Category: President’s Tour
Lorette Community Complex
The final stop of the AMM President’s Tour was in Lorette, Manitoba. While not an incorporated municipality on its own, Lorette falls under the jurisdiction of the RM of Taché, along with the LUD of Landmark. Far from being rural, however, both Lorette and Landmark are communities poised for growth and struggling to find the funds needed to support that growth.
Mayor William Danylchuk of the RM of Taché opened the meeting by outlining the many projects needed in the area. Major upgrades to sewer and water facilities require several million dollars and Danylchuk noted “at the federal level the Prime Minister has been very open about the fact there is no new money coming out for infrastructure.”
Drainage work needs to be addressed also, said Danylchuk, and Councillor Jaques Trudeau agreed. “The farming community has really improved their drainage and the municipalities have improved theirs – but they empty into provincial drains that don’t need just minor repair, they need to be rebuilt. They are not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Bridges are another concern, as is the downloading from other orders of government – a common theme throughout the President’s Tour. “About three years ago we needed a new lagoon in Landmark,” said Councillor Robert Koop. “But our distribution system was no longer adequate, so we were stuck (footing the bill) again. We have a whole bunch of developers lined up wanting to develop land but we have to tell them no.”
“We think if the province forces things on us, they should also help us get things going.”
Landmark’s Mike Valks noted growth brings challenges. “We’re poised for growth over the next five years. We’ve seen lots of growth in Lorette and Landmark has those opportunities also. Development is key – we know if we bring in more people it helps bring success for the area and the province. Our need is infrastructure. Our growth has flatlined and our school population is declining.” Long-term planning is key, according to Lorette’s Graham Eason. “We need to look beyond the next five years but focus on the next 25 years.”
Lorette's new spray park is a welcome addition to the community's infrastructure.
Several participants raised the need for recreational facilities to engage young people. A brand new spray park was being well used on the day we visited Lorette, but more is needed, including another ice surface to accommodate the community groups who want to run their programs. Facilities that keep kids occupied with recreation opportunities were seen as important to prevent mischief due to boredom.
Tourism is another area suffering from poor infrastructure – the access road to the St. Genevieve Historic Site lacks signage and is not wide enough to accommodate tour buses. The site provides youth employment and summer programs, also helping keep local youth occupied, noted the site’s manager, Diane Dornez-Laxdal, but she also pointed out that “There is an economic spinoff for the community that goes much beyond crime prevention,” she said.
MLA for Steinbach, Kelvin Goertzen, attended the meeting representing the PC party. He said “ultimately, it’s about respect and working together. I am glad we are doing this prior to an election but we should do this all the time. We need to be working together on issues – we are not adversaries. It is not responsible to go to a municipality and say ‘we’re going to download this to you.’ That’s not a respectful relationship.”
The NDP’s Ron Lemiex, representing the La Verendrye Riding suggested “we’re all in this together. The way to achieve things is through partnerships. We’ve just scratched the surface of the infrastructure needs out there…people feel we’re on the right track and moving forward.”
PC Candidate Larry Tetrault agreed with the need for long-term planning and better communication between all three orders of government. He also pointed out private developers should come to the table also and be ready to play a role when it comes to infrastructure replacement.
Tetrault also noted the benefits of recreation opportunities. “I had eight children and they were always at the rink. I never had any calls from the RCMP. They were busy and we need these facilities.”
Jacques Trudeau asked both party representatives for the area – Tetrault and Lemieux – what their strategy would be to help municipalities accomplish their goals, and how the parties can be held accountable.
L to R: AMM Urban Vice-President Eileen Clarke, Diane Dornez-Laxdal, St. Genevieve Site Historique Manager, PC candidate Larry Tetrault, MLA for Steinbach, Kelvin Goertzen, Mayor William Danylchuk, CAO Dan Poersch
Tetrault said the provincial and federal government have more money than municipalities, and “they need to help us solve our problems.” Lemieux suggested MLAs are already very responsive. “We wouldn’t be in politics if we didn’t want to make a difference,” he said.
