Organizations in funding limbo as Manitoba PC government reviews millions in NDP promises

Dozens of organizations in Manitoba are waiting to find out if hundreds of millions of dollars promised for projects by the previous NDP government will be honoured by the Progressive Conservatives.

PC government reviewing $600 million of promised projects

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy hopes the PC government approves $15 million for its proposed Diversity Garden. (Assiniboine Park Conservancy)

Dozens of organizations in Manitoba are waiting to find out if hundreds of millions of dollars promised for projects by the previous NDP government will be honoured by the Progressive Conservatives.

Premier Brian Pallister's PC government is reviewing more than $600 million in promises made by the former NDP government. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
From education to health to arts, the PC government is reviewing what Premier Brian Pallister identified as more than $600 million in promises made by the NDP.

"Those are NDP promises and they were made desperately and they were made in the last days of their government. Those were not my promises," Pallister said.

Pallister ordered a value-for-money review in the 2016 election which also extended to crown corporations. Last week, the board of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries quashed a $75-million project to build a new headquarters in Winnipeg's downtown.

In August, Pallister told reporters not all the commitments made by the NDP would be honoured.

"Many of these promises that were made were more desperate than they were sustainable and affordable," Pallister said.

Exactly which projects are under review has not been made public by the Tories, but CBC News reviewed press releases issued by the NDP in the year leading up to the April 2016 election.

CBC found approximately $344 million dollars in funding that was promised by the previous government but has not been approved by the new one.

  • Manitoba Museum: $10 million.
  • University of Manitoba's Front and Centre campaign: $150 million.
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery Inuit Art Centre: $15 million.
  • Cancer Care Manitoba building: $70 million (promised in 2011 and so far not delivered).
  • Brandon University: $12 million for a residence project for students with families and $550,000 in programming.
  • Assiniboine Community College North Hill Campus: $67 million and an additional $4 million for environmental remediation work.
  • Assiniboine Park Conservancy Canada's Diversity Gardens: $15 million.
The list also includes projects such as a new gym and classroom expansion at Miles Macdonell Collegiate and plans to move the Pan Am Clinic to a new location.
LITE's Dr. Tyler Pearce says, 'We are all worried about funding.' (CBC News )

Many organizations were reluctant to comment on the status of their funding. 

Dr. Tyler Pearce with LITE (Local Investment Toward Employment) said her organization has confirmation of its $60,000 in provincial funding, but she understands the pressure small groups are feeling as they wait for a signature.

"In the community I circulate in, even if we had an agreement signed, we would still be worried," Pearce said. "If you don't get that signature, you may lose good staff...you may be dead in the water."

Pearce said many eyes in the non-profit sector are on the next provincial budget.

 "That's when we'll see where all the chips fall," Pearce said.

Funding limbo widespread

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy is waiting as well. It hopes the PC government will honour a $15-million NDP commitment to its Diversity Gardens project.
Margaret Redmond of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy is waiting on a $15 million promise made by the previous government. (CBC News)

"We now have the private sector invested in this park to the tune of over $50 million in less than eight years. To me that is a statement of what our community values and what they would expect to see, where they would expect to see governments invest money as well," said Margaret Redmond, CEO and president of Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

Redmond said grants from one government are often matched by another and federal infrastructure dollars come with attachments.

"The first thing they will be looking for is commitment from the provinces in terms of what they're choosing as their priorities," Redmond said.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Art Gallery said in an email the WAG is confident the government will recognize the value of the proposed Inuit Art Centre, but acknowledged the new administration has to do its own due diligence.

"We are in conversation with the province and believe that they are very enthusiastic about the WAG's Inuit Art Centre. We also understand that as a new government facing many requests and challenging economic circumstances, they have to go through their own process to assess all of the requests they have received before making any announcements," said the WAG spokesperson.

Pallister not tipping hand on funding

When pressed for when funding decisions will be made, Pallister said, soon.

"You are aware we are in the middle of a performance review. So we are evaluating ... numerous aspects of government spending," Pallister said, adding the review will merge with pre-budget consultations and be completed through the final quarter of the year.

The opposition NDP urged the Tories to get on with the decisions.

"The Pallister government must call a halt to these endless reviews. There are organizations across the province that are in limbo because the Tories won't tell them what funding to expect," a statement said.
Dozens of organizations in Manitoba are waiting to find out if hundreds of millions of dollars promised for projects by the previous NDP government will be honoured by the Progressive Conservatives. 2:09