Manitoba Tories promise to streamline funding process for municipalities

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are promising to streamline provincial funding for municipal infrastructure projects.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister is promising a "single window, basket funding" model for municipal governments to apply to for funding projects, if his party is elected on April 19. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are promising to streamline provincial funding for municipal infrastructure projects.

Leader Brian Pallister, who made the announcement at Winnipeg's city hall Friday morning, said he "understands there is great frustration among local governments" on how the province manages project funding.

He described how there were "15 different processes to deal with the province," and called them "not helpful" and "ineffective."

If his party wins the Manitoba election on April 19, Pallister promises to create a "single window, basket funding" model for municipal governments to apply to for funding projects.

He would not commit to providing one percentage point of the provincial sales tax to municipalities for infrastructure, as called for by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

He also gave a blunt "no" to relinquishing any tax powers to municipalities.

Bowman applauds details in Tories' promise

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman was enthusiastic about Pallister's announcement, despite the PC leader's refusal to relinquish part of the PST or grant new tax powers for cities, towns and rural municipalities.

Bowman said it was a "very strong commitment that has a lot more details than we've seen from other parties."

The Winnipeg mayor was asked how the absence of any new money or new tax powers squared with the AMM's Fair Share Fair Say campaign for more infrastructure funds.

"Numerous times I've been asked to be very prescriptive in exactly what we are asking for, and we've asked the provincial parties to lay out their plan. We've asked how they can set out how they can best address the [AMM's] Fair Share and Fair Say objectives. We have not been prescriptive in [saying], 'This is the specific model that should be used,' because each party is going to have their own priorities," Bowman said.

Parties vying for votes on infrastructure issues 

Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said earlier this week that if her party forms government, they will dedicate the one percentage point increase of the provincial sales tax (PST) to a municipal infrastructure fund.

Bowman was effusive in his praise for the Liberal promise at the time.

"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."

NDP Leader Greg Selinger has said his party is already giving above one percentage point of money from the PST increase to municipalities. 

Pallister was asked if he would commit infrastructure money for expanding rapid transit lines to a number of new routes around Winnipeg, which is one of Bowman's major promises.

The PC leader said if he formed the next government he would honour commitments previously made by the province, but wouldn't promise funding for new projects.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities said it's thrilled with the fact that municipal infrastructure needs are on the table. 

"While we presented a few suggestions for consideration, like a fair share of the one per cent increase in the PST, we really wanted to hear from the parties without placing any constraints on them," said AMM President Chris Goertzen said in an email.

Goertzen said municipalities will work with whoever wins on April 19. 

"In the meantime, it is great to hear the parties talking about infrastructure and the needs of our 137 member municipalities," he said.