Not enough in Manitoba budget for infrastructure, some say

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is very disappointed with Tuesday's provincial budget, which he says does not provide enough money for city infrastructure.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz blasts the Manitoba government over what he says is not enough infrastructure spending in the 2013 budget. 1:38

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says he is very disappointed with Tuesday’s provincial budget, which he says does not provide enough money for city infrastructure.

Mayor Sam Katz said he is disappointed by infrastructure funding for the City of Winnipeg in the latest provincial budget. (CBC)

The budget announced a one per cent increase in provincial sales tax to go entirely to infrastructure spending across the province, but Katz said he had hoped to see more funding going to infrastructure.

"You've seen swimming pools close down. You've seen parkades close down, and what was announced yesterday does absolutely nothing," he said Wednesday.

Katz said other municipal officials he has spoken to are also upset with the budget and concerned it won’t address the province’s infrastructure deficit.

"If there had been a one per cent increase [in PST], and it was 100 per cent dedicated to municipalities to address the infrastructure deficit, that would have been a different scenario," he said.

"But this is completely the opposite."

Katz added the increase in infrastructure funding from the province is actually less this year than the increase it received last year.

The City of Winnipeg received a nine per cent increase in operating and capital grant funding last year, while this year's provincial budget comes with an 8.5 per cent increase, according to city officials.

Province announces more spending

On Wednesday, Premier Greg Selinger announced the province will double its investment from $21 million to $42 million, over the next three years, to fix potholes and improve residential streets in Winnipeg.

As well, the province will come up with its one-third commitment to expand the city's rapid transit system, Selinger said.

But Jino Distasio, an urban studies expert at the University of Winnipeg, says the province's plan will provide only quick fixes, not meaningful investments.

"Winnipeggers and Manitobans can expect several years of bone-jarring drives," he said.

"Today's announcement and yesterday's budget are a further indication that we just don't have the resources or the political will to invest in infrastructure."

Distasio said he's disappointed that no money has been set aside in the budget to build new infrastructure, such as bridges.

Highway infrastructure projects

On Wednesday, the provincial government laid out more than 100 of its priorities for fixing highways across Manitoba.

Here is the province's list of highways that will be upgraded or repaired in 2013-14:

Universities disappointed

Meanwhile, officials with two major Manitoba universities are also upset with the budget, which offers a 2.5 per cent funding increase for post-secondary institutions.

University of Manitoba president David Barnard said that’s half of what the province promised in previous years, and the cut will hurt the university’s bottom line.

"We will have to make some adjustments against what we were expecting," said Barnard.

"We appreciate that the government has continued to invest in universities at a difficult time, and we’ll talk to them about more details.

University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy released a statement Wednesday saying he was disappointed as well but not surprised.

Axworthy said the announcement means the university will have to make up an extra $1.5 million in revenue or make cuts.

"It’s been a tough year across the country for university systems," said Axworthy.

"Some have been cut. Some have been held flat. We appreciate the increase."

He said he will be asking the government for more flexibility on tuition and fees so the university can cover the shortfall.