in the north.”

As COVID-19 Restrictions Loosen, Thompson’s Case Numbers Are Slow To Improve. Here’s Why.

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen in the province, positive COVID-19 cases in Thompson have increased slowly but steadily since the winter holidays. begging the question: where is the transmission within our community taking place?

Last week, the City of Thompson sat down with NRHA officials and northern leaders to discuss where our current cases are coming from.

Although several cases have been reported among students of local schools, the NRHA has noted that all of these cases have been acquired outside of the classroom.  Currently public health officials have seen no evidence of transmission within schools.

Transmission downtown, including among Thompson’s homeless residents, has also remained low.

Rather, contact tracing by the NRHA has determined that the largest source of infections so far is visitation against public health orders: people visiting each other in homes that they are not supposed to.

Home visitation carries a number of risk factors: close quarters in smaller rooms, poor ventilation, common surfaces and sustained contact all contribute to the high likelihood of spread due to residential visits, compounded by the likelihood that people remove their masks at home.

WE have the power to turn the tide.

Whether we’re placed on lockdown or free to roam our gyms and stores, the fundamental guidelines haven’t changed since the fall.

  • Wear your mask properly indoors. Make sure it covers *all* of your face holes.
  • Give your peers space and limit close contact to what is absolutely necessary.
  • Send only *one* household member shopping. Plan your grocery trips so you need them less often.
  • Wash your hands properly, for 20 full seconds, or use hand sanitizer if you can’t.
  • Limit your contacts. Don’t throw parties. Meet your friends outside if you have to.

Restrictions are loosening. Now what?

It’s important to remember that just because restrictions are loosening does not mean that we can abuse them without consequences. If we do abuse them, they will be tightened back up in short order.

Though we have more freedom to take part in the activities we love, it’s important enjoy them responsibly. This means making decisions like:

  • Eating at home today, so you can eat out when you have that really, really bad day;
  • Doing body weight and free weight exercises for simple muscle groups at home, and saving the gym for more specialized exercises;
  • Meeting your friends outside for a walk, so you can visit them at home sooner.
  • Plan an outdoor photo shoot, instead of in a studio.

Enjoying public life in moderation will allow Manitoba to control the pandemic, and keep restrictions to a minimum. Most importantly though, enjoying public life in moderation helps prevent us from getting COVID-19, and passing it on to someone else.

COVID-19 Vaxport In Thompson Takes Shape Through Collaboration

The delivery of the COVID-19 Vaxport program in the City of Thompson is beginning to take shape, and the City of Thompson is proud to be working with the Province of Manitoba and our regional partners to ensure the program’s delivery meets the needs of Thompsonites and northern Manitobans as a whole.

The City of Thompson has been engaged with the Province since the Vaxport site was announced on January 5, 2021 in order to ensure the roll-out plans best serve Thompson and northern Manitoba.

Mayor Colleen Smook notes that changes and adjustments will always be a part of charting new and unknown territory, and the City of Thompson had, and continues to have, ample opportunity to provide input.

“We’re disappointed that provincial media has portrayed our relationship with the province as terse and oppositional,” said Mayor Smook. “We’ve kept close contact with our provincial ministries since day one of the pandemic to ensure northern voices are heard, and that relationship hasn’t changed. We suggested improvements to the delivery of Vaxport in Thompson, and the Province listened.”

The Vaxport program will utilize the Thompson Regional Community Center and the Thompson Regional Airport to distribute doses of the Pfizer vaccine to local patients as well as those from remote outlying communities, respectively.

The airport is being utilized as doses of the Moderna vaccine are limited, and the Pfizer vaccine cannot be easily transported and stored at remote locations. Patients from remote communities will need to be transported to receive the vaccine in a more accessible location, and delivering the vaccine directly at the airport minimizes exposure across communities.

The TRCC, closed under Critical status restrictions, provides an accessible location for pedestrians, motorists, and public-transit users, as well as ample room for safe social distancing. It is also a well-known facility for locals and visitors, and easily accessible for intercity transport by land.

Thompson was selected for the Vaxport program as recognized northern hub for healthcare and transportation that is equipped to receive air and ground traffic from across northern Manitoba. “Thompson has been a medical hub for northern Manitobans for more than three decades,” said Mayor Smook. “We understand the challenges of the north, and we’re well-equipped to meet them.”

The Vaxport program is expected to open in Thompson on February 1.

