City council approves money for masks and extension of tax program

By | August 31, 2020

Visitors and staff across all departments of the City of Winnipeg will get access to free non-medical masks.

City council voted unanimously Monday at a special meeting to provide $325,000 to pay for the masks and make them available at facilities across Winnipeg.

The funding will also be used to increase public education on using masks.

The city made masks mandatory on Transit buses and in all city buildings on Aug. 29.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty has been championing the use of masks on city buses since spring.

“The reality is, we have to live with this virus. It’s not going away soon. This is another step for making people feel comfortable,” Browaty told his council colleagues Monday during the special meeting.

Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason remarked on the recent rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba and the hope the new measures would have a positive effect.

“There is no magic formula to protect against the virus … hopefully we can bring these numbers back in check,” Nason said.

A limited number of face masks are currently available at public facilities where masks are required, including city hall, recreation and leisure facilities, libraries, and administrative offices until supplies are exhausted, a spokesperson said Monday.

Transit riders can pick up a face mask at Transit kiosks and city libraries during regular operating hours.

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes asked she’s received many inquires over the weekend about how the city intended to enforce the mask requirement.

At a news briefing after the council meeting, Mayor Brian Bowman reiterated the hope residents learn and follow the rules through education.

“I do expect it will take time for Winnipeggers to understand the rules and do their part,” Bowman said.

Tax penalty waiver program extended 

Council also extended a waiver of penalties on unpaid 2020 property and business taxes to Nov. 30. 

The cost of extending both waivers is estimated at $1,577,000.

The motion passed unanimously as well, but the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood was dismayed the request came with little financial detail about how much the city has not collected in taxes during the pandemic.

“Why weren’t we given the information about the year-to-date non-payment of taxes?” asked Coun. Kevin Klein. “How much of our property tax is outstanding or how much of our business tax is outstanding?”

Counc. Kevin Klein wants to know how much of our property and business tax is outstanding? (John Einarson/CBC )

Bowman told reporters any financial information Klein might wish could have been provided to him by the civil service the weekend before the vote.

Bowman says the most persuasive reason he’s seen to offer the waiver extension was a Conference Board of Canada report in August suggesting an economic recovery would be slower than hoped. 

“This was a low-cost response to that,” Bowman said. 

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