Leaders at the City of Winnipeg have a clear wish list for the next federal government.
Mayor Brian Bowman declined to endorse a specific party Friday but said the city has several key priorities it needs Ottawa to help address. They include finalizing funding agreements on the $1.854-billion north end sewage treatment plant upgrade and the Winnipeg Transit master plan.
"We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars. That is absolutely a priority to deliver those dollars to Winnipeg," said Bowman.
Transit goals would be much more feasible if $204 million in federal funds the Liberal government had earmarked for the Winnipeg service were paid out, he added.
While the mayor has long-accused the Manitoba government of delaying tri-government funding deals for the sewage upgrade, the province insists it is simply ensuring the project is efficient and affordable.
Bowman said Winnipeg also needs the next federal government to find tangible ways to move forward on reconciliation, protect Canadians against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and invest to reduce, and eventually end, homelessness.
"We’ve had some successes with some of the recent support from the current (federal Liberal) government, notably the rapid housing initiative (through which Winnipeg is slated to receive $25 million). But we know that there is more need in our community right now on the full spectrum of housing and homelessness issues," the mayor said.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, finance committee chairman, expects many infrastructure needs could be paid for if the federal government provides more stable, direct funding that doesn’t require a provincial sign-off.
"The City of Winnipeg is still facing a $6.9-billion infrastructure deficit," said Gillingham.
The councillor said a permanent doubling of the federal gas tax would go a long way to address the issue. In 2021, Ottawa offered a one-time doubling of the gas tax, raising Winnipeg’s portion to $92.8 million from $46.4 million.
Gillingham said he was pleased to recently hear both the federal Conservatives and Liberals support the completion of all three upgrades of the north end sewage treatment plant during the election campaign.
Coun. Sherri Rollins stressed more senior government dollars are desperately needed to address a surge in homelessness and addictions, which has led some to sleep in bus shelters and others to reside in tents, scattered throughout the city.
"We’re in a humanitarian crisis and we need parties to step up," said Rollins, protection and community services committee chairwoman.
She said the Liberal platform, and its past investments as a government, displays a willingness to invest in housing.
"We’ve been able to work really well with the federal Liberal government to really develop and have city streams for a dedicated housing strategy."
It may be challenging for the city to determine which federal party would best meet its needs, since the urban agenda didn’t exactly play a starring role in the 2021 campaign, said Paul Thomas, a prof emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
Thomas said Winnipeg did appear to benefit from a successful working relationship with leader Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, including through housing investments.
"As a level of government that’s starved for revenues and doesn’t have a lot of diversified revenue sources to draw upon, (the city has) been anxious to take every opportunity to gather federal funds," he said.
If re-elected Sept. 20, a Liberal government might also have a vested interest in providing some financial support to Winnipeg, since the party tends to win most of its Manitoba seats in city ridings, Thomas said.
"When you’re thinking about where to be politically generous, you would think of giving some money to where you’re going to win more seats."
The political expert said it’s more difficult to predict how a Conservative government under Erin O’Toole would deal with Winnipeg, since there’s no track record to review at this point.
The federal election will take place Monday.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.