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The City of Winnipeg’s preliminary multi-year budget will be voted on by council a full five days earlier than scheduled in response to actions taken by the provincial government on COVID-19.
Council will consider the budget with final recommendations on Friday, March 20 at 9:30 a.m., Mayor Brian Bowman said Saturday. The budget was initially scheduled to come before city council March 25, but was bumped up following the province’s announcement Friday afternoon that it would suspend classes from March 23 to April 10.
"We are all collectively trying to ‘flatten the curve’ in terms of the impacts to the health-care system, and to that end we will continue our efforts here at city hall," Bowman said.
The following other meetings have also been rescheduled:
• Water and waste, riverbank management and the environment committee will meet March 17, 1:30 p.m.;
• Executive policy committee will hear public budget delegations March 18, 9 a.m.;
• Executive policy committee will table final budget recommendations March 19, 1:30 p.m.; and
• Council will meet again on March 21, 9:30 a.m. to consider the agenda set initially for March 26.
Meetings scheduled for April also be shuffled and a new schedule will be considered by the executive policy committee on March 17.
Bowman said the intent is to reschedule meetings to allow city council to pass the budget within legislated timelines and to allow city operations to continue while acknowledging challenges city staff, councillors and citizens may encounter while classes are cancelled.
"I certainly will be coming to work and I know many others will, but the meetings of council and committees, the intent is to not have them occur over that three week period," Bowman said.
"We are seeing other councils across Canada, suspend their activities; we’re rescheduling given that we’re in the middle of our budget deliberations and we want to make sure that we’re affording everyone who wants to come in delegation and be a part of that process to continue to be involved."
City officials have asked anyone with flu symptoms to refrain from visiting civic facilities, including city hall.
The latest updates on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.
Bowman said those who want to participate in the budget hearings can do so remotely through the city’s live stream and through submitted correspondence.
"It is a balance. On one hand we have some saying that we should suspend and cancel all meetings effective immediately," Bowman said. "On the other hand we have legislative responsibility to pass a budget, to have meetings which are part of the democratic process, and we want to make sure that we’re ensuring the resources are there for the city to operate."
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said he is not comfortable moving the budget process forward under the condensed timeline, and instead suggested the city request four week extension to pass the budget from the province, or simply vote only on the 2020 budget.
"There’s a lot of detail that we still have to go through because we’re finding many issues and concerns, but I understand and respect the position the mayor is in," Klein said. "I’m trying to offer a couple of compromises that would work to his benefit and to all of us on council.
"This is the first time they’ve done this type of budget… and now we’re going to push it through with less time to consider it, less time for the public to speak to it, and I just think it’s too much," he said.
Danielle Da Silva Reporter
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
City libraries, pools and recreation centres will be closed to the public as of Monday to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city announced the closure on Saturday morning during a media availability with Mayor Brian Bowman and emergency operations centre manager Jason Shaw.
City facilities will be closed until further notice. More information is available at winnipeg.ca
Leisure Guide programming will also be cancelled effective March 16 until further notice. The 2020 Spring-Summer Leisure Guide registration that was originally planned for March 17, 2020 has been postponed until further notice.