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MHCA supports Winnipeg budget, calls for update on street condition, needs

The City of Winnipeg should update the condition and needs assessment of its transportation system, and conduct an analysis of sustainable funding levels required for replacement and renewal of its road and bridge infrastructure, MHCA President Chris Lorenc told City Council December 16.

Lorenc was speaking in support of the 2021 draft Operating and Capital Budget, released November 27. Council passed the budget Wednesday at its meeting, where Lorenc appeared by video.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the difficult challenges you have each faced in 2020 with falling revenues because of the pandemic impact on the economy. But you weathered them well, in part because of the leadership foresight to adopt a four-year, balanced budget plan,” Lorenc said. “This helped enable disciplined fiscal measures and contingency plans, executed when the pandemic’s impact became apparent, saving the city from even more severe financial harm. For this, you are to be commended.”

The MHCA also urged Council to redouble its efforts to press for a doubling of the gas-tax revenues the federal government shares with municipalities. Ottawa doubled the revenues to municipalities in 2019, and Lorenc noted it is reasonable to ask that it become permanent.

He said cities and towns bear the greatest burden of maintaining infrastructure, while higher levels of government have much more capacity to raise revenues.

The 2021 budget sees a slight increase to the local and regional streets renewal budget and for sewer and water main renewals.

Lorenc said the industry is grateful for the confirmation of the core infrastructure funding levels, especially at a time when the City was looking hard at budget cuts.

The updating of the condition/needs assessment and the lobby for doubling the gas-tax revenues were two recommendations made to Council by the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee in its approval of the 2021 budget December 11.

Lorenc said he was especially happy the budget will see the re-establishment of the Economic Development Office in the city’s administration. The office will help coordinate economic development efforts in the community but, as well, will more keenly focus city investments on capital projects that have the greatest return to the GDP.

To read the MHCA’s presentation to City Council click here.