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This article was published 8/3/2019 (447 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
RESPONDING to concerns raised by Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, the Manitoba finance minister said Friday the government’s new infrastructure funding commitment to the city is "solid."
Scott Fielding said the Pallister government has made it clear in writing to the mayor it is increasing municipal infrastructure funding.
In his budget Thursday, Fielding announced capital grants to the city for infrastructure would rise to "up to" $113.1 million in 2019-20 from $83.6 million in the current fiscal year.
Bowman’s responded that the province appeared to be setting a ceiling on funding, rather than a floor.
Interviewed after a breakfast speech to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce Friday, Fielding said the province has been "pretty clear" to the city on what the municipality will receive.
"Our investments are solid," he said, adding the province would be willing to make letters it sent to the City of Winnipeg on the issue public.
A government spokesman later said Manitoba would release the correspondence if it received permission from the mayor.
The spokesman also clarified the $113.1 million in capital grants is dependent on the city remitting proper receipts. The money has been earmarked for such projects as the Waverley Street rail underpass, rapid transit development, and the accelerated regional roads program.
In his speech to the business audience, Fielding reviewed the highlights of his budget, including a percentage point cut to the provincial sales tax, and participated in a question-and-answer session with Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Chuck Davidson.
Davidson brought up the Pallister government’s sometimes prickly relationship with both the city and the federal government.
"You guys and (Manitoba federal cabinet minister) Jim Carr don’t have a great relationship," he remarked to Fielding, sparking some chuckles from the crowd.
"You guys and Brian Bowman don’t have a great relationship either," he noted, in asking what the province would do to repair those relationships.
Fielding said there are areas in which the province works very well with Ottawa, citing health care and housing as examples. Carr has complained the province has been slow to take advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding in a variety of areas.
Fielding said the dispute with the mayor over capital funding has been "unfortunate," but the city knew well in advance what it was receiving in 2019.
"It’s kind of like looking under the Christmas tree the day before Christmas and somehow acting surprised on (Christmas Day)," he remarked.
Davidson asked Fielding about the timing of the PST cut, suggesting the province, instead, could have balanced its books, given the size of federal transfers. According to polling done by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, 70 per cent of its members are in favour of a PST cut, but more than half (52 per cent) said it would not affect their capital investments or hiring.
Fielding said the reason the government cut the tax was it didn’t think it should have been raised six years ago by the NDP in the first place.
"Most importantly, we think that taxpayers deserve a break," he said.
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Updated on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 8:18 AM CST: Final