December 10, 2019

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City can't replace Infrastructure without federal, provincial money, mayor says

Mayor Brian Bowman brought up the city's infrastructure deficit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Mayor Brian Bowman brought up the city's infrastructure deficit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press files)

The $4.9-billion cost of the 22 major capital projects in Winnipeg identified in a new report underlines the need for greater financial assistance from federal and provincial governments, Mayor Brian Bowman said Friday

In a conference call with reporters from Quebec City, Bowman said the report, first published by the Free Press Thursday and formally released Friday morning, identifies the major projects that need to be done.

"This report underscores the importance of having strong provincial and federal partners willing to help build our city," he said. "We simply can’t do it all on our own."

The administrative report, prepared for the June 11 executive policy committee meeting, stated that there are 22 major projects totalling $4.9 billion that should be built over the next 10 years, but no source of funding has been identified for most of the projects.

The report states that if the city were to finance the new projects solely through property taxes, it would require an additional three per cent property tax increase annually for the next 10 years, along with a 37 per cent increase in utility rates.

Bowman was in Quebec City this week for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual meeting and the meeting of the Big City Mayors Caucus.

"As a council, we’re going to have to make two difficult decisions about which projects are priorities for our city and how we’re going to finance those projects," he said.

The report recommends that the administration prioritize the list of 22 projects before the end of the year for council’s consideration in its first-ever multi-year budget.

A summary of the report can be found here. The 36-page detailed report is available online here

Replacing the Arlington Bridge is one of 22 major capital projects the city has identified as a priority. (Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Replacing the Arlington Bridge is one of 22 major capital projects the city has identified as a priority. (Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Bowman said council will ultimately decide which projects will be built and when, and how they will be financed.

The project list includes replacement infrastructure — new Arlington and Louise bridges — and new projects, including the south Winnipeg recreation campus, three new rapid transit corridors and extension of Chief Peguis Trail.

While the report suggests some of the funding could be found in the impact fee fund (the new charge on residential development), Bowman said those dollars should be used exclusively to offset the cost of projects resulting from the city’s growth.

The most recent financial report states the accumulated impact fee revenue totals almost $20 million, including $3.267 million collected in the first three months of 2019. The current budget predicts an additional $8 million for the remainder of 2019.

However, Bowman said that money would make little difference when talking about $4.9 billion for needed infrastructure.

He said the report has been made public to encourage debate in the community about the which projects should be funded and how that should be accomplished.

"We need to have dialogue, not just amongst councillors but as a community and with our provincial and federal partners about these projects," he said.

Bowman met briefly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday morning, before the conference call with reporters, and he said the two leaders talked on a variety of topics, including the city’s infrastructure deficit.

While Trudeau didn't commit to any individual project, Bowman said the PM understands the need for the provincial and federal government to help the city grow.

"As our population grows, so too does our need to maintain existing infrastructure while also building new infrastructure," Bowman said. "We both have a shared desire to have all three levels of government working in partnership and in a collaborative manner. If we’re going to address the challenges we have, especially the infrastructure challenges, we need to be working together."

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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