City council is bracing for yet another day of bus-corridor talk, as the fate of the Southwest Transitway faces a pair of debates at the third-last gathering of Winnipeg's current crop of elected officials.
In the first of two votes today, council will consider a $590-million plan to extend the Southwest Transitway to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus and widen the Pembina Highway underpass at Jubilee Avenue.
Councillors will also ponder North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty's motion to hold a non-binding plebiscite over the combined transitway-underpass when Winnipeggers vote Oct. 22.
Until Tuesday, the $590-million project was expected to pass easily and the plebiscite was expected to fail.
The results of a Free Press/Probe Research poll of voter opinion about a referendum has given Browaty a jolt of hope, while spooking rapid-transit supporters such as Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi.
The poll of 603 Winnipeg adults, randomly sampled by telephone between June 10 and 19, suggested 71 per cent of voters support the idea of a plebiscite. The poll was conducted with a 95 per cent certainty the results are accurate within a margin of error of four percentage points.
Browaty said he hopes councillors who have supported the transitway in the past will reconsider.
"It takes a big person to consider they're wrong," said Browaty, who said he is not against rapid transit but does not believe the $590-million project provides good value for the city's money. "There are a lot of other needs in the city."
Gerbasi said she hopes councillors understand Winnipeg faces transit construction inflation and the loss of both provincial and federal funding if council dawdles on approving the next phase of the Southwest Transitway.
The first phase of the bus corridor was completed in 2012 at a cost of $138 million. The project was originally conceived in 1976.
Gerbasi said any poll of support for a large infrastructure project would find little desire for spending money on the project in any area of the city outside the region that amenity would serve.
She mused whether Winnipeggers would have supported the $110-million extension of Chief Peguis Trail through Browaty's ward had the project faced a plebiscite before its approval 2007.
Both the vote on the project and the vote on the plebiscite require a simple majority of council to pass.
Council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said he hopes council will suspend its rules to allow a vote on a separate plebiscite aimed at shaming the Selinger government into providing Winnipeg with more sales-tax revenue.
Wyatt said Tuesday he is canvassing support for a plebiscite that would see Winnipeggers say whether they believe the province should provide the city with the entire proceeds of additional money collected following last year's PST hike of one basis point.
Wyatt said that cash amounts to $190 million and accused the province of "picking the city's pocket."
The Selinger government claims its financial transfers to Winnipeg are at unprecedented levels.