Province reneging on funding deal with city, imperils industry and city streets
The provincial budget released March 7 gives no indication that Pallister government is renewing a five-year roads agreement that has formed a big share of base funding in the City of Winnipeg’s local and regional streets renewal budgets. The lack of commitment means the City effectively loses $145 million in forecasted investment for the program 2019-2024.
‘This is a huge hit to the work the City has done to repair city streets, to chip away at the infrastructure investment deficit,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said. “That infrastructure deficit right now sits at $3 billion – it will grow exponentially if a solution to this funding dispute is not found.”
In its own budget, released March 1, the City cut this year’s street renewal budget by $20 million, with another $20 million from next year’s budget, explaining that the provincial government is refusing to pay $40 million it owes Winnipeg for the 2018 street renewal program. Further, its budget charts show that if the province does not renew the multi-year funding agreement, which has been a significant share of the program’s base funding, the city will have to cut $145 million from its planned budgets for street work, 2019-2024.
The province announced it was holding the Highways Capital budget at $350 million, last year’s level. While it announced it would be investing $45 million in roads and highways to mark Manitoba’s 150th birthday, it gave no details. Finance officials could not confirm these projects would be subject to open, public tendering.
The MHCA has written Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler asking that he confirm all the “Manitoba 150” projects will be publicly tendered.
The only provincial dollars included within the City budget documents are from the provincial share of a five-year deal (2019-2023) it signed with Ottawa in the fall, which pulls dollars from the New Building Canada Fund, a legacy program that was set to expire. The deal was signed to accelerate repair and construction of regional roads in the city.
City councillors learned March 7 that the dispute over the funds owing, and non-renewal of the provincial commitment, means there will be no residential street work, aside from TBO work, this year.
“The city has made definable progress in sustained, meaningful growth in street renewal work and budgets in the last number of years that the severe cuts are more than discouraging,” Lorenc said.
“The industry has been hard hit by provincial cuts to the Highways Capital program since 2016 – falling from $588 million to $350 million. These cuts by Winnipeg come as a body blow. It will hurt thousands of construction workers. Winnipeggers will see marked deterioration in streets that need repair right now.”
Synopsis of the budget numbers: