Municipalities map out desired provincial election paths
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Manitoba municipal leaders put provincial politicians on notice Friday as they outlined what they want to see included in party platforms ahead of the Oct. 3 election.
“Our municipalities are not just some stakeholders group asking for a voice in politics,” Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Kam Blight said at a Winnipeg news conference held by mayors of three of its 137-member communities.
“We represent the order of government closest to the people,” Blight said flanked by the mayors of Winnipeg, Thompson and East St. Paul. They gathered next to a smelly sewage pool at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre.
The treatment plant, which is undergoing a $2.2-billion upgrade, was chosen because more such infrastructure investments are needed across the province, the Blight said.
“In the province of Manitoba, municipalities are facing $752 million in wastewater project deficits,” Blight said. “There are over 250 shovel-ready projects that are ready to go… That’s what we’re asking for: investment in infrastructure such as this.”
Key vote-getters include a predictable municipal funding model, investments to attract people to Manitoba, and keep them here, and improvements to public safety, he said.
“It’s by standing up for Manitoba’s municipalities that our politicians will be standing up for you. That’s why we are launching this campaign, so our political parties are crystal clear about what our priorities are.”
The mayors also want the province to amend Bill 37, which gives the provincially appointed Manitoba Municipal Board the power to overrule municipal council planning decisions.
“I believe that the decisions of elected officials should take precedence,” Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said.
“We are accountable as elected officials,” he said, recalling a municipal board decision last year that shot down the development of an apartment block in Charleswood that the city had approved.
“When we’ve got a case where council makes a decision and it’s turned over by the municipal board… the only thing we can do is implement what the municipal board has said,” Gillingham said. “I would like that to be looked at that again.”
Before he won a seat for the Tories in the December 2022 Kirkfield Park byelection, and being appointed environment and climate minister, former city councillor Kevin Klein publicly supported the board scrapping the Charleswood project.
When asked if her government would amend the legislation as requested by the association, Premier Heather Stefanson said sometimes there an “unintended consequences” and that her government is listening to Manitobans.
“We set (Bill 37) up to ensure that we’re creating an environment that is conducive to growing our economy and to growing our communities, as well,” she told reporters after speaking at a Manitoban Chambers of Commerce event Friday.
“If there are things that need to be changed as a result of that, we’re listening to Manitobans and we’ll act accordingly,” she said.
East St. Paul Mayor Carla Devlin echoed Gillingham’s concern.
“We want to make sure the decisions are made based on the community, and who best knows the community but the municipality and the council that’s elected,” Devlin said.
Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook said a successful provincial election platform needs to include investments in people that are closer to home.
“We need more paramedics, doctors, nurses in all our communities, and the local training opportunities to get them there,” she said. “We can’t afford to have our students going out of province.
“What happens when you go out of province is that you don’t always come back. We need to keep Manitobans in Manitoba and the infrastructure needs to be here to do that.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Friday, May 5, 2023 4:43 PM CDT: Updates with final version