Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/6/2009 (3892 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG — Angry city councillors lashed out against both Broadway and Ottawa on Wednesday, claiming the Doer government and the Harper Conservatives are spending millions on infrastructure projects Winnipeg doesn't want and not enough on road repairs the city needs.
What started out last month as a cheeky nuisance motion by Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt snowballed into an intergovernmental gripe session, as city council spent 80 minutes reciting a litany of complaints about infrastructure funding decisions that date back to the Schreyer and Trudeau eras.
The actual motion on the table was a demand for Manitoba to spend more money on regional roads within Winnipeg, as the province picks up more of the tab for highways that run through other municipalities.
But council wound up hearing about a hockey complex Mayor Sam Katz didn't want, a floodway expansion Charleswood Coun. Bill Clement claims doesn't work and Winnipeg missing out on federal stimulus "largesse" that St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves claims is being bestowed upon every other Canadian city.
"It's obvious there are a lot of frustrated city councillors," Katz told reporters after council voted 15-1 in favour of a symbolic motion to demand more money for roads from the province.
Eleven out of 16 members of council complained Manitoba — and to a lesser extent, Ottawa — fail to heed Winnipeg's funding concerns and then dole out stimulus funds or infrastructure cash to suit their own political needs.
"You hear all these announcements, (but) we're still looking to address some of our priorities. It's unfortunate but that's the reality of it today," said Katz.
The mayor is particularly upset with recent announcements by Ottawa and the province to spend millions on a pair of recreation projects without passing the plans by council, the city's community services department or the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres, the volunteer-run organization responsible for prioritizing leisure projects. The province and the federal government are spending $11.8 million on the True North Hockey Canada Mooseplex — which the city knew nothing about — and $4 million on a Southdale Community Centre expansion that ranked No. 5 on a GCWCC priority list.
"They could have used that stimulus to maybe rejuvenate a Point Douglas," said Katz, referring to the waterfront inner-city neighbourhood that briefly entered the spotlight when it emerged as a potential football-stadium site. "There were so many things that could have been done that weren't on the table."
The only councillor to vote against the rebuke was finance chairman Justin Swandel, but not because he believed funding levels for city infrastructure projects are adequate. The St. Norbert councillor, who lost a public-relations war with the province over operating funding in March, said it was pointless to negotiate with the Doer government through the media.
Instead of begging for money, Swandel said Winnipeg should forge ahead and set its own infrastructure destiny by borrowing money while rates remain low.
Right now, a 30-year loan could be locked in at a 5.75 per cent interest rate, which is far below the rate of construction inflation, he said.
"Why do we continue to wait for them to listen to us?" he asked.
Premier Gary Doer, however, shrugged off the angry talk at city council, citing a York University report that cites Manitoba as a municipal funding leader and noting an increasing flow of cash from the province to Winnipeg.
"I don't worry about talk. I worry about action, and that's what the public does," he said. "This kind of hot air on a hot day — people open up their windows."
Winnipeg could do more to encourage the province to increase funding by ending the freeze on property taxes and using the revenue for infrastructure improvements, Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said.
— with files from Larry Kusch
CITY council voted 15-1 on Wednesday to rebuke the province over what councillors claim is a shortage of cash for regional roads. But Mayor Sam Katz and many councillors are actually angry at the Doer government for a different reason: Manitoba and Ottawa keep announcing cash for Winnipeg infrastructure projects that aren't high on the city's wish list. Here are the projects that have council's knickers in a knot:
In April, Ottawa and Manitoba said they will spend $212 million on a four-lane divided expressway and other infrastructure upgrades to serve Centreport, the trade and manufacturing concept planned for the edge of Richardson International Airport. While the city supports the project, many councillors are wondering why no federal stimulus funds are flowing to city infrastructure priorities, such as the lengthy list of outstanding road and bridge projects. Northeast Winnipeg councillors are also annoyed no money was offered to build a four-lane Disraeli Freeway.
True North Hockey Canada Mooseplex
In May, Ottawa and Manitoba announced a combined $11.8 million in funding for a $25-million ice hockey complex at Winnipeg's western fringe. Mayor Sam Katz, who didn't learn about the project until two hours before the announcement, claims the other two levels of government failed to consult with council, the city's community services department and the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres, the volunteer-run body that's supposed to govern recreation funding in Winnipeg. Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt fears city-owned rinks may suffer from publicly funded private competition.
Southdale Community Centre
The same day, Manitoba and Ottawa announced $4 million toward the first phase of Southdale Community Centre's planned expansion. Council community services chairman Gord Steeves and the GCWCC were annoyed because Southdale ranks No. 5 on the city's recreation-funding priority list. Steeves charged the move was made to follow through on a 2007 provincial election promise designed to aid Southdale NDP MLA Erin Selby's successful campaign against Tory incumbent Jack Reimer.
They said it
'You know where to go!'
- Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith provides directions to St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel during the debate over the delisting of Dennistoun House.
- Council speaker Harry Lazarenko, telling Smith to sit down... in Ukrainian.