Winnipeg’s unfunded capital-project problem ‘not about a list’: MHCA

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association
June 21, 2019
By Manitoba Heavy Construction Association
June 21, 2019, Winnipeg - Winnipeg City Council must look beyond the immediate issue of sorting $4.9 billion worth of unfunded capital projects into a priority list, and deal with the real problem at the root of this matter.

“The matter before you is challenging,” Lorenc said in his presentation to council, before a vote on an administrative report that described each major capital project and noted almost none of them has a funding source.

“Your deliberations cannot be isolated from the fact that this is really about how Winnipeg can execute delivery of a core civic responsibility. Winnipeg needs a solid strategy for sustainable infrastructure investment. It requires reliable, predictable, long-term financing and funding partners.”

Council voted to prioritize the 22 projects, including such major infrastructure construction as the extension of Chief Peguis Trail and widening of Kenaston Boulevard/Route 90 north. Like many on the list, they are key to Winnipeg’s trade transportation system that underpins economic growth.

Lorenc said council knows why it is in this predicament – if new funding and financing arrangements are not found, fulfilling the list will load property owners with a 30% tax hike over the next decade.

The current model for infrastructure financing is broken. Infrastructure funding deals commit three levels of government to an equal share for constructing new assets, while municipalities only collect 8 cents of every tax dollar. Further, these deals don’t include life-cycle costs of maintaining infrastructure, 50%+ of which is owned by cities and towns.

The City of Winnipeg has had three reports (1998, 2000 and 2011) delivered to it on how Canada, the provinces and municipalities could craft a fairer, more workable funding arrangement. A new fiscal deal should recognize the uneven ability to raise revenues and to tap a variety of revenue sources, and the unwieldy burden of life-cycle costs for infrastructure now on the shoulders of municipalities.

Lorenc said it is an opportune time to dust off the reports and follow the advice given for pushing toward a New Fiscal Deal for municipalities now that we are facing both a provincial and a federal election campaign.

“City Council represents most of Manitoba’s voters,” he noted. “Push this critical item onto the provincial and federal political agendas and at the doorsteps of Winnipeggers for all candidates.”

In response to a question from Finance Chair Scott Gillingham, Lorenc said while no provincial party may have put a New Fiscal Deal squarely in their campaign platform, the opportunity now is that it can become a part of the public discourse and party discussions that can lead to post-election elaboration.

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