City council had options; slashing street repairs is a bad decision: Lorenc
Winnipeg city council approved its Budget 2019 Wednesday, eliminating all significant residential street repairs. That cancels 53 street and 11 lane projects that were planned for 2019.
“We are beyond disappointed that city council took this decision,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said Wednesday. Lorenc appeared at council, presenting options to backfill a $40-million shortfall in road renewal funding.
Winnipeg says the provincial government still owes it $40 million from a funding commitment for street works done in 2018. Further, the province has not renewed a five-year road funding agreement, which means $174 million will be cut from Winnipeg’s 2019-24 forecasts for local and regional street renewal.
“The mayor and councillors have decided they should keep pushing the province for the money owed, and for a renewed roads agreement,” Lorenc said. “We agree that money owed should be paid, but in the meantime cutting $40+ million out of the local street renewal program this year is counterproductive — it will see our streets crumble.
“The cost to reconstruct is far greater than repairing a decaying road. Council could have found funding to backfill, temporarily, the shortfall — all budgets have that elasticity.”
Meanwhile, the federal government on Tuesday announced it would “top up” revenues to municipalities from the Gas Tax Fund — doubling its gas tax transfers to municipalities for 2018-19. In total, more than $2 billion will flow to municipalities across the country.
Mayor Brian Bowman says that could see up Winnipeg get up to $40 million more.
“Subject to the budget being passed by the federal government, I will work diligently with councilors and the public service to administer these funds as quickly as possible,” Bowman said Tuesday.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Finance Chair Scott Gillingham said the federal top-up could mean that $40 million is available for additional roads funding.
The MHCA has written to senior federal MP Jim Carr, for confirmation of the top-up amount for Winnipeg, and seeking his assistance to ensure it goes to residential street work.
Read Lorenc’s address to City Council here.