News / Winnipeg

No fair share of infrastructure dollars coming to Winnipeg: minister

In case that wasn’t made clear enough during the 2016 provincial budget, the minister of Indigenous and municipal relations underlined the point again Thursday.

Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke

Stephanie Taylor / Metro Order this photo

Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke

Let the balancing act begin as city officials prepare to table draft versions of Winnipeg’s 2017 budgets on Nov.22.

The plan is for the operating and capital budgets to be passed by mid-December, which means bureaucrats and members of this year’s budget working group are tasked with closing the gap on a $52 million shortfall.

Finance chairman Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo) explained doing so involves balancing the political will to keep property taxes low while meeting residents’ expectations to maintain service levels.

He added that all departments have submitted their budget requests for 2017.

“We’re going through the painstaking work line by line of parsing through them, and weighing competing priorities based on the limited resources that we have,” Morantz said on Thursday.

The mayor, along with his seven-member executive policy committee, and three councillors from outside his inner circle will decide on next year’s budgets.

For the second year in a row, Coun. Jenny Gerabsi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) will be part of the cohort.

Matt Allard (St. Boniface) and Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) will be first-timers.

“These were councillors that were quite vocal last year about wanting to be included in the process, and we wanted to do what we could to make sure that we responded to their concerns,” Morantz said.

Allard and Gilroy were among six councillors who voted down the 2016 budgets after a series of last minute changes were proposed and shot down.

Last year’s budgets passed by a 10-6 vote.

Councillors excluded from this year’s budget table are Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan), Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan), Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona).

“It becomes complicated to have everybody at the table, so we’re trying on an incremental basis to increase the number of councillors that would be participating,” Morantz said.

He intends to meet with every councillor to discuss the budget and joining him for the first time will be the city’s chief financial officer, Mike Ruta.

Plans for public consultation have also been beefed up.

After last year, the city received feedback that residents wanted face-to-face dialogue instead of only having online and telephone surveys, Morantz said.

So starting next month, the city will host five community engagement sessions where councillors and staff will attend.

Morantz envisions the consultations to be workshop-based where residents will gather around tables to air their various budgetary concerns.