'It's shortsighted': Volunteers lobby against cut to Seine River preservation group

The City of Winnipeg is proposing cutting a $30,000 grant to a group focused on the health of the Seine River as part of its budget deliberations, prompting one man to make his way to city hall carrying a canoe on his back. 

City considering cutting $30K grant as part of budget deliberations

David Danyluk made his way to city hall with a canoe on his back, to protest a proposed cut to the Save our Seine river preservation group. (Radio-Canada )

The City of Winnipeg has proposed cutting a $30,000 grant to a group focused on the health of the Seine River as part of its budget deliberations, prompting one man to make his way to city hall carrying a canoe on his back. 

The city's water and waste department has been directed to set its budget based on a two per cent increase in each of the next four years.

That would not match the average cost of inflation and sets the stage for some difficult decisions.

Some of the proposed cuts would see reduced sewer maintenance, ending garbage pickup for multi-family apartments and condominiums and cutting back emergency crews on call by half — from two crews to one.

Another cut would see the end to a $30,000 grant to Save Our Seine.

The group cleans up the 28 kilometre waterway, preserves its riverbanks and removes invasive species.

This prompted nearly two dozen supporters to show up at budget hearings late Monday afternoon — including David Danyluk carrying a canoe. 

The public gallery was packed for a Monday night budget meeting for the water and waste department. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

The grant pays for a part-time coordinator for the group, who organizes green teams, tree planting, and cleanups along the river. Without that coordinator, the groups' efforts would be hampered, Danyluk said. 

"If we don't do it, the city has never done it. The city does not do it, and the city is saying they can't do it. So we're the only ones who can go in their place and take care of it," he said.

Danyluk used to be the executive director of the group, and says at one point, they even removed a couch that had ended up in the river because city crews said they couldn't. 

Another volunteer, Veronica Dunne, said having that director helps the group get more done. 

"I think it's shortsighted on the part of council, because it's a grant that has a real multiplying effect," she said. 

Several of the Save Our Seine supporters in the gallery were asked to remove their t-shirts as they were viewed a visual props and not allowed during deliberations.

In previous years, departmental budget presentations have been done behind closed doors, prior to the presentation of a draft budget. This year, it's happening in public, which is causing some turf wars between councillors, special interest groups, and city managers. 

Proposals made by department heads trying to meet the city's budget targets include closing three libraries, five public pools and dozens of wading pools. Representatives from the police service said the new budget targets would force it to put fewer officers on the street, while Winnipeg Transit said it would cut routes.

With files from Sean Kavanagh


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