Mayor Danylchuk noted previous partnerships had indeed made a difference. “It is no secret that Lorette was under a boil water advisory for some time,” he said. “That has been put to rest with help from the provincial and federal government. It is a good example of joining together with the other levels of government to achieve our goals.”
However, achieving goals is becoming more difficult. As RM of Taché CAO Dan Poersch explains, the municipality is “basically in maintenance mode – trying to keep what we have alive. Our ability to invest or upgrade is very limited.”
Aerial shot of the breach site at the Hoop and Holler Bend, Man. (Valérie-Micaela Bain/CBC)
The theme in Portage la Prairie, the second last stop in the AMM’s Putting Communities First President’s Tour, should come as no surprise to anyone who watched the evening news this past spring: water. The flood that resulted in the area receiving national media attention continues to negatively affect the central plains of Manitoba.
Reeve Kam Blight articulated just how devastating this past spring was for the area. “Water management and drainage is a huge issue for us. We need a provincial plan for drainage because the cost is enormous,” according to Blight. “We are paying for their poor planning and it’s extremely scary…we’re full.”
Reeve Blight noted supplying rural water to people is another huge issue – “our RM is 640 square miles and we have many citizens without access to rural water,” he explained.
As dire as water management and supply needs are for the RM, there are even more water-related issues facing the area. Water treatment and nutrient removal from wastewater is also a looming infrastructure expense facing the City of Portage la Prairie. Mandated regulations from the provincial government are expected to cost $25 million, and CAO Dale Lyle noted there has not been any commitment from any other level of government to help fund the project.
CAO Lyle noted the City suffers not only from being squeezed by the state of its infrastructure, but from rising construction costs in Manitoba. “Over the last five years construction costs have increased 50 – 100 per cent” he said.
Mayor Eileen Clarke, AMM Urban Vice-President and Reeve Kam Blight listen as the PCRC's Elicia Funk discusses the housing shortage in Portage la Prairie.
The cross-section of community leaders at the meeting lent some other perspectives to the infrastructure discussion. Elicia Funk of the Portage la Prairie Community Revitalization Corporation (PCRC) stressed the need for housing spanning all sectors – seniors, families, low-income, and emergency short-term housing are all needed. “We’ve worked with another non-profit group for 4 years and are just now starting to build 23 new units, because finding serviced land is such a huge issue,” she pointed out.
Gladstone Mayor (and AMM Urban Vice-President) Eileen Clarke agreed. “Our community is experiencing unprecedented growth and it’s wonderful..but where are we going to put people? We have a situation where 11 immigrant workers are living in less than 800 square feet.”
Local business leaders were also on hand to explain how the infrastructure deficit affects their sector. “It definitely impacts our members,” noted Chamber of Commerce President Dave Omichinski. “Driving around our community you’ll see many, many streets where it is obvious work needs to be done. It doesn’t reflect well when we’re trying to draw in business and increase our population.” Ken Keith, Executive Director of local economic development agency Central Plains Inc., agreed. “Our focus is attracting commerce and business,” he said. “We are blessed with three or four primary industries and they don’t come around every day, but when they DO come around the infrastructure (to support them) has to be there.”
Mayor Earl Porter recited a list of shortfalls resulting from a number of large capital expenditures (water and wastewater treatment plant costs along with a new recreation facility) along with annual shortfalls in virtually every area of the City’s budget. “We’ve got a $1,182,000 shortfall and paving costs are going up this year,” he noted. The Mayor also stressed RCMP costs and fire protection strain the City’s budget. And, while the new PCU Centre multiplex is a positive addition for the community, with even facilitator Richard Cloutier noting “people in Winnipeg buzz about the facilities out here in Portage”, “ the problem is paying for it,” according to Porter.
