Following the province’s recent announcement that the City of Thompson will only be getting $200,000 for road renewal projects in 2018, city councillors are devising a strategy to return to the $400,000 that they’ve been receiving from the Municipal Road and Bridge Program for at least the last five years.
During the Aug. 13 meeting, council unanimously passed a resolution to lobby the provincial government through the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM).
A follow-up press release Aug. 15 said they are also preparing a second resolution for the AMM’s upcoming annual convention Nov. 26−28, urging the organization to help council reinstate the former funding levels.
“Healthy roadways are not just a convenience: they’re foundation of business, development, and the flow of goods and services in a community,” said Coun. Colleen Smook in the press release. “Our harsh northern climate further impacts our local infrastructure. This is one area the province can’t afford to cut back on.”
During council’s last meeting, Mayor Dennis Fenske went into more detail about the importance of this provincial funding, talking about how the City of Thompson already budgeted for 11 roads improvement projects in 2018 based on the assumption that they would receive this full amount from the province.
“Because of this cut, we’ve had to reduce the scope of that work,” he said. “So we’ll probably lose about eight of those 11 projects, depending on the costs of the Station Road project.”
Coun. Blake Ellis took umbrage with the timing of this recent decision, since Thompson city officials didn’t find out about this funding cut until Aug. 3.
“We already have our crews and contractors out there preparing the sites for the work,” he said. “This is pretty late in the season to be getting this kind of announcement when … we had been told by government bureaucrats that that money was coming.”
Smook also stressed that this development proves why they need more face-to-face meetings with provincial government officials, since this disconnect has led to more and more confusion between both parties.
On top of ongoing miscommunications over the Mining Community Reserve Fund, the province recently gave city officials the cold shoulder during Premier Brian Pallister’s Aug. 8 visit to Thompson, where he announced a new public safety communication system for first responders.
“This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for us to meet with the ministers,” she said. “And AMM is a great lobbyist on our behalf.”
Fenske went on to say that lobbying the provincial government on this issue is in AMM’s best interest, since the Municipal Road and Bridge Program as a whole is seeing a province-wide reduction from $14 million in 2017 to $2.25 million in 2018, with the expectation that the program will be terminated entirely in 2019.
“This reduction will create complications not only for Thompson, but for municipalities across Manitoba,” he said in the press release. “It’s important that we as municipalities stand together and show the province what their support means to Manitoba communities.”