Mayor Brian Bowman says he’s concerned Winnipeggers are facing an uncomfortable summer with higher mosquito counts, after the province reduced funding for area larviciding.
Bowman told reporters Wednesday the province has failed to recognize the insects can travel a great distance, and cutting back the larviciding funds for the rural municipalities around Winnipeg will likely mean more mosquitoes in the city this summer.
"I am concerned that the mosquito counts are going to be higher in the city of Winnipeg as a result of the provincial decision," Bowman said.
A civic committee this week authorized staff to renegotiate agreements for spring larviciding efforts with the 10 RMs surrounding Winnipeg as a result of the province altering its rural funding to combat West Nile virus spread by infected mosquitoes.
An administrative report to the protection committee said the province’s decision is expected to result in a cumulative $620,000 shortfall to the 10 RMs.
City crews had been larviciding mosquito egg-laying areas in a 10-kilometre radius beyond the city’s boundaries.
Compounding the reallocation of anti-West Nile virus funds, the city said the province, since 2014, has also refused to cover Winnipeg's additional costs attributed to converting its larviciding agent to a more environmentally-friendly biological material.
The report said with the loss of the funds, the city should shrink the coverage area to an eight-km radius.
A provincial health department official told news media the funding change, which had been announced last May, was the result of a decision to spend anti-West Nile virus funding in those rural areas where it is needed most.
Bowman said while city crews were helping rural residents, the larviciding program did benefit Winnipeg residents, as well.
The administrative report said reducing the larviciding radius could result in an increase in mosquitoes in those city neighbourhoods adjacent to the RMs.
The committee instructed the public service to renegotiate the larviciding contracts, and reduce the larviciding radius, with the RMs if the province doesn't provide additional funding to cover the extra costs related to nuisance mosquito spraying by April.
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.