The closure of CFB Southport in 1992 devastated Portage la Prairie, but this sector has been revitalized in the form of Southport Aerospace. Rep Steven Maybury attended the meeting and noted his industry’s needs are “unique and capital intensive – runways are our number one piece of infrastructure.” Maybury added Southport receives no federal funding, nor is it eligible for the Airport Capital Assistance Program. So what are they doing? “Business development – we’re out their pursuing new sectors,” he explained. Maybury also noted the importance of life-cycle asset management to protect infrastructure. “We plan and implement an annual re-investment each year,” he noted.
Asked to name their top reason the province should invest in municipal infrastructure, participants had varying ideas. Both Blight and Funk stressed quality of life. “Without access to safe drinking water, quality of life goes downhill,” noted Blight, while Funk added “It’s circular – without quality of life you don’t have people coming here and staying here”.
Keith and Omichinski cited economic development as key, with City councillor Liz Driedger suggesting the need for more dry industry. Mayor Porter said he would like to see the City grow, noting “the more people you have the more tax dollars you have”, while CAO Lyle returned to the added regulations and their associated costs. “Both nutrient removal and drinking water standards mandates have added a multi-million dollar ‘fix’ with no identified funding at this point,” he explained. Asked if making users – large industry specifically – pay more was the answer, Lyle said no. “We’d have the large industries leaving.”
As with the other President’s Tour meetings, local candidates for the upcoming provincial election attended and were asked to share their thoughts. PC candidate Ian Wishart
L to R: PC candidate Ian Wishart; MLA for Lakeside, Ralph Eichler; Liberal candidate Michelle Cudmore-Armstrong; NDP candidate James Kostuchuk
suggested “We have a major environmental disaster happening on Lake Manitoba, and no one is talking about that.” MLA for Lakeside, Ralph Eichler, accompanied Wishart and added his party’s perspective: “The call is definitely there that we need to do more. Part of our platform is definitely a watershed management plan.” Eichler also stressed the need to bring urban and rural interests together, and assured the group that “Ian and I will be talking to the Leader (Hugh McFadyen) and your concerns will be heard.”
Liberal candidate Michelle Cudmore-Armstrong suggested alternative water management strategies. “We have become so efficient at draining our land…maybe it’s time we stepped back and look to our marshlands. If there is a natural progression of water why don’t we work with that?” Cudmore-Armstrong also picked up on Maybury’s point regarding the need for asset management. “We have to do regular maintenance on our infrastructure so it doesn’t fall apart.”
NDP candidate James Kostuchuk was philosophical on the need for increased infrastructure dollars. “I’ve always felt taxes are an investment,” he said. “In the flood, people made money. It didn’t go into a bottomless pit. It went into the economy.” Kostuchuk stressed that his party has reduced the education tax burden since taking office, and also contributes one per cent of the PST to infrastructure. President Dobrowolski corrected Kostuchuk on this point, noting the one per cent announced in the Province’s last budget was “a repackaging of existing programs; only $5 million in new money was added.”
Kostuchuk acknowledged the point, but suggested in the end, all voters must wait for the party platforms to make their decision. “if you have issues with infrastructure, look at the parties platforms and see what they stand for. Who is going to give you the most bang for your buck?”
Who indeed? With the writ expected to drop on September 6, official party platforms will soon follow and we will see which of the parties is ready to put communities first.
- Replacement of over 35,000 m of water mains – $70 million.
- Replacement 180,000 m of sidewalk – $18 million.
- Investment in future development – $40 million.
These are just a few of the facts and figures illustrated in a handout titled “Brandon Infrastructure – Investing in the city we want our children’s grandchildren to live in” shared with the almost 40 participants at yesterday’s Putting Communities First President’s Tour stop in the City of Brandon. From the handout and the ensuing discussion with members of Brandon’s development, tourism, business, economic development and municipal sectors, one thing is clear: this is a city that wants to grow.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst chats with the media.
