MAYOR Sam Katz squared off against MLAs on Tuesday night, telling them Winnipeg and other municipalities deserve a bigger chunk of revenue from the PST hike, cash better spent on roads and bridges than schools and hospitals.
Speaking in a sweltering legislature committee room, Katz said only three per cent of the $277 million raised from the one-percentage-point PST will be earmarked for Winnipeg streets.
That figure does not include money the province promises to spend on provincial highways that run through urban areas or new schools, hospitals and community clubs, all of which also benefit municipalities.
Katz said the province needs to earmark more cash for basic road work, including fixing the 20 per cent of local streets in Winnipeg rated poor.
"The Manitoba government still has an opportunity to act as a leader, to implement a long-term strategic plan with an ongoing, predictable source of revenue devoted entirely to municipal infrastructure," Katz told the MLAs.
In a rare move for a capital-city mayor, Katz appeared before one of the provincial legislature's standing committees Tuesday, the second evening of public hearings on the PST hike. The hearings are largely moot since the increase took effect July 1, but they have allowed Manitobans, mostly Tories, to vent.
Katz spoke amid a chorus of opponents to the PST hike, many of whom threatened to leave the province for Saskatchewan, condemned what they called the NDP's arrogant and dictatorial style and demanded the government stop taking money from the pockets of hard-working Manitobans.
And he said cities need a predictable, long-term plan for provincial infrastructure funding that will allow towns and cities to plan in a less piecemeal fashion.
Katz did not oppose the PST hike, but noted it is one among many tax and fee hikes the province has made in the last two years, while the city is stuck with only one real revenue source -- property taxes.
Instead, Katz asked the Selinger government to do three things: Make spending from the new PST point entirely transparent, down to every nickel; exempt all Manitoba municipalities from paying PST, which could save them $17 million a year ($11 million for the city alone); and work with local mayors and reeves on a long-term funding plan for infrastructure.
The City of Winnipeg will pay $11 million a year in PST, including the new one-point increase, which will cost the city an additional $1.4 million a year.
-- Mary Agnes Welch