Council Approves $500, 000 Gift from Canadian Jumpstart Charities To Construct New Multisport Court

Mayor and Council has approved a $500,000 gift from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to construct a new Inclusive Multisport Court in the existing Westdale Tot Lot, located on Thompson Drive near the intersection of Thompson Drive and Beaver Crescent.

The 13,200 square foot fully inclusive court will include opportunities for play for children of all abilities to experience a multitude of sport and adapted sport activities that include basketball, tennis, ball hockey, volleyball, pickleball, and more.

The court is marked with strong, contrasting colours to support users with visual impairments, lit up by high-powered LED lights, and features shaded, double-wide benches and wheelchair-accessible seating. The court is located along the City of Thompson’s existing wheelchair-accessible multi-use path.

The Inclusive Multisport Court is funded by a $500,000 gift from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and Thompson’s local Canadian Tire Dealer, Mike Howell. The contribution is provided as part of Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project, which focuses on accessible infrastructure and programming, to help give Canadian kids of all abilities access to sport and play.

The City of Thompson will provide $100,000 in project supports and ensure infrastructure is in place so that the court is fully accessible.

The court is expected to be constructed and completed in 2021.

“Affordable and accessible recreation is a priority of our council this term, and we’re thrilled to accept this gift from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “We’d like to extend our thanks to Mike Howell, the Dealer of our local Canadian Tire location, who has been an active member of our Community Wellness and Safety Advisory Committee and an active member of our community at large.”

“Through Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project, the Charity is always looking for opportunities to help improve accessibility and inclusivity for kids across Canada,” said Mike Howell, Canadian Tire Dealer, Thompson. “Bringing a multisport court to the Thompson community will provide kids of all abilities with additional opportunities to access sport and play – opportunities that are needed now more than ever as we emerge from these challenging times.”

Council Approves New Committee Structure at 2020 Organizational Meeting of Council

Last night, at the City of Thompson’s annual Organizational Meeting of Council, Mayor and Council approved a new committee structure designed to streamline council business and improve the sharing of information among departments.

Mayor: Colleen Smook

Deputy Mayor: Duncan Wong

Legislative and Finance Committee

Formerly the Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (LIGA) Committee and the Finance Committee

Many of the issues discussed at the original Finance committee are directly related to our lobbying efforts with other levels of government, such as grants, transfers, and provincial tax allocations. By combining Finance and LIGA committees, we can more closely align our lobbying efforts with our financial priorities.

  • Deputy Mayor Duncan Wong (Chair)
  • Councillor Valentino
  • Councillor Lundmark
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Human Resources Committee

The structure of the Human Resources Committee remains largely unchanged.

Your Human Resources Committee Council members are:

  • Councillor Brian Lundmark (Chair)
  • Councillor Braden McMurdo
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Public Works and Infrastructure Committee

Formerly the Public Works Committee and (partially) Development Review Committee

Infrastructure, asset management, and capital projects like road renewal and building renovations have long been the responsibility of the Development Review Committee, while maintenance activities have functioned separately under Public Works. Now, decisions surrounding upgrades will be made hand-in-hand with the departments responsible for maintaining them in the long-term. This can help is better identify areas that need attention, and better overview of the lifetime cost of new assets and infrastructure.

Your Public Works and Infrastructure Committee council members are:

  • Councillor Kathy Valentino (Chair)
  • Councilllor Brian Lundmark
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Recreation and Community Services Committee

Formerly the Recreation Committee and Public Safety Committee

The Community Safety Survey published in August reinforced the connection between recreation, community services, social cohesion and public safety in Thompson. As a direct result, Council has integrated Public Safety and Recreation committees into the single Recreation and Community Services Committee. Public safety will continue to be discussed in the committee, while recreation will be approached with an emphasis on accessibility and community-building, and how Thompson’s built environment can both foster community while ensuring safety.

Your Recreation and Community Services Committee councillors are:

  • Councillor Braden McMurdo (Chair)
  • Councillor Kathy Valentino
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Development Review Committee

The Development Review Committee structure remains largely unchanged, with the exception that capital projects are more substantially discussed in the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. Otherwise, the committee will continue to review business and zoning applications within the city.

  • Councillor Andre Proulx (Chair)
  • Councillor Jeff Fountain
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Communications Committee

The Communications Committee has been dissolved: communications activities will now be planned within existing committee frameworks and centrally supported by the Communications Officer. This way, news is more directly delivered to the Communications department, and public awareness initiatives can be coordinated more directly with the departments they serve.