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Crime, policing costs and pandemic’s financial impacts among top concerns of Manitoba cities

Leaders of the province’s 10 largest communities met with each other and heads of smaller municipalities during convention in Winnipeg this week.
thompson mayor colleen smook community safety strategy launch october 2021 ma mow we tak friendship centre
Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, seen during the launch of the city’s safety and wellbeing strategy in October, says rising costs and stagnant provincial funding are a concern for all of the communities whose leaders were at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention this week.

Manitoba’s cities are grappling with the ongoing financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as rising policing costs and local crime issues.

These were among the topics discussed by municipal leaders at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities fall convention in Winnipeg this week.

Most municipalities say it will take two years or more to financially recover from the pandemic, according to AMM president Kam Blight, while some predict a recovery time of five to eight years.

“Being asked to do more with less puts tremendous strain on our budgets, particularly when we continue to be taxed by another order of government and inflation impacts our bottom line,” he said in a Nov. 24 news release.

Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, chair of the AMM cities caucus, which includes the 10 largest communities in the province, said costs are rising but provincial contributions aren’t.

“While expenditures have increased and revenues have decreased, we are legally obligated to balance our books,” she said. “This is extremely difficult to do when our [provincial] operating funding has been frozen since 2016.”

Blight said the province should establish a multi-year partnership agreement with municipalities to provide them with predictable funding as a counterbalance to the effects of the five-year municipal operating funding freeze.

Also discussed at the convention were how to tackle local crime and community safety issues, provincial Crown corporation delays that stall municipal development projects and the effects of RCMP officers’ first collective bargaining agreement on policing costs. 

Thompson, which launched a community safety and wellbeing strategy in October, expects to spend 26 per cent of its $42,250,000 budget on protective services this year, with the city’s RCMP contract alone accounting for 22 per cent of its spending.