Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Infrastructure crisis hits another pothole

Municipalities abandoned by budget, says Katz

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The provincial budget will accomplish next to nothing for Winnipeg's infrastructure crisis, according to Mayor Sam Katz, who said the city and other municipalities have been "completely abandoned."

The province unveiled its 2013 budget this week, which includes a plan to raise the provincial sales tax to eight per cent July 1. The city hoped to see the province devote one percentage point of the existing PST to municipalities, but instead received a transfer increase of $22.3 million, which includes $9.3 million to help build the Plessis Road underpass, $5 million to complete the Southwest Transitway and approximately $7 million more for local street renewals.

Katz said he is extremely disappointed there's hardly any money going toward the city's infrastructure deficit and alleged the province does not care about the problem. Katz has pushed for a bigger share of revenues or taxation powers in order to tackle Winnipeg's $3.8-billion infrastructure backlog.

By 2018, the city's infrastructure deficit is expected to reach more than $7 billion.

Katz said the budget includes $14 million for the city's infrastructure -- up from $7 million from last year -- but Winnipeg has to match those funds and there are strings attached to the money. He said the PST hike will cost the city more money, as Winnipeg will have to spend an additional $1.4 million in PST a year.

"You've seen swimming pools close down, you've seen parkades close down, and what was announced yesterday does absolutely nothing to address those issues in the long term, which means municipalities, the city of Winnipeg, have been completely abandoned; and it's only going to get worse, it's not going to get better," Katz said following Wednesday's executive policy committee meeting.

Premier Greg Selinger said the province will provide $14 million to the city this year, doubling what it contributed last year. The city does not have to come up with additional funds to match the contribution, provincial officials said, since Winnipeg has already set up a local street renewal reserve.

This year, Winnipeg will spend an additional $14 million on local street renewal to fix residential streets, back lanes and sidewalks.

"We have said there's no match requirement," Selinger said. "We already understand the city has about $15 million in their budget. We certainly expect that we will agree on the list of things that we want to do together, but the money does not require a match because we trust the city to spend the $15 million they put in their budget this spring."

"That will double the amount of money over the next three years. That should fill in a lot of potholes."

Katz also said the budget did not include a clear commitment to fund the second phase of the city's rapid-transit corridor.

The city plans to spend $10 million on the second phase of the Southwest Transitway in 2014 and another $127.5 million in 2015. Winnipeg has asked the province to match the city's contribution of $137.5 million.

Selinger said the province will match the city's $10-million contribution over the next two years and reaffirmed the province has committed to pay its one-third for the next stage of the corridor.

"We've said we'll provide it when they've got their money on the table," he said. "When they're ready to build it, our money will be there as well."


-- with files from Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 A5

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