FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK: RENEWED PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN PROVINCE AND CITY WILL LEAD TO POST-PANDEMIC PLAN FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a significant toll on the lives of many Manitobans, and Winnipeggers continue to appreciate the efforts of the Province of Manitoba and Shared Health to mitigate the impact and spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Life as we know it has changed. That being said, we also know that Winnipeggers can weather any storm!
As we deliver essential services to our residents during this unprecedented time, the financial impacts on our municipal government continue to grow.
For example, Winnipeg Transit ridership levels are down by approximately 70 percent, recreation centres and libraries remain closed and revenue from other fees has significantly decreased.
The City has closed many of its public facilities in order to support provincial public health orders to maintain appropriate physical distancing. And, while the City supports these measures in the fight against the pandemic, the impact on the City’s finances is significant and growing.
The City’s most recent projections indicate that we are losing approximately $12 million per month as a result of the measures put in place to comply with the provincially-mandated physical distancing measures.
A recent report to our Standing Committee on Finance projects that with the pandemic measures remaining in place until the end of August 2020, the City will lose approximately $78 million compared to the 2020 Council approved balanced operating budget.
The City is managing its expenses by implementing several measures such as temporarily laying-off approximately 9% of its total workforce including 672 non-permanent staff, 246 full and part-time Winnipeg Transit operators, reducing weekday transit service and reducing discretionary expenses across departments.
The City’s four year balanced operating budget (which provides a recently replenished Financial Stabilization Reserve (FSR)) and expenditure reduction measures are expected, at this time, to enable the City to temporarily withstand the financial impact of the pandemic provided the provincially-mandated physical distancing measures do not extend beyond August 2020.
However, the current financial situation stemming from the pandemic highlights the City’s antiquated revenue generation model, and warrants an urgent discussion between the Province and the City on a modern, growth-oriented funding framework.
Therefore, I am proposing a renewed partnership between the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to immediately develop and implement a post-pandemic plan for economic recovery through the following measures:
- Maintain existing levels of capital and operating support for the City in 2020 and commit to maintain these funding levels for the remaining 3 years of the City’s multi-year balanced budgets;
- 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 in support of Council approved priorities;
- 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 and released Transit Master Plan; and
- For the City of Winnipeg to recover and support economic growth, commit to implement a modern, growth-oriented funding framework.
We need to put in place a post-pandemic recovery plan that protects services and provides for the necessary investments to maintain a strong economy for Winnipeg and the Province.
As always, I remain committed to working collaboratively with the Province of Manitoba while also remaining committed to defending the interests of all Winnipeggers who call our city home.