Winnipeg enters budget home stretch without knowing how Manitoba will help

Councillors working on Winnipeg's budget for 2019 are putting the finishing touches on this year's spending plan without any indication what the province plans to provide in terms of funding.

'We really want to and need to know the provincial funding,' says city council finance chair

City council finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) says it's his intention to see Winnipeg's 2019 budget pass by the end of February. The 2018 election delayed the budget process by several months. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

City councillors working on Winnipeg's budget for 2019 are putting the finishing touches on this year's spending plan without any indication what the province plans to provide in terms of funding.

City council finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) said he expects council to pass a budget before the beginning of March. That timing would require Mayor Brian Bowman to present the first draft of the spending plan in late January or early February.

Council usually passes annual budgets late in the preceding fall. But the budget process is behind this year because of the civic election this past October.

Despite the additional time, city officials do not know what the province intends to provide in terms of operating or capital grants for this year, Gillingham said.

"We really want to and need to know the provincial funding for the City of Winnipeg for 2019," he said following Friday's finance committee meeting. "We want to be as accurate as possible in our budgeting and have certainty in terms of what our funding levels will be."

Winnipeg chief financial officer Mike Ruta told finance committee the province has cleared up some uncertainty surrounding old funding commitments, but still has not forwarded almost $90 million worth of promised grants for capital projects in 2017 and 2018.

While capital funding, which pays for infrastructure, can vary widely from year to year, operating funding from the province, which helps the city pay for services, is not expected to increase.

Manitoba has frozen most of its operating funding for Winnipeg at 2016 levels as part of the Progressive Conservative government's efforts to reduce its deficit.

This means Winnipeg must cover inflationary increases to the cost of delivering most city services. In response, the city started billing the province for 100 per cent of the cost of paramedic services on Jan. 1.

In the past, the city and province split paramedic-service costs that were not covered by ambulance user fees.

Bowman signalled last fall the city would continue to operate an ambulance service but will no longer fund it, arguing health is solely the responsibility of the provincial government.


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