WINNIPEG – Rehabilitating regional roads, investing in public transit, and committing to a long-term predictable infrastructure program were key Winnipeg priorities Mayor Brian Bowman identified in response to the Province of Manitoba’s invitation to provide input on their 2018 provincial budget.

“Winnipeg has always been, and continues to be, the major economic engine of our province, and a growing and thriving Winnipeg is essential to a growing and thriving Manitoba,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “As well, our city’s population over the next twenty-five years is expected to chart strong and steady increases. We need to be thinking about and planning today for a future we know is going to create increased demand not only on our existing city infrastructure and services, but also demand for new infrastructure and expanded services.”

In a submission to the province, Mayor Bowman identified three key priorities needing to be addressed as part of the 2018 provincial budget.

These included requests to:
• Endorse the City of Winnipeg’s accelerated regional roads proposal;
• Restore the 50/50 transit funding agreement; and
• Commit to a long-term, predictable, & growth oriented funding framework.

In the submission, Mayor Bowman stressed that no city in Canada can succeed without strong provincial and federal partners.

“Winnipeg’s current infrastructure deficit is estimated to be $7 billion,” said Mayor Bowman. “While Council has been chipping away at our infrastructure deficit, we cannot do it alone, and provincial and federal infrastructure support for Winnipeg is an essential part of rebuilding our city after years of neglect.”

Mayor Bowman said there is a tremendous opportunity right now for federal, provincial, and city governments to partner in rehabilitating Winnipeg’s regional roads at no additional incremental cost to Winnipeg and Manitoba taxpayers.

“Millions of dollars in federal funding is currently sitting idle in a bank account when it could be used to fix many of our regional roads,” said Mayor Bowman. “The province simply has to endorse and submit to the federal government Council’s unanimous proposal to access this funding, and regional road renewal across our city can be further bolstered.”

Mayor Bowman expressed disappointment with the unilateral elimination by the province of the long-standing and predictable 50/50 transit funding agreement. Elimination of this city-provincial partnership has created a $10 million deficit in transit’s operating budget in 2018.

“Ten million dollars is a lot of money,” said Mayor Bowman. “As the City finalizes its preliminary 2018 budget, we are grappling with ways to address the significant budget gap the provincial decision has caused. There is no doubt that it’s going to negatively impact transit users.”

To close the $10 million provincial funding gap solely from within transit’s budget would require the City to:
• Eliminate service on 59 transit routes throughout the City, potentially impacting over 37,000 passengers; 
• Terminate up to 120 transit operators; and
• Increase transit fares by up to 25 cents beyond inflationary increases.

“We are, however, working on ways to mitigate the full impact to service as well as affordability that this provincial decision has had,” said Mayor Bowman. “But something has to give in order for us to balance the budget.”

With the Provincial Government’s unilateral elimination of the Building Manitoba Fund earlier this year, Mayor Bowman said it has been challenging for the City of Winnipeg to meet its legislated requirements under The City of Winnipeg Charter Act. This legislation requires the City of Winnipeg to balance its annual operating budget, and also requires it to develop a five-year capital forecast.

“We cannot create an effective long term capital plan without knowing with certainty the level of funding from the Province of Manitoba,” said Mayor Bowman. “I strongly urge the Province of Manitoba to take the opportunity in its 2018 budget to provide clarity on a long term capital funding framework for Winnipeg.”

“I do want to stress that the City of Winnipeg remains fully committed to meeting its legislated requirement to table a preliminary budget that is balanced,” said Mayor Bowman. “I know there is only one taxpayer. It is my hope the 2018 provincial budget can strengthen the partnership between the City of Winnipeg and Province of Manitoba, allowing us to effectively serve our citizens now and in the years ahead.”

The City of Winnipeg is scheduled to table its preliminary budget on November 22, 2017.

The complete submission provided by Mayor Brian Bowman can be accessed here.