April 20, 2019

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Bowman seeks 'smarter ways' in city-province spat

Throw some cold water on any suggestion of a thaw in the icy relations between city hall and the Manitoba legislature.

After Premier Brian Pallister held an impromptu session with reporters Monday, saying city hall needs to “show some respect,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman fired back Tuesday.

“If the province wants to be (recognized as) the most improved province in the country, then let’s be open to how we can do things in smarter ways,” Bowman told reporters when asked to comment on Pallister’s comments.

The exchange was prompted by Bowman’s statement last week that Winnipeg was delaying its 2019 budget debate for one month in the hopes the Pallister government will provide, in writing, assurances it’s not cutting funding to the city.

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Throw some cold water on any suggestion of a thaw in the icy relations between city hall and the Manitoba legislature.

After Premier Brian Pallister held an impromptu session with reporters Monday, saying city hall needs to "show some respect," Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman fired back Tuesday.

"If the province wants to be (recognized as) the most improved province in the country, then let’s be open to how we can do things in smarter ways," Bowman told reporters when asked to comment on Pallister’s comments.

The exchange was prompted by Bowman’s statement last week that Winnipeg was delaying its 2019 budget debate for one month in the hopes the Pallister government will provide, in writing, assurances it’s not cutting funding to the city.

Bowman said city hall didn’t want to be surprised, like it was in 2017, when the Pallister government unilaterally ended the 50-50 cost-sharing agreement on Winnipeg Transit operational costs and bus purchases — after the city had passed its budget.

Mayor Brian Bowman: It would help the city make better decisions if it knew in advance how much funding it would receive from the province.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayor Brian Bowman: It would help the city make better decisions if it knew in advance how much funding it would receive from the province.

Municipalities in Manitoba are required to finalize budgets by March each year, but they usually don’t know what amount of provincial funding they’ll receive until the Manitoba budget, typically released in April.

Bowman said it would help the city make better decisions if it knew in advance how much funding it would receive, explaining Winnipeg never asked for more — only confirmation of the same amount it had received in 2018.

City hall has also been grappling with the province's lack of speed in funding transfers in other areas, particularly ambulance services and for the southwest transit corridor project.

Pallister was dismissive of the city’s request, explaining no provincial government provides municipalities with the kind of detailed information Winnipeg is demanding.

"The tail doesn’t wag the dog," Pallister said Monday, telling reporters the province will not be changing its budget process to accommodate the city’s request.

Premier Brian Pallister: The province will not be changing its budget process to accommodate the city’s request.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Premier Brian Pallister: The province will not be changing its budget process to accommodate the city’s request.

Bowman said city hall shouldn’t be getting provincial financial information from exchanges with reporters.

"We’ve simply asked for information that can help us build a budget with greater certainty, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request," the mayor said.

"I think most Winnipeggers, if they were tasked with building a budget of over a billion dollars, would want to have a little bit greater certainty if that’s possible. We hope we can get that information."

Pallister told reporters he didn’t care if city hall delayed its budget deliberations, adding Winnipeg receives the highest amount of provincial funding of any Canadian city. "The city has not got a revenue problem," the premier said.

Bowman said city hall appreciates the funding support it receives from both the provincial and federal governments, but added he’s always looking at ways the three levels of government can improve how they work together.

"Budgets have been done in certain ways for decades, that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements together," he said.

— with files from Larry Kusch

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.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 2:54 PM CST: adds chart

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