Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/4/2019 (252 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Add the threat of an early provincial election to the list of things causing friction between the city and province.
At a breakfast speech to the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association Thursday morning, Mayor Brian Bowman did not mince words about what he thought about Premier Brian Pallister's hints that he may call an early election.
"The fact the we are even contemplating an election this year is a disservice to voters. They have another year in their mandate and I don’t think anyone would argue they have gotten the job done," he said.
Pallister has dropped hints, most recently that he'd heard from "a lot of Manitobans" who said they don't want an election to get in the way of the celebration of Manitoba's 150th birthday next year.
Bowman is not impressed.
"I think it's a little weak," he said. "I have not had anyone urge me to bend the provincial government's ears to say that that is the pressing matter. People are more focused in on the services they need from government. They received a strong mandate. I would urge them to focus on the work of government and not on the political opportunities of a political party."
Speaking in front of an audience of officials connected to the construction industry, Bowman said there are many areas the city and provincial governments need to collaborate on and effectively using any available funds to put towards the city's $6.9 billion infrastructure deficit is an important area.
The city is still looking for an explanation from the province as to why it is not dispersing $40 million the city expected this year as part of a multi-year agreement with the province to cover road work.
And while that caused lots of problems for the city's road-work budget for 2019 Bowman said he was "incredibly happy" when the federal government's budget doubled the carbon tax payouts to municipalities which means about $44 million for the city.
There are not many strings attached to that money but Bowman said he favours that it be spent on roads and said that he believes most of the council members do as well, "But not all them."
"Roads are primarily what that money should be used for," he said. "We have other priorities and council will have different views. We will discuss and debate how the money should be used."
Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, has an obvious preference as to how that federal carbon tax windfall should be used.
"Council ultimately has the right to make the allocation," Lorenc said. "Our view is that the bulk ought go to roads to fill the $40-million gap that has been left the city by the provincial government's decision to renege on a payment it owes Winnipeg."
He said there is no doubting the fact that residential streets are in a bad state of repair.
"So it's not like we're making work." Lorenc said. "It is filling a need that taxpayers have identified as a priority so we think that should be its priority."
The federal government has not yet passed its budget and funds may not be dispersed to the city until June, but Bowman said it is important that council gets its plan in place.
"Time is of the essence for sure," he said. "I would like to have council move as quickly as possible so that when the federal government budget is passed we are ready to go."
The city's executive policy committee meets on April 9th and if a motion is supported it would go to full council on April 23rd.
"That would be more than sufficient time for the public service to ready the tenders, advertise the bid opportunities and for the industry to do the work," Lorenc said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.