If anyone can drive growth in the city, it is probably Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, serving her first term on council. “When I was running for Mayor, it was exciting to think of all the things we could do together as a community,” said Decter Hirst in her opening remarks. “Since the election of course I found out it’s going to be incredibly challenging to do any of the growth we want to do in this city unless we turn our attention to something that’s not glamorous at all which is hard infrastructure… what’s on the ground and under the ground.”
The Mayor joked about a tax increase of 112 per cent in 2012 but quickly turned serious again: “Because that’s what it would cost if we’re going to get our heads wrapped around this. We need $165 million dollars, and that’s not even the NEW stuff. That’s just for the stuff that we need to fix. So how does a community of 50,000 people do that?”
According to the city, 20% of Brandon’s infrastructure is 100 years old. In the blunt words of Mayor Decter Hirst, “That’s crap running through dirt. Is that the kind of community we want to raise our kids in? Absolutely not.” She also cited water mains, sidewalks, streets, public buildings, housing and economic development as priorities for her council. “People drive back and forth and don’t even know Brandon is here…what we don’t need is a sign, what we need is to take Brandon to the Trans Canada Highway.”
Decter Hirst also noted there is an opportunity to attract up to 10,000 students to Assiniboine Community College “if we only had housing.”
“We can’t afford to wait any more. We’ll never be able to build the city…we’ll never be able to maintain the city…without additional dollars for infrastructure. It’s not a water park, it’s not glamorous, it’s not downtown revitalization, it’s not new programming for youth, it’s not top of mind…but there’s not a councillor sitting around our table who doesn’t understand the critical importance of getting to that infrastructure and getting it fixed because NONE of that other stuff happens without a well maintained infrastructure.”
Housing was mentioned by other participants as well. Marty Snelling, GM for the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, said “In terms of building new low income affordable housing – everywhere we’ve looked there is not the infrastructure to support building the housing. There’s vacant land, but we can’t build because the systems can’t handle more housing.” Westman Coop Senior Housing representative Harvey Douglas, along with other local developers, echoed the statement. “All we’re trying to do is find serviced land and that is one of the biggest problems the City of Brandon has,” according to Douglas.
Public private partnerships were raised by a number of participants as a potential solution for some projects, and Ted Snure, City Engineer for Brandon, shared a positive example.
Brandon West NDP candidate Jim Murray addresses the group
“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the negative side that we don’t see the positive. One example is our major wastewater treatment facility in which we are in a P3 position with two very good partners in the community, the federal government and provincial government and ourselves as well. As a result of the initiative we’re putting together we’re going to have a water quality that provides a major opportunity for economic development.”
No discussion about Brandon’s infrastructure would be complete without referencing the 2011 flood, and Nathan Peto, of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce cited the closure of 75 businesses during the spring. “We need some significant infrastructure money to prevent that from happening again. Over one quarter of those businesses said if they were forced to close again, they wouldn’t be reopening. That long term protection…needs to be invested in.” Snure agreed, noting “the provincial and federal government’s decision to begin to look at permanent infrastructure as a solution rather than financing temporary measures.”
AMM Executive Director Joe Masi facilitated the session, and noted polling done by the AMM showed citizens support money being dedicated to municipal infrastructure. Snure said that improving the infrastructure in one block can have a positive ripple effect. Fixing a sidewalk or a street in one small area creates visible improvements that can encourage neighbourhood residents to enhance their own properties. Empty lots in the area are more likely to be purchased for infill housing, as well.
Marlon Kirton of The Town Centre agreed. “Infrastructure is one of those things that you can put money into where you will get a marked difference and an identifiable change. People see the difference infrastructure makes…and it makes our community that much more saleable.”
The City of Brandon was not the only municipality represented. Reg Atkinson, Reeve of the RM of Cornwallis (and a former mayor of Brandon), noted “to pave one mile of road in our municipality means a 50 – 60 per cent increase in the mill rate.” Atkinson later added “the reason we have to fix a mile of pavement every year is because everyone is driving to Brandon!”
