Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman says it’s time for the city and the provincial government to sit down and work out a new deal on how Manitoba’s largest municipality is funded.
Describing the current funding model as “antiquated,” Bowman on Thursday asked for a “renewed partnership between the province and the city to immediately develop and implement a post-pandemic plan for economic recovery.”
Bowman reiterated the the health crisis is costing the city up to $12 million a month in lost revenues and added expenses, and the city is draining its fiscal stabilization reserve with no identifiable way of replenishing it beyond raising property taxes or fees.
To cope with the financial blows, Bowman said the city has temporarily laid off approximately nine per cent of its total workforce, reduced weekday transit service and cut discretionary expenses across the public service.
The mayor said he doesn’t believe raising taxes or cutting services is the way to balance the city’s books and wants to negotiate what he calls a “modern growth-oriented funding mechanism” with the Progressive Conservative government.
Bowman chose not to identify specifically what the new formula would look like.
“I have not been prescriptive, because what I am proposing is a partnership with the province. It’s ultimately a decision that would be made by the province. They provide the legal framework from which we can collect revenues, so I am proposing we work together,” Bowman told reporters.
Bowman did release a list of measures he felt the province could adopt to help the city in a post-pandemic plan for economic recovery.
- Maintain existing levels of capital and operating support for the city in 2020 and commit to maintain levels for the next three years.
- Accelerate payment of the provincial capital and operating support to the city in 2020 and provide the city with full discretion on how to invest these funds.
- Immediately fully support and forward the city council-endorsed application for federal and provincial cost sharing of $643.4 million under the Investment in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to support the renewal and upgrade of the North End wastewater treatment plant, construction of a new recreation centre in southwest Winnipeg and an expansion of the St James Civic Centre.
- Commit to partnering with the City of Winnipeg to maximize the city’s share of available federal transit funding under the ICIP program, with specific investments to be guided by the soon-to-be-completed transit master plan.
- Commit to implement a modern, growth-oriented funding framework.
Bowman says he’s requested a meeting with Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires to talk about developing the new funding model.
Bowman’s announcement came just hours after the provincial government announced $500 million in new funding for infrastructure projects across Manitoba.
When asked what was highest on the city’s list for provincial funding, Bowman said immediately it would be for the North End wastewater treatment plant.
“It’s shovel-ready, it’s shovel-worthy and it’s ready to go. And it’ll do a lot of good for not only the economy, but for the health of our rivers and our lakes,” Bowman said.
Bowman said the funding request to the province for the treatment plant upgrades have been awaiting approval from the PC government since last September.
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