Difficult budget choices ahead
Mayor announces policy on immigrant inclusion; $100K for Exchange District BIZ
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/01/2020 (1103 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeggers can expect the city’s first multi-year balanced budget to take a “disciplined” fiscal approach to managing the coffers when it’s released March 6, Mayor Brian Bowman says.
The announced timeline for the new four-year, preliminary budget came Friday afternoon during the mayor’s sixth annual state of the city address at the RBC Convention Centre. Bowman also announced a new policy on immigrant inclusion and $100,000 in funding for the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone.
As part of the City of Winnipeg’s multi-year budget process last year, public service officials presented their draft budgets to councillors, many including a laundry list of cutbacks needed to stay within imposed spending limits.
“There are going to difficult choices, as I’ve said previously,” Bowman said Friday. “Our job as council each year is to take a look at the recommendations of the public service and try to mitigate the full impact of some of the pain that was recommended in order to meet the targets that we’d set for the public service.”
Bowman said the new funding for the Exchange District BIZ will be earmarked for “timely and strategic planning” to better inform how the city operates in the area.
Mayor's 'big city' aspirations needless
Mayor Brian Bowman has been trying his level best these days to convince people that Winnipeg has graduated from small-town status to big city in just five years. It's an odd position to take.
Politicians love trying to paint themselves as agents of transformational change, especially after they’ve been in office a few years. It’s called legacy building. But Bowman’s claim that under his stewardship Winnipeg has suddenly become a “big city” is a bit rich.
"The days of Winnipeggers looking at their city as a small town, I think, are over," he told the Free Press in a year-end interview last month.
In a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce blog published last week, Bowman is quoted as saying: “I like to think Winnipeggers are starting to see themselves as a ‘big city.’ We’re not a small town, we’re not a mid-sized city, we’re a big Canadian city.”
“There’s been a great success in the Exchange, and we’ve had our challenges in terms of how some of the things have been implemented,” he said. “Last year, the bike paths, the manner in which they were implemented caught many businesses by surprise. That shouldn’t be happening.”
As the city grows to reach a population of one million people (estimated to happen around 2035), Bowman also underlined the need for a policy to enhance the lives of newcomers choosing to settle in Winnipeg by removing barriers to services.
The newcomer welcome and inclusion policy is a 2018 re-election campaign promise the mayor hopes to fulfill this year. However, details are still being worked out, he said.
“The policy is going to help our departments shape their own practices, including possibly human rights training, to be more sensitive to the unique needs of newcomers,” he said.
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba executive director Dorota Blumczynska said newcomers want to be represented in the leadership of the city, and want a voice in decision-making processes. She hopes the new policy will open up the door for permanent residents to vote in civic elections, and include an “access without fear” clause, so people can use city services without their immigration status coming into question.
Blumczynska said she’s supportive of the effort, but worries whether the policy will have the funds to back it up.
“Without a budget to challenge rhetoric, without a budget to foster different kinds of relationship through engagement, without a budget to create more accessible spaces, I’m concerned it will fall short of the possibilities it has.”
On Friday, Bowman also repeated his call for urgency by all levels of government to address crime, poverty and addictions in Winnipeg.
The implementation of a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Winnipeg has fallen short, the mayor said, and in its first five years, has not resulted in a significant reduction in the number of people impacted.
“We can end homelessness in the next five years if the provincial and federal governments prioritize the issue and devote the necessary resources to implement the plan properly,” he said.
The city also “absolutely must have greater support from other levels of government,” he said, if it hopes to move the needle on the health of Lake Winnipeg.
Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires said the province is working collaboratively with the city to implement an interim solution to phosphorus reduction from its north end sewage treatment plant, and is doing “fast work” to review a funding request to support major upgrades at the facility.
“We’re doing our due diligence on how to move forward collaboratively,” she said Friday.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Friday, January 24, 2020 11:01 PM CST: Updates headline and deck