The discussion then turned to the AMM’s call for the provincial government to reallocate one per cent of the PST to municipalities for municipal infrastructure, with one participant estimating that would equate to an additional $10 million per year for Brandon’s infrastructure. Masi stressed the AMM’s “ask” is for one per cent of existing, and he further noted “municipalities have to do their share. But many municipalities are at the limit of their borrowing. What we are saying as municipalities is our property tax bases simply cannot meet the needs of infrastructure.”
L to R: Shaun Cameran, Liberal candidate (Brandon East), Jim Murray, NDP candidate (Brandon West), Reg Helwer, PC candidate (Brandon West), and George Buri, Liberal candidate (Brandon West)
As has been the format at the previous President’s Tour meetings in Dauphin and Gimli, the party representatives present were given an opportunity to speak to the issue. Stu Briese, Progressive Conservative MLA for Ste. Rose, noted it’s essential to stop the growth of the infrastructure deficit but stressed his party would not promise something they could not deliver. “There isn’t $240 million magically sitting on the table waiting to be given out…we’re in deficit budgets right now. But the input we are getting from municipalities through these meetings and that the AMM is going to take forward is a step in the right direction” he added.
Jim Murray, Brandon West NDP candidate, stated “this government has no plan to tax or cut its way out of this infrastructure deficit. We realize it’s there, we recognize that, and we also recognize more needs to be done. But I think this government has worked more closely with municipalities and communities than any other previous government has and the packages it has put out are amongst the most generous in the country…but we have no intention of creating a deficit to solve a deficit in another area.” (Brandon East NDP incumbent Drew Caldwell sent his regrets.)
Brandon West Liberal candidate George Buri “infrastructure is at the forefront of our policy and it will be at the forefront of our platform. Liberals are committed to reviewing the funding of municipalities for infrastructure…we need to use the best methods so we are building infrastructure that lasts. We do support one per cent of sales tax revenue going to infrastructure. We also support sitting down with municipalities to discuss other funding issues. And, we will be going beyond that one per cent but I can’t announce that yet…but I think when we do announce it people will be very happy with it.” Buri noted long term water management will be a big part of the Liberal platform as well, adding “the money will be there, and we won’t make promises we won’t keep either.”
Brandon East Liberal candidate, Shaun Cameron, added “It is about having long term predictable programs, and having the research and development put into those programs.”
Mike Waddell, Brandon East PC candidate stressed “making sure it’s a true partnership” (between the province and municipalities) is key, while Brandon West PC candidate Reg Helwar added “if you come with a solution as well as a demand you’ll be more successful.”
At the end of the day, participants were asked to sum up in one sentence why the City of Brandon needs more money for infrastructure. Leave it to Brandon’s effervescent Mayor to sum it up perfectly:
“Infrastructure is the investment we need to increase revenues and fuel our growth.”
Local business leaders, including Bruce Arnason, Gerry Hammond, Dave Hammond and Judy Arnason - take part in a discussion about infrastructure in Gimli.
Stop number two of the AMM President’s Tour of Manitoba – part of the Putting Communities First Campaign – was the Interlake community of Gimli, nestled on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Not surprisingly, the health of the Lake was top of mind for the group which was largely comprised of local business owners.
“Every municipality should focus on water and drainage because it all ends up in Lake Winnipeg,” said Roy Eyjolfson, representing Evergreen Basic Needs. “You’ve got a guy living in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and what goes down his sink and flushes down his toilet ends up in Lake Winnipeg.” MLA for Gimli, Peter Bjornson, agreed. “There is no particular sector responsible for the health of the Lake. All Manitobans are responsible for the health of the Lake,” he said. Former councillor Bill Barlow applauded both the NDP and the PCs for coming together to pass the Save Lake Winnipeg Act – “demonstrating a very strong commitment by both parties to deal with the Lake Winnipeg story” – it has resulted in limited success, according to some, like local developer Bruce Arnason. “The problem is the repeated damage to roads and waterfront property due to flooding. What seems to be missing are solutions to the problem.”
