City of Winnipeg pauses water and sewer rate hikes while waiting for provincial, federal funding

Click to play video: 'City of Winnipeg pauses water and sewer rate hikes' City of Winnipeg pauses water and sewer rate hikes
WATCH: Mayor Brian Bowman said the EPC has voted to freeze Water and Waste rates, for now – Feb 19, 2019

The City of Winnipeg has put a pause on rate hikes for water and sewer rates for this year.

On Tuesday the Executive Policy Committee voted to maintain 2018 rates for 2019 as the city waits to find out how much money is coming from the federal and provincial governments.

READ MORE: ‘It’s pretty embarrassing:’ Winnipeg aims to put less poop in river

The 4.7 per cent rate increase was proposed to help fund $422 million in upgrades to the West End Sewage and South End Sewage Treatment plants and more than $2 billion in upgrades to the North End Sewage Treatment Plant.

WATCH: EPC seeking clarity on funding for Water and Waste projects

Click to play video: 'EPC amends motion regarding Water and Waste projects' EPC amends motion regarding Water and Waste projects
EPC amends motion regarding Water and Waste projects – Feb 19, 2019

Mayor Brian Bowman said the rates are frozen for now, but home owners will be getting a rate hike in the future depending on how much money comes from other levels of government.

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“It’s reasonable to expect rate payers and home owners to expect to pay their fair share,” he said.

“Ultimately I believe there will be [a rate hike]. It’s a question of when and how much. This is simply a pause.”

The mayor said the upgrades required are largely driven by provincial regulatory requirements, so he expects help from the province.

“We are going to be seeking clarity from them on the levels of support,” he said.

“It’s absolutely critical other levels of government provide support on a project of this scale.”

READ MORE: Budget battle continues between Winnipeg and the province

River Heights/Fort Garry councillor John Orlikow said holding the line on rate increases for now is a matter of “due diligence” but it still needs council approval.

“That’s almost doubling the water and sewer rates — if I’m understanding the graph correctly — without government funding, so with that I think we are taking the cautious approach here and I think we are doing our due diligence.”

If the provincial and federal governments don’t come through in keeping with preliminary discussions, the city says an average family of four would see their bill soar from about $1,400 to nearly $2,500 per year by 2028.

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If the city does get the funding they want, homeowners’ cost would climb from $1,400 to just under $1,900 per year.

This graph, included in a report to EPC, shows the taxpayer cost of sewer system upgrades, with and without government funding. City of Winnipeg report

READ MORE: City vs. province spat will affect Manitoba voters, says politics prof

Minister of Municipal relations Jeff Wharton’s office released a statement saying the province remains committed to the project.

“It’s premature to comment on funding levels,” he said.

“Cost estimates continue to escalate and have more than doubled. Once actual project scope is known, Federal government funding levels will have to be fully explored. And before any of that can happen the city needs to complete design work and submit a business case to both the federal and provincial governments.”

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Tensions rise

Tensions between the province and the city continue, and last week on social media they reached a new level.

Bowman responded at City Hall saying Fielding’s tweet was unproductive and accused the minister of ‘trolling.’ Pallister responded with the tweet below.

Bowman has said several times he has been unable to get any kind of meeting with Pallister in several months.

-With files from Elisha Dacey

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