Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 04/27/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Closing the Arlington Bridge, cancelling the next phase of rapid transit, slashing arts funding to zero and reducing snow clearing are among radical spending cuts proposed by deputy mayor Russ Wyatt to mitigate the "infrastructure crisis" he blames on the province.
On Friday, council's finance chairman announced $187 million worth of spending the city could divert into a new reserve fund that would finance road and bridge repairs. Wyatt's list of 26 cuts includes the end of city support for housing, community crisis workers, Economic Development Winnipeg and the Aboriginal Youth Strategy and the elimination of all grants to Winnipeg museums, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
He also proposed cancellation of the city's new tree-pruning plan, the end of tax refunds to True North Sports & Entertainment and the creation of "Wyatt weekends," 13 unpaid Fridays for city workers every year.
He even proposed cancelling the city's commitment to the Canada Summer Games -- only hours after the city made the $3-million pledge.
"I don't think we can stand there and be kissy-kissy with the premier at the Canada Summer Games when we have just been abandoned," the Transcona councillor said in an interview, repeating his assertion the 2013 provincial budget leaves Winnipeg with no means of maintaining critical infrastructure.
"The passing of the provincial budget leaves us without any hope of finding a source of funding for infrastructure," Wyatt said. "Selinger created this crisis. Now we have to come up with a solution. Nobody is standing up for the City of Winnipeg."
Mayor Sam Katz immediately distanced himself from Wyatt's comments, stating he does not support radical cuts.
But he did say the city faces "tough decisions" in the coming months in the wake of the provincial budget.
"Since this is an extremely serious issue, this should be part of the (city's) budget process. Let's see what the public input is and move on from there," Katz said.
Wyatt also proposed the cancellation of city budget consultations.
The Selinger government issued a restrained response to Wyatt's attempt at provocation.
"At a time when other provinces are freezing and cutting funding to municipalities, we are investing generously," said Naline Rampersad, spokeswoman for Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux.
Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, meanwhile, said her colleague is clearly acting out and causing needless worry in the process.
"It appears our deputy mayor and finance chair is making dangerous and reckless threats that would harm many, many people and the quality of life in our city if he succeeds," she said in a statement.
"This epic fit of temper and destruction needs to be stopped. It's up to the mayor and council to stand up to this insanity."
Wyatt insisted he was serious, even when it comes to cancelling $6.4 million worth of entertainment-tax refunds enshrined in a legal agreement with True North, which operates the MTS Centre.
"Let them sue us," he said. "How many mom-and-pop businesses get tax refunds?"
True North spokesman Scott Brown said in a statement it would be inappropriate to comment.
The mayor offered his own explanation for the deputy mayor's latest act of political theatre.
"I think you're seeing a great deal of frustration from Coun. Wyatt," Katz said.
Selected spending cuts proposed by council finance chairman Russ Wyatt. The cash would be diverted into a new reserve to repair regional streets and bridges:
Cancel the second phase of the Southwest Transitway ($137.5 million)
Cancel grants to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy ($12.2 million)
End entertainment-tax refunds to True North Sports & Entertainment ($6.4 million)
Cancel grants the Winnipeg Arts Council and stop funding public art ($4.1 million)
Close Arlington Bridge and cancel engineering plans for repairs ($3.5 million)
Reduce snow-clearing budget ($3.1 million)
Cancel commitment to Canada Summer Games ($3 million)
Create "Wyatt weekends," 13 unpaid days off for city workers ($2.5 million)
End grant to Economic Development Winnipeg ($2.3 million)
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 A4
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
More help promised for Manitoba child welfare in light of Phoenix Sinclair inquiry
Ambulance delays cost WRHA $1.4 million
Oswald makes campaign pledge to boost workplace health and safety enforcement
Big banks cut prime rate to 2.85 per cent
Brother charged for alleged assault on boyfriend
Watchdogs want Conservative bill quashed
Firm fined $4,800 for massive fire
Obama floats offering first-ever drilling lease in Atlantic
Mom who used iron to scald boy loses appeal
Super Bowl, Tiger make Phoenix centre of sports universe
Dog killed during break-in
Mayor Bowman to launch a website to solicit ideas on beating racism
Grain shippers face railway backlog: report
Electronic music duo Purity Ring to play Garrick in June
Three men's teams clinch playoff spots
Tim Hortons lays off staff at headquarters
Experts: Gold nuggets stolen from museum may be tough sell
Mexico: Investigation shows that all 43 students are dead
Michelle Obama navigates limits on women in Saudi Arabia
Snubs, surprises of this year's Juno nominations
Jets hoping to extend their season-best winning streak against depleted Pens
Goaltender Martin Brodeur to retire
Cinematheque program explores how novels translate into films
Balanced books possible amid oil slump: PBO
Facebook blames glitch for global outage
Teen acquitted in fatal assault
RCMP arrest Portage la Prairie man in sexual assault case dating back to 2013
Marriott buying Delta Hotel & Resorts brand
Manitobans earn 12 Juno nominations
Big-box chain Lowe's could replace Targets here
Paramedics scare off suspect of attempted abduction
Mom heading to Australia with son aquitted of abduction
Documentary chronicles "Clara's Big Ride"
Passenger traffic increases in airport's fourth quarter
Monarch butterflies rebound in Mexico, numbers still low
Blizzard howls its way into Boston but largely spares NYC
Secret talks in Jordan try to win release of hostages
On Auschwitz anniversary, leader warns Jews again targets
Long-term care probe makes progress: ombudsman
True North deal has to wait