Editorial: New Year’s resolutions and wishes for the City of Thompson

Whiile it may be a little late to write about New Year’s resolutions, given that at least some of us may have already attempted and given up whatever ways we imagined we would be bettering ourselves in 2019, it is the first editorial of the year, so here goes.

First of all, may the City of Thompson resolve to resolve the transit situation in town, which is currently that there is no transit, no idea when there will be transit and no way to predict whether any of the new bus shelters the city got grant money to erect last year will still have glass in them and how many panes they will have when citizens finally receive a definite answer. 

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Running a bus service costs money and a lot of people don’t even use it. We get that. Making a calculation based on that data and deciding to do away with bus service entirely is definitely an option, and a defensible one from many people’s point of view. Doing that, however, might send a message that the city doesn’t care that much about your needs unless you have money, which might not be the message the city wants to project. If there is a will and a way to bring bus service back, let us all hope that council and city administration are working their tails off to make that happen and that that effort results in the resumption of service sooner rather than later. Remember, when people in Thompson talk about the quality of life that living here affords, it doesn’t only include the amenities and unspoiled wilderness but also things like transit service, which might not be a deciding factor for many people in deciding whether to move here or to stay here, but very well could be for some.

Secondly, could we just have a byelection to fill the vacant eighth council seat already? It has already been 11 weeks since the general election was held (more than 20 per cent of a year, or 1/20th of the four-year term) and so far, we don’t even have a date, let alone any candidates. Could we just get it over with before, say, the end of February, in hopes of having a few months’ reprieve from electioneering before it is time for the federal election that will determine if Justin Trudeau is a one-term wonder or has some of the staying power of his father? The longer it takes to hold the vote, the less people will be interested – and they weren’t that interested on Oct. 24 anyways – which will make it that much tougher for whoever wins to say that they have a strong mandate from the voters. The two candidates who tied for the final spot in the general election had just over 1,000 votes each. It seems doubtful that as many will be required to win a byelection, which currently looks like it will be held during the bleakest portion of winter.

The last one is more of a wish than a resolution because, unlike the two aforementioned issues, the municipal government has little control over whether it will come to pass. But if the city could somehow find $600,000 to $1.8 million through a combination of spending cuts and new sources of revenue, Thompson’s taxpayers would probably appreciate it a lot. While the grant-in-lieu from Vale could be as much as $4.2 million this year, depending on how business has been for its Manitoba Operations, it could be as little as $3 million, more than a third less than the $4.8 million the city received in 2018, when mayor and council decided to punt many of the hard decisions to this term. If the city can’t find new revenue pretty darnn quick – the budget needs to be submitted to the province a few months from now – the new council will be left with the choice of cutting the overall budget by as much as five per cent to make up for decreased revenue or increasing property taxes in the same year that residents are likely to start paying a frontage fee and a rate rider on water and wastewater to pay for money borrowed to construct the new sewage treatment plant. 

Higher taxes, reduced services, no city buses? Any combination of two or more of those will likely make it harder to retain current residents and also attract new ones, which isn’t easy to begin with.

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