Feds, Winnipeg play hot potato with sewage-treatment billions
Infrastructure Minister says Ottawa doesn't set priorities for cities; Mayor says Winnipeg doesn't qualify
Canada's infrastructure minister suggested the Trudeau government is not helping Winnipeg pay for billions worth of sewage-treatment upgrades because the city hasn't made its most expensive project a federal funding priority.
Winnipeg is in the midst of spending between $2 billion and $4 billion over the course of three decades to upgrade three sewage-treatment plants and replace some its combined sewers with separate pipes to handle storm water drainage and sewage.
When the province ordered up these environmental improvements in 2003 to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into Lake Winnipeg, all three levels of government were expected to share the tab. But that has not happened, requiring Winnipeg to borrow most of the money it needs to pay for this work and use water-and-sewer bills to cover the financing charges.
On Tuesday, federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi suggested the city has not made sewage-treatment upgrades a priority.
"We don't select projects at the federal government. We support our local partners to build those projects or repair the existing infrastructure they have to repair. So all prioritization happens at the local level," Sohi told reporters at Old Market Square.
"Any projects the local government prioritizes, we are very happy to support those projects."
"The public service has been looking for the right program, where we could qualify," Bowman said. "The challenge our public service has been having is to fit the criteria of the program."
Sohi was in Winnipeg to highlight federal spending on 11 Manitoba water-and-sewer projects, including two in Winnipeg, as well as five transportation projects in Winnipeg. All seven of the Winnipeg projects were approved by council in September.