Municipal leaders present wish list to next provincial government

Predictable funding, better health-care service and autonomy over land-use decisions are among the priorities for Manitoba municipalities going into the next provincial election.

The mayors and reeves of four municipalities presented a wish list on Friday for the next provincial government, which Manitobans will elect on Oct. 3.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, East St. Paul Mayor Carla Devlin and Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie Reeve Kam Blight — who also serves as the president of the 137-member Association of Manitoba Municipalities — used Winnipeg’s North End Water Pollution Control Centre as a backdrop for their requests.

The sewage-treatment plant, which is undergoing more than $2 billion worth of upgrades, is an example of co-operation between all levels of government, said Blight, and municipalities hope to see more of this teamwork in the future in the form of more funding for wastewater improvements.

The mayors and reeves also said they hope to see the province develop a funding model for municipalities that sees cash transfers rise every year at a predictable rate.

They also requested a rebate on provincial sales tax paid by municipalities and more leeway in levying taxes of their own.

The mayors and reeves also requested an amendment to the provincial legislation that governs the municipal board, which recently had its powers expanded to allow the non-elected entity to overturn land-use decisions made by municipal councils.

“I believe that the decisions elected officials make should take precedent,” said Gillingham, who has spoken out against municipal board decisions to quash council-approved plans in Winnipeg.

The municipal leaders also requested better internet and mobile-phone service, better health care and more aggressive recruiting of health-care professionals, particularly in rural and remote communities.

On the crime front, they asked the province continue to press Ottawa for bail reform. They also requested predictable funding for police, more funding for police to fight drug trafficking and the flexibility to divert some police calls to social-service organizations.