Another hot topic for the Interlake group was economic development and its partner, affordable housing. Michael Lazer, General Manager of the Lakeview Inn noted “I’d love to hook up with programs through Red River Community College to train people to move here to work in the industry, but I have no place to put them,” he said. Local realtor Judy Arnason agreed, adding “We need affordable housing…our population is probably the oldest in Manitoba,” she estimated.
Recreation facilities are also sorely needed in the area, according to a group called the Eastern Interlake Multiplex Steering Committee. The group’s representative, Eric Stefanson, focussed on the need for community wellness. “I think it is imperative for the province and the federal government to take a good look at recreation. Health care costs are going up and up, but what are we doing to help municipalities fund these projects? We need them to attract people to the area and build a healthy community.”
Mayor of Gimli, Lynn Greenberg was quick to note Gimli has enjoyed success regardless of what political party is in office. “We have been fortunate. We’ve received $3.5 million from the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, $6.5 million from the Manitoba Water Services Board…we’ve had cooperation in the past, but we need cooperation in the future to keep going,” cautioned the Mayor before presenting a considerable laundry list of needs in the area. “Waterline replacement will be a $10M job, sewer line renewal is an $833,000 job, a regional water system will total $34 million, and we still owe almost $8 million on our sewage treatment facility that will mature in 2032,” stated Greenberg. “Where are we going to get the money for all this?”
Gimli Public Works staff show Mayor Lynn Greenberg, President Doug Dobrowolski, Urban Vice-President Eileen Clarke and Executive Director Joe Masi a sewerline replacement they are working on.
The community’s Aspen Park subdivision alone, which the group toured in a “field trip” immediately following the meeting, requires an additional $500 thousand investment in sewer line renewal. “Our sewer and water systems were built in 1957, and are costing us $100,000 per year just for patching and repairing,” explained Greenberg. (In fact, the Public Works staff on the site talked about a day where they responded to eight water line breaks!)
According to Bjornson, “I think clearly we (the NDP government) have been putting communities first through partnerships, and partnerships are key.” Bjornson also cited the current government’s reduction of property taxes on education as freeing up space on the tax bill for some municipalities to dedicate to infrastructure. However, municipalities are still unable to raise sufficient dollars with only one source of revenue, and the division of funds should be more equitable according to Greenberg. “Funding formulas for infrastructure have always been shared equally on a one-third basis. I’d like to see the formula change to something more like 45% federal, 37% provincial, and 18% municipal.”
MLA for Lakeside, Ralph Eichler, (who was accompanied by PC candidate for Gimli, Jeff Wharton) acknowledged the infrastructure deficit facing communities and the need to work with municipalities but would not commit to new funding until “we have a look at the books”. However, he complimented the AMM on the Putting Communities First initiative. “I think the Putting Communities First program is a great program…which I believe will set the pace for the October 4 election.”
So do we.
The AMM kicked off a President’s Tour of Manitoba yesterday in Dauphin, representing yet another spoke in the AMM’s “Putting Communities First” wheel. The initiative, launched in June as a precursor to October’s provincial election, has so far resulted in well over 100 Manitoba municipalities passing resolutions of council calling on all parties to commit a portion of the provincial sales tax collected by the provincial government to municipal infrastructure.
The purpose of the President’s Tour is to bring the campaign – along with the AMM’s President, Doug Dobrowolski – to various communities across the province to hear first-hand some of the most pressing infrastructure issues in those communities. The guests – municipal officials, community leaders, and of course, candidates in the upcoming election – all had something to say and various ideas as to what the major issues are.
