Winnipeg’s mayor promised a balanced preliminary four-year budget by March 6, but wouldn’t say whether city service cuts proposed throughout the pre-budget process and feared by community groups will come to fruition.
Mayor Brian Bowman made the promise during his annual State of the City address to a crowd of 1,200 at the RBC Convention Centre Friday.
“The work is ongoing, evenings and weekends right now… so we’ll have that answer on March 6, but there are going to be difficult choices as I’ve said previously,” Bowman told reporters following the speech.
“Our job as council each year is to take a look at the recommendations from the public service and try to mitigate the full impact of some of the pain that was recommended in order to meet the targets.
“We do that every year. This year, of course, it was much more public.”
During his speech to the business community, the mayor highlighted a planned city policy meant to make the city more inclusive to immigrants and new Winnipeggers. What that policy will look like is still unclear, but Bowman pointed to sensitivity training for city employees as a potential part of the new policy.
Bowman also announced $100,000 in funding for the Exchange District Biz meant to help with planning decisions.
Bowman reiterated a call for collaboration between levels of government on three key files: illicit drugs, homelessness and Lake Winnipeg’s environmental state.
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“We all need to do a better job, I mean all three levels of government, not just the province or the federal government and the illicit drug strategy was something that wasn’t done before to try to motivate and coordinate us,” Bowman said after the speech.
But the fight over funding for environmental upgrades to the North End’s sewage treatment plant continued, with Bowman reiterating his request for provincial dollars during the speech.
The city had previously requested more time from the province to implement interim phosphorous reduction plans to the plant, but that was denied.
The upgrades are meant to reduce the flow of phosphorous from city sewers to Lake Winnipeg, a contributor to algae blooms.
The province has not yet committed to the city’s funding request for the upgrades.
“We’ve had a formal request to the provincial government for support, for federal and provincial funding, since last year and we haven’t heard from them on this,” Bowman told reporters.
“That’s a very specific ask. It’s been sitting on a desk somewhere on Broadway.”
“We are very committed to working collaboratively with all levels of government,” said Rochelle Squires, the province’s municipal relations minister, when asked by reporters about the funding.
“We know that Lake Winnipeg is a priority, getting immediate phosphorous reductions.”