October 20, 2018

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Mayoral candidate Diack plans property-tax freeze, more road repairs

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Mayoral candidate Tim Diack unveils his infrastructure plan at a press conference beside the construction at Waverley Street and Wilks Avenue Wednesday afternoon. </p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayoral candidate Tim Diack unveils his infrastructure plan at a press conference beside the construction at Waverley Street and Wilks Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

Tim Diack said he’ll increase spending on regional and local streets by three per cent annually without raising property taxes if elected mayor.

Diack, a 31-year-veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service, said he can build on the record $116 million city council approved for road renewal in 2018, raising the annual amount to $138.5 million by 2024 and a combined $773 million over that six-year period.

Diack said he would find the additional funds through efficiencies in public works and other civic departments.

“Our plan is ambitious but realistic,” Diack said Wednesday while standing in a parking lot adjacent to the Waverley underpass project. “We will find the three per cent increase through a line-by-line audit within current spending on infrastructure and other departments. This will reveal inefficiencies and yield target areas to harvest $3 million a year.”

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Tim Diack said he’ll increase spending on regional and local streets by three per cent annually without raising property taxes if elected mayor.

Diack, a 31-year-veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service, said he can build on the record $116 million city council approved for road renewal in 2018, raising the annual amount to $138.5 million by 2024 and a combined $773 million over that six-year period.

Diack said he would find the additional funds through efficiencies in public works and other civic departments.

"Our plan is ambitious but realistic," Diack said Wednesday while standing in a parking lot adjacent to the Waverley underpass project. "We will find the three per cent increase through a line-by-line audit within current spending on infrastructure and other departments. This will reveal inefficiencies and yield target areas to harvest $3 million a year."

This was Diack's second policy announcement in as many days, in what is a desperate effort to establish some sort of political identity in the two weeks remaining until the Oct. 24 election. On Tuesday, he offered to put a 12-officer police unit at the Health Sciences Centre to assist the hospital's security team deal with meth addicts.

He said he intends to release his property-tax plan, list of donors and his T4 statement Thursday.

Diack registered his campaign May 31 but did not do any campaigning during the summer. He attempted to break away from the large fringe candidate group with participation in the mayoral forums that began in September but those events offer candidates only a limited opportunity to sell themselves to the public.

Now, with the clock running down, Diack is ratcheting up his efforts, but it may be a case of too little, too late . The Free Press/CTV Winnipeg Probe poll released last week had Diack running a distant third place behind Mayor Brian Bowman (61 per cent) and Jenny Motkaluk (28 per cent), with three per cent support among decided voters.

Diack said his 31 years as a city employee has shown him that savings can be found not only within the police budget but in all civic departments.

"People (in other departments) talk to me," he said. "There are things that can be done."

While politicians often claim they can find efficiencies in department budgets, they frequently fall short of financial targets when they find years of city hall penny-pinching has left many areas with lean staff. However, parsing project budgets is another matter.

The budget for Phase 2 of the southwest transit corridor was originally $587 million, but it was reduced by $120 million after the design and construction contract was awarded.

Similarly, the budget for the Waverley underpass project was reduced by $35 million, from its original $156.3 million, to $121.3 million

For those two projects alone, that's a combined savings of $155 million, about two-thirds of which must be shared with the federal and provincial governments, but still a tidy pot for city hall.

Diack said his goal is to freeze property taxes, at least for 2019.

"That's what we're going for in our first year," he said.

He also unveiled a plan to speed up road-construction projects by allowing crews to start an hour earlier. Diack said he would amend the noise bylaw, allowing work to begin at 6 a.m., which he said could mean completing projects 10-15 per cent quicker.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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