Mayor Brian Bowman didn’t get anything in the 2018-19 Manitoba budget he’d been seeking for the city. However, there was one line that caught his attention.
"There was a comment about (the province) leading by example," the mayor told reporters.
Provincial spending increases are about double the city’s, Bowman said, "There’s a lot we can teach the province, if they follow our lead."
Bowman said he’ll take a wait-and-see position on the major municipal issues not addressed in the budget unveiled Monday at the Manitoba legislature.
The city asked for an accelerated road program, but didn’t get it. The city asked for the province to restore 50-50 funding on transit, too. "It’s pretty clear they won’t be reversing (that decision)," the mayor said.
The city also asked for dialogue on better funding opportunities for municipalities, but nothing was presented, Bowman said.
Meanwhile, the mayor said he expects Winnipeg will get some share of the taxes collected from the legalized sale of cannabis, expected to begin later this year.
However, Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said he didn’t include cannabis in this budget, because the province doesn’t know if legal pot will generate any revenue or if it will leave government paying more for additional policing, addiction treatment, road safety and related costs than it makes in taxes.
There is also nothing in the budget to spell out capital support for the city, said Bowman.
He urged reporters not to lose sight of Monday being the province’s day, not the municipalities’ day, adding municipalities all support the province trying to balance its budget.
Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said his organization had hoped to see a partnership, but instead heard a continued freeze at 2016 levels in transfers to municipalities.
"The reality is, 2016 dollars for 2018 problems will be a challenge," Goertzen said. "Municipalities are always concerned when highways aren’t properly maintained. There is a reduction in how much they’ll spend on highways."
Goertzen said the AMM has not estimated how far municipalities have fallen behind meeting their needs with provincial transfers frozen for two years, nor have they estimated their costs for dealing with legal pot.
"There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to that file," he said.
Nick Martin is the bearded guy we keep hidden away at the back of the newsroom. He is now in his fourth decade working in daily newspapers.