Facilitated by CJOB radio’s News Director, Richard Cloutier (who took full advantage of the opportunity to head out to Dauphin early in the day to bring his live show – Richard
President Doug Dobrowolski with Richard Cloutier, News Director for CJOB
Cloutier Reports – to the area even before the meeting began), the group was asked to “focus like a laser on this issue”. And they certainly did. Some cited worry about the future: “My concerns are for the future generations and the money they will need to sustain our infrastructure,” (Lyle Stokotelny, Superintendent of Operations, City of Dauphin) while others referred to the past: “My grandfather built roads that were adequate; my Dad upgraded them; and now my council is upgrading them again.” (Reeve Dennis Forbes, RM of Dauphin)
Still others alluded to the need for bricks and mortar infrastructure before beautification projects: “You can improve the community by putting things above ground – like flowers and parks – but if what you have below the ground is crumbling, it’s no use.” (Bill Hart, Dauphin Neighbourhood Renewal)
Not surprisingly in the Parkland area of the province, cellular service and high speed internet were on top of the list of concerns. “I was talking to a large producer yesterday who said he was ready to throw his cell phone in the header of his combine. We need cell service as much – or more – as anyone else,” said Ron Hushirchuk, former councillor, RM of Dauphin. Others were more tongue in cheek – “You can turn your computer on, perform your search and go and have supper. That’s what we call ‘high speed’ in the Village of Winnipegosis” joked Larry Pascal. But there is no doubt connectivity is a huge issue right across rural Manitoba, one that MLA for the Dauphin and Minister of Agriculture, Stan Struthers, readily admitted. “We want every Manitoban to have access” he said, while acknowledging the level of service provided is spotty at best.
Stu Briese, MLA for Ste. Rose, and Stan Struthers, MLA for Dauphin and Minister of Agriculture
Other questions resulted in verbal sparring between Struthers and Stu Briese, Progressive Conservative MLA for Ste. Rose, who accompanied the candidate for Dauphin, Lloyd McKinney to the meeting. When asked if the PCs would commit to a PST rebate for municipalities, Briese cited a private members bill he put forward in 2009 and noted leader Hugh McFadyen recently expressed interest in the idea of a rebate. Struthers – openly admitting his government has not committed to a rebate – shot back with that the PCs wanted the government to cut the budget, and stressed it is impossible to cut a budget and provide a rebate at the same time.
One thing everyone agreed on is the need for all three orders of government to work together. “We’re going to have a provincial government that’s going to be faced with a huge bill when it comes to infrastructure,” said Struthers, “and we can’t do it alone. When three levels of government get together to do a job, we see good things happen. Everybody has to be at the table.”
Dauphin Mayor Eric Irwin was even more succinct: “We need to turn to the senior levels of government because they get 92% of the money.”
While many other comments about the state of local infrastructure were heard, it wasn’t all negative. Cloutier asked for examples of positive infrastructure, and Mayor Irwin was quick to point out the Parkland Recreation Complex (where the meeting was held) as a perfect example. The facility has enabled the community to host large events like the Royal Bank Cup, generating millions in revenue and promoting tourism. “We have to have facilities like this in order to attract people, especially young families, to live here.”
The meeting took place at the Parkland Rec Complex - cited by Mayor Eric Irwin as an example of good community infrastructure.
Both parties represented – the PC’s and the NDP – acknowledged the infrastructure deficit exists as does the need to find ways to address it. Neither was open to raising taxes, however, and Dauphin CAO Brad Collett agreed. “Let’s say you raise the taxes. Well now you have money to fix your infrastructure, but no one who wants to pay high taxes. People start leaving your community…it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
While the result of October’s election is anything but a self-fulfilling prophecy, Richard Cloutier opened the meeting by promising “what you say here will be asked of those who want to be premier of this province. Trust me on that.” After describing his experience travelling to Dauphin – “My impression is this part of the country is indeed God’s country, but you are taking your life in your hand driving on some of these roads” – there is no doubt he will be true to his word.
Next stop – Gimli.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities identifies and addresses the needs and concerns of its members in order to achieve strong and effective municipal government.