MHCA President Chris Lorenc told City Council’s executive policy committee this week Winnipeg cannot simply eliminate all residential street work for 2019, in response to the provincial government’s shortchanging the city on the cost-shared roads agreement last year.
NO residential street work this year? Cancelling the 53 residential street repair projects that were scheduled? In a word: inconceivable.
Lorenc told Mayor Brian Bowman and his EPC that the MHCA sympathizes with the dilemma the short-changing causes for Winnipeg, which is left with a $40-million hole in its streets budget. But City Hall’s proposal is to recoup the shortfall by taking $20 million out of 2019’s residential street budget, and $20 million next year. In a word: Untenable.
Further, because the province refuses to sign a new, five-year agreement for roads funding with Winnipeg, the total shortfall in 2019, compared to budget plans, is $42 million. In total, Winnipeg’s forecast 2019-2024 falls another $145 million short because the provincial government will not share the costs of critical investment in our trade-transportation network.
MHCA supports City Council’s efforts to push the Provincial government to make good on its commitments, Lorenc stressed.
But the ‘Plan B’ cannot be accepting this as a ‘new reality’ and taking it out of critical street repairs.
Councillors learned this was the budget option last Thursday. The Free Press reported that Coun. Scott Gillingham, Chair of the Finance Committee, said then that council would have to decide if there were options to restore the residential work, such as tax increases or borrowing
Lorenc said Plan ‘B’ cannot allow the provincial government to walk away from funding commitments. “That option lets Broadway off the hook. It sets a dangerous precedent.”
Further, it transfers the pain to city residents, who will see their streets crumble further, and onto the backs of the heavy construction workers, men and women who rely on stable employment in the industry to earn a living for their families.
“Once a company folds, leaves the heavy construction industry, or once a skilled labourer is forced to find a career in other industries, they do not come back – and that is the point at which our industry has reached,” Lorenc cautioned the EPC members Wednesday.
“This strikes at the heart of our economy. Transportation infrastructure is the foundation of trade – moving people to jobs and goods to market.”
Budget 2019 is scheduled for final vote March 20th.