Manitoba's finance minister says the city's intention to boost spending by 3.9 per cent — well above inflation — is "probably not where they want to be."

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This article was published 1/3/2019 (1222 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba's finance minister says the city's intention to boost spending by 3.9 per cent — well above inflation — is "probably not where they want to be."

Scott Fielding, a former Winnipeg city councillor, expressed concern about the size of the increase, especially as it comes on the heels of two successive "substantial" budget surpluses.

"I would think that taxpayers would expect all levels of government to be as efficient and effective as we can," he said in reaction to Friday's civic budget.

"When you're at almost 2 1/2 times the rate of inflation, it's probably not where you want to be."

Fielding said the recent year-end surpluses mean that Winnipeggers have been "overcharged" on their taxes.

Mayor Brian Bowman has been at odds with the Pallister government over roadwork funding and other budget issues for months. Winnipeg claims the province owes it $40 million for 2018 road construction projects, while the province says it's made good on its commitments.

Fielding has taken to social media to complain about city tax increases and to argue that the province is generous in its funding of the provincial capital.

Despite his critical comments, Fielding hinted twice in speaking with reporters Friday that the city may be in for a pleasant surprise when he introduces his provincial budget Thursday.

"Who knows? There could be even more (infrastructure) money than they anticipated in the budget," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Wab Kinew blamed Premier Brian Pallister for the fact that the city would spend less than it originally intended on roads this year.

"When your car bottoms out this spring because of more potholes... you should remember that you have a premier who can't play nice with the City of Winnipeg," he said. "And that's the reason why roads are getting worse in our city."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca