Securing the money needed to maintain or improve infrastructure is the top priority on the Association of Manitoba Municipalities’ to-do list for 2013.
AMM president and RM of Macdonald councillor Doug Dobrowolski said despite the association’s research that clearly shows Manitobans would support a one-cent municipal sales tax to be used for infrastructure costs, the provincial government has not been receptive to the idea.
The association plans to keep lobbying the provincial government about this additional tax after a motion to this effect was passed at its 2012 convention.
Dobrowolski is hopeful that money for infrastructure will be included in the upcoming federal budget through an infrastructure plan.
"The new long-term infrastructure plan is something we are highly anticipating and that will be the focus of our discussions with both the federal and provincial orders of government this year," he said. "We have put forth our priorities and are now awaiting more details about the new plan."
The federal government’s previous infrastructure program required that projects were financed with a one-third contribution coming from the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Dobrowolski said it was tough for some smaller municipalities to meet such a requirement.
Work such as a recently completed assessment of recreational facilities in the Macdonald-Headingley Recreation District will help municipalities prepare their application for federal funding if those types of project are eligible.
He is hopeful that the new plan will make it easier for Manitoba municipalities to receive funds, even those that might be in the process of amalgamating.
"It should give municipalities more chance to plan better," Dobrowolski said.
The provincial government sent out letters to municipalities in early December recommending that those with less than 1,000 residents work towards amalgamation.
In an advisory to members, the AMM said it isn’t opposed to amalgamation as long as it is a community-driven decision, and asked the provincial government for reasonable timelines, more information and additional resources for affected municipalities.
Dobrowolski said Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux will participate in discussions with AMM mayors, reeves and chief administrative officers meetings in March to present more details and answer questions.
He added that as president of the AMM, he meets with 60 municipal councils each year to discuss relevant local issues. "We hear a lot of things when we do our visits."
As well, he and other AMM board and staff members meet annually with each provincial minister to raise issues identified through AMM resolutions. The AMM uses a complex database that’s continually updated with members’ information and all actions taken on these issues.