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An executive policy committee meeting set for next week will include the first review of services the city is mandated to provide in 17 years.
The last evaluation of its kind was done in 2003 by the city’s legal services department, but the public service conducted a new review as part of the multi-year budget process that began last October.
An assessment of that review was conducted by the city’s legal department. It will present its report to the executive policy committee Wednesday.
Legislated services listed include street and sidewalk maintenance, public transit and police response and investigation. The review states other areas such as housing initiatives, children’s libraries and community crisis response are not part of its mandate.
Services are either legislated through the city’s charter or in bylaws.
Finance chair Scott Gillingham said the review was overdue, adding the city has expanded funding over the years to areas beyond its mandate.
"It’s an important starting point to know where the City of Winnipeg is at when it comes to the services we’re delivering and the organizations we are funding through grants," he said.
Many of the services that are not mandated are primarily the provincial government's responsibility, he said.
"The city has a part to play as a partner, but when we look at who’s ultimately responsible for it, it’s really the province, and that’s where partnerships with the provincial government are really, really key," he said.
Gillingham said his hope is that the discussion around this review will ultimately answer the question of how the city should partner with the province, local organizations and the private sector to decide funding responsibilities for various services.
"The City of Winnipeg, speaking as a financier, just does not have the financial capacity to be all things to all people," he said.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has been calling on the city to review its core services for years, CEO Loren Remillard said.
"We recognize there’s somewhat of a subjective element to that — every year, council struggles with some seeing (something) as a core service, others won’t," he said. "We respect that, but you still need to ask the question, 'Is this core to what a city should be providing?'"
Determinations of legislated services should be based on whether the city is the only organization that can provide it, Remillard suggested, using policing and garbage collection as examples. While garbage collection is a core service, the city does not have to be its delivery agent, he said.
"In doing so, it allows the city to focus on doing the right things, and by right things I mean the core mandate, and doing them well," he said.
Remillard said mission creep should be a focal concern for the city when looking at support services and deciding if they should be municipally legislated.
"The road to trouble is paved with good intentions," he said. "No one’s denying that we need to tackle the issue of affordable housing, but is it the city’s mandate to tackle that issue?
"It is provincial jurisdiction, and unfortunately what we’ve seen in successive civic administrations is governments downloading or offloading; it really trickles down, where the issue, even if the jurisdiction resides at a higher level of government, the need falls to the city government."
The idea that housing initiatives exist outside of Winnipeg's charter is not entirely accurate, said Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and a member of Manitoba's Right to Housing Coalition.
"Housing is fundamental to what cities are," he said. "We wouldn't have cities without housing, so when we talk about what the city's responsibilities are, the city's responsible for building a community that's safe and healthy... housing is a fundamental piece of that," he said.
He noted that the province amended Winnipeg's charter in 2013, authorizing the city to use zoning bylaws to ensure affordable housing is included in new housing developments, as one example.
"The city's never engaged on that, but that is a clear piece of the legislative mandate within the city, and it directly relates to housing," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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