Deal to fund Winnipeg’s sewage treatment plant gains momentum

By | September 15, 2020

The City of Winnipeg may be close to having the funding pieces in place for massive upgrades to its North End sewage treatment plant.

A report to the city’s executive policy committee (EPC) recommends requesting a transfer of $321.24 million of federal funding from the public transit infrastructure stream of the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to the green infrastructure stream.

The move would unlock money from the government of Canada for part of the estimated $1.8 billion the treatment plant needs to meet environmental standards.

“We are not quite there yet, but this is a positive step,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters Tuesday at a briefing.

The recommendation was prompted by the province of Manitoba, which sent a letter to the city advising it to make the transfer request and unlock the federal funding.

“They’ve said, ‘if you want us to forward your request to the federal government, you’ve got to do it under these terms,'” Bowman said.

In 2003 Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission prompted the province to order Winnipeg to improve its sewage-treatment processes.

The city does, however, come with some conditions for the province of Manitoba, and also financial implications for the City of Winnipeg’s transit plans.

Winnipeg wants to see the total provincial funding portion for the treatment plant come in at $267.68 million. So far the Progressive Conservative government has committed $182.8 million for the project.

The city also wants a guarantee there are no further reductions to its allocation of the remaining federal transit infrastructure funding, and wants the province to commit to matching those dollars from Ottawa.

The transfer would mean the city’s access to federal public transit infrastructure funding would drop from $524.85 million to $203.61 million.

‘The No. 1 priority has been really pushing to get those dollars coming in from the province and the federal government,’ Bowman says. (Trevor Brine/CBC )

Bowman acknowledged there would be a drop in financial support for the city’s transit master plan, set to be released next year, but seemed resigned to a compromise that would unlock funding for the treatment plant.

“Is it a positive step to be able to bring in these dollars? Yes. Our No. 1 priority has been the North End sewage treatment plant. So obviously you see a prioritization happening, and hopefully the stars aligning for all three levels of government,” Bowman said. 

Bowman told reporters he had productive conversations with Manitoba Municipal Affairs Minister Rochelle Squires and had some confidence the province would step up with funds for both the sewage treatment plant and transit.

“I’m hoping and expecting that they’ll make good on being full partners. We just want to make sure that we don’t further reduce those transit dollars,” Bowman said.

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