Brian Pallister rejects the idea that the city has to reduce ambulance or transit services because it isn't getting all the money it wants from the province.
Responding to media questions after addressing a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Pallister said his government is trying to fix the province's finances. And when he asks for "all hands on deck" to achieve the task, that includes city councillors.
“They have the opportunity to do things other than to raise taxes or cut services. There’s a lot of opportunity in the middle ... to find more efficient and effective ways to do things," Pallister said.
The premier mainly deflected questions about the city's threat to turn over responsibility for operating ambulance service to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority -- and by extension the province -- because of the province's funding stance.
City council's executive policy committee decided Wednesday to direct the administration to develop a plan to get the city out of the ambulance business. Asked for comment, Pallister said: “That’s their reaction and I won’t react to their reaction."
The premier also rejected the notion that transit service along 23 routes had to be reduced due to the province ending its 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement with Winnipeg.
“We’re making the necessary changes to make sure we get the most possible bang for the buck for taxpayers without jacking up taxes. We are finding savings. And we’ll keep doing that. And I expect municipal governments to do that same kind of work,” Pallister said.
“They have one of the most generous arrangements with our province of any city in the entire country of Canada. And I would expect that the city would look for opportunities to take advantage of the latitude they’ve been given, find the necessary opportunities for improving their services, and reduce waste, overlap and duplication within their organization just as we are.”
Meanwhile, Pallister defended his government's proposal to make 19 the minimum age for legal consumption of recreational cannabis in Manitoba.
He noted that the border provinces of Saskatchewan and Ontario have already decided on 19 as the legal age.
“It’s a new product. It’s not like alcohol, which has been distributed in a pretty understandable system for decades,” he said, noting the age choice will help keep it out of schools.