The City of Winnipeg has tabled their proposed four-year budget and the reactions are rolling in.
Highlights of the budget include the elimination of the transit UPass for post-secondary students, a reduction in leisure guide programming, a fire paramedic hall for Waverley West, and increased infrastructure and roads spending.
As well, no civic facilities will be closed, although library hours will be reduced and the Terry Sawchuk arena, which is currently closed due to mould, will stay closed for now.
The building of two new fire paramedic halls brought applause from the United Firefighters of Winnipeg 867 Union.
Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) told Global News she was “very pleased” to see money for a fire paramedic hall in her ward.
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Loren Remillard praised the budget on Twitter, giving the city ‘high marks’ for its long-term planning.
CAA Manitoba also gave the budget the thumbs-up, citing the city’s proposed $847 million investment into Winnipeg’s roads, back lanes and sidewalks.
One budget item that has received criticism, however, is the proposed removal of the U-Pass program – a universal transit service for post-secondary students.
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) said in a statement Friday they found the decision to cut the program disturbing.
“This is a deeply disturbing decision that calls into question city council’s desire to support students and do its part to combat climate change,” said the statement, citing a 25 per cent increase in ridership along university routes since the program’s 2016 rollout.
UMSU president Jakob Sanderson said students at both the U of M and the University of Winnipeg came out in record numbers to vote overwhelmingly in favour of their schools’ continued involvement in the U-Pass program.
“If the city has any intention of displaying leadership in the face of a climate emergency, it is seriously undermining that effort by disregarding the wishes of students from across the province that attend Winnipeg’s two largest universities, and slashing one of the city’s most successful programs without any warning.”