Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman considers the Manitoba Liberal Party's commitment to boost municipal infrastructure funding good news for the city.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said Tuesday that if her party forms government next month, they will dedicate the one percentage point increase of the provincial sales tax (PST) to a municipal infrastructure fund.
"This is a big commitment and it is one that I would absolutely ... welcome and stand behind," Bowman said. "[I] want Winnipeggers to look very seriously at this commitment if they care about infrastructure."
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Revenue from the increase would be divvied up on a per-capita basis, and the Liberals would let municipalities decide which projects to spend it on, Bokhari said.
"It's predictable, it's long-term. Had this government given Manitoba municipalities their fair share already, [Winnipeg] would've been receiving almost $155 million a year," Bokhari told reporters outside city hall Tuesday.
The Liberals said instead of getting that money each year for the past three years, Winnipeg has gotten less than $50 million a year, adding up to $315 million in road repairs and infrastructure upgrades that have not been done.
"Municipalities are the level of government that are the closest to the people. They know exactly what their communities need and that's why this is so important," Bokhari said.
Bowman and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) have been lobbying provincial parties hard for the commitment.
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Bowman stopped short of endorsing the Liberals in the election campaign and said there is still plenty of time before voting day April 19 for the other parties to match the Liberal promise.
NDP slams Liberal promise
The New Democrats criticized the Liberals' announcement, saying it "actually represents a cut from [the NDP's] committment."
NDP Leader Greg Selinger said his party is already giving above one percentage point of money from the PST increase to municipalities.
"We are giving one-seventh of eight per cent of the PST. In other words, more than one per cent — that's better than any other political party has promised," Selinger said. "Secondly, we've said we are willing to be flexible on the portioning of that expenditure."
Last week the NDP unveiled its $10-billion infrastructure plan that would last through 2022. Selinger projected the plan would produce 9,000-plus jobs per every $1 billion the province invests in municipal infrastructure projects.
Selinger said he has met with members of the AMM and is willing to work with the organization on how that money would be spent.
"They understand that our proposals are quite robust and are willing to be responsive to their specific needs," Selinger said. "We've been willing to share the revenues we are generating. Of course everybody wants more money."
Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives said they would devise a plan based on a "return on an investment criteria" in order to prioritize municipal road projects.
"This due diligence, in conjunction with predictable and dedicated investments of no less than $1 billion annually, will help address Manitoba's infrastructure deficit," a PC spokesperson said in a statement, adding a Pallister-led government would work with municipalities on infrastructure projects.
The PCs have pledged to rollback the one percentage point PST increase if elected.