The group that represents Manitoba’s 137 municipalities has released a four-point priority list for political parties to incorporate into their campaign platforms as a provincial election nears.
At a May 5 press conference in Winnipeg, the mayors of Thompson, Winnipeg and East St. Paul joined Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Kam Blight to outline what they’d like to see from a prospective provincial government in the areas of funding, infrastructure, human resources and public safety.
First on the list is simpler and predictable funding for municipalities that keeps pace with inflation.
“We’re glad the province lifted the operating funding freeze, but the next step is building in an annual escalator so municipalities can effectively plan for the future,” said Blight in a news release.
Municipalities would also like to get rebates for any provincial sales tax they pay, like the federal government does for GST they are charged, and for the provincial to streamline existing tax tools and to give greater flexibility and financial autonomy to local governments.
“With inflation pressure on construction, fuel and labour costs, municipalities need strong, long-term provincial funding support – but we’re also calling on party leaders to commit to a new funding formula which would grow with the economy, so municipalities can be real partners with the province in delivering economic growth,” said Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham.
The AMM also wants to hear how parties plan to address infrastructure, particularly expansion of rural cellular phone and broadband internet coverage and increased Manitoba Water Services Board funding for water and sewer infrastructure. Also on the wish list is a commitment to a permanent federal and provincial infrastructure fund and more co-ordination between economic development officers and agencies for the sake of efficiency and responsiveness to municipal economic development needs.
The municipal organization says that the government needs to ensure an adequate number of licensed professionals in all regions of the province, particularly in the health care field, by accelerating a comprehensive provincial recruitment strategy and increasing regional settlement incentives for foreign-trained doctors and other professionals.
“We need care closer to home – doctors, nurses, and paramedics in all our communities, and the local training opportunities to get them there,” said Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook.
The fourth priority for the municipalities concerns public safety. The AMM feels there needs to be more police funding to combat crime and drug trafficking, a provincial push for the federal government to reform the bail and conditional release system, and a refusal to let police reform costs get downloaded onto local governments. Municipalities also want predictable police resourcing and more flexibility to assign certain enforcement and social service functions away from police and onto separate, provincially funded agencies. Last on the public safety wish list is the expansion of community safety and well-being plans like the one developed in Thompson a few years ago
“Rural crime is going up, violent crime is going up, and drug crime is going up,” said rural municipality of Wast St. Paul Mayor Carla Devlin. “We need bail reform for violent offenders, and we need enhanced police resources to keep our communities safe.”