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Is allocation of gas tax rebates fair?

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Federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover has guaranteed Manitoba will receive $713 million over the next 10 years — the province’s share of federal gas tax revenue.  Some $40.5 million will go to the City of Winnipeg and $65 million to Manitoba municipalities in 2014, totalling $105.5 million for Manitoba.

That’s 38 per cent for Winnipeg and 62 per cent for the municipalities, which seems strange as Manitoba’s population is approximately 1.265 million and Winnipeg accounts for 700,000 of that, according to the City of Winnipeg website. The city’s population therefore accounts for 55 per cent of the province but the City is only allotted 38 per cent of the dollars while the municipalities, with 45 per cent of the population, get 62 per cent of the dollars.

Based on population, Winnipeg should receive somewhere near $58 million while the municipalities should be closer to $47.5 million. There is a huge discrepancy in the amount Winnipeg is receiving and the amount to which it should be entitled.

Is this provincial breakdown calculated in Ottawa, with distribution made accordingly, or does the provincial government have a say? Since 2014 is just the first year of this distribution deal, there is still plenty of time to even things out.

The other calculation that is somewhat puzzling is the 2014 allocation of $105.5 million from the $713 million.

That works out to be almost 15 per cent. If this is a 10-year agreement it would seem normal to allocate 10 per cent per year. At this rate, though, the fund will be exhausted after seven years.

Of course, a portion of this $710 million rebate is only a drop in the bucket compared to Winnipeg’s projected infrastructure expenses of $7.4 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Business Council of Manitoba.

It is important that cities such as Winnipeg and Brandon receive a fair share, as they have more than roads to consider when it comes to infrastructure. Sewers, schools, traffic lights and bridges need steady maintenance and services such as garbage pickup and snow-clearing are major expenses.

Where else does the City of Winnipeg get its money from, besides this gas tax, in order to keep up with the expenses of infrastructure? A portion of the PST or a share of liquor and lottery revenues?

Some people are concerned that money that should be spent on streets, sewer woes and winter snow-clearing is being used to build museums, rapid transit, fire halls and stadiums.
How this money is allocated and spent should be a major issue in our upcoming mayoral election.

It would be interesting to hear all of the candidates outline their thoughts on our infrastructure deficit and how they intend to deal with it.

Rick Sparling is a community correspondent for North Kildonan. Email him at ricksparling@shaw.ca

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