Winnipeg mayor calls for partnership with province for post-pandemic relief
WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is calling on the province to partner with the city on a recovery plan to help Winnipeg after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Bowman made the comment during a news conference Thursday afternoon at Winnipeg City Hall.
“The current financial situation stemming from the pandemic highlights very clearly, the city’s antiquated revenue model, and warrants immediate action between the province and the city on a modern, growth-oriented funding framework,” he said.
Bowman said a city committee is currently projecting a loss of approximately $78 million should provincial health orders remain in effect until August.
He said the city has temporarily laid off approximately nine per cent of its total workforce to help deal with revenue shortfalls, along with reducing transit routes and reducing expenses across departments.
He added partnering with the province could help the city emerge from the economic challenges from the pandemic.
“As the pandemic goes on, certainly as it goes on past September, there’s going to be increased pressure on us, and we’re going to need support, and we’re going to need to very aggressively replenish the fiscal stabilization reserve,” Bowman said.
“The question becomes ‘how do you do that?’
“$78 million dollars by the end of August, and potentially more, to replenish that through taxes or through service reductions, is not something that I think is smart. What would be smarter is let’s fix the revenue model. I know (Finance) Minister (Scott) Fielding has talked about using the pandemic as a reset and embrace some changes. I would agree with that.”
On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister announced a $500-million investment in infrastructure spending from the province. Projects that would qualify under the announcement include water and sewer projects, road and highway resurfacing and municipal priorities.
Bowman said he is still seeking details from the province about how it will impact Winnipeg, but said the North End Sewage Treatment Plant is one project that could benefit from the program. He said the project is “shovel-ready and council approved,” and will help the city’s health and economy.
“We made that request last fall, we’ve been waiting since last fall for the province to fully commit to supporting that project, and I know the federal government is waiting to see the request from the province,” he said.
A recreation centre for Winnipeg South and the St. James Civic Centre were also mentioned by Bowman as projects that could benefit from the funding.
Bowman said he has requested a meeting with Rochelle Squires, minister of sustainable development, for information about the infrastructure spending.