Manitoba municipalities getting share of $106M in federal funding to cope with pandemic

Manitoba municipalities reeling from the pandemic are getting a share of new federal funding to help cover operating losses. 

The province has started divvying up $106 million from Ottawa’s Safe Restart Agreement, Manitoba Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires announced Thursday morning.

Of that money, $72.6 million is earmarked for municipalities on a per capita basis, which works out to $42.2 million for Winnipeg. Municipal governments can spend that cash as they see fit, Squires said.

“I know many of our municipalities have chosen to offer their residents a deferral on their taxes that is costing municipalities money that they would have otherwise anticipated receiving,” Squires said Thursday.

“We’re wanting to bridge that gap and ensure that our municipalities continue to address the needs of their ratepayers.”

The remaining $33 million will flow to public transit. Winnipeg will receive around 90 per cent of that pool of money.

Brandon, Selkirk, Thompson and Flin Flon will share the rest of the money allocated to public transit, which will be handed out based upon factors such as ridership and pandemic-related losses.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman offered his thanks to the prime minister for stepping up with needed financial support, but he wouldn’t say the same about Brian Pallister’s government.

He said the provincial politicians on Broadway stand in “stark contrast” with those in other conservative-led provinces, like Alberta and Ontario, which have doled out money for public transit on top of the federal assistance.

“It’s disappointing today, but not entirely surprising, that there would be zero dollars of support for transit” from the province, Bowman said.

The extra $30 million from Ottawa will go a long way toward covering Winnipeg’s pandemic-related transit losses, Bowman said, but he expects financial struggles to persists. Ridership numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels. 

The province said Thursday the new federal funding comes in addition to the $173 million in annual grant funding already received by municipalities. The province advanced some of that payment to help local governments early on in the pandemic. 

Opposition NDP municipal relations critic Matt Wiebe says the provincial government needs to come to the table with additional cash. 

“The Pallister government should treat our municipalities like true partners and invest in the services they deliver,” he said.