Funding changes needed as Winnipeg continues to grow, officials say

Residents in one southwest Winnipeg neighbourhood will be able to sleep a little easier in the coming months.

The cause of the more restful sleep? Three levels of government coming together on Tuesday to break ground for a modular fire and paramedic hall in Waverley West, which has gone without the service since its development began in 2005.

Waverley West councillor Janice Lukes is relieved the project is finally getting underway, as it’s an important front-line service that is desperately needed by her ward, but is already thinking about all the other needs on the city’s infrastructure wish list.

“A fact. This firehall is a critical piece of city infrastructure, that is directly needed to support the growth, just like other pieces of infrastructure,” Lukes explained.

“We need quality roads for transportation and goods movement, recreation facilities, and sewer treatment plants. But here’s another fact, there’s only one taxpayer.”

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According to Lukes the current municipal funding model isn’t working. She says for every tax dollar collected, the city sees about 10 cents, the province gets 40 and the federal government 50.

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Premier Wab Kinew acknowledged the issue, and while speaking with reporters says his government is open to having conversations.

“We’ll just start with a conversation with city administration, we have an excellent working relationship with Mayor Gillingham, and we’ll take it from there.”

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That’s good news for Scott Gillingham who says after the recent string of announcements including $122 million from the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund, the city will have plenty of work to do.

“We have talked consistently about the fact that our city is growing,” explained Gillingham. “Not only do we need housing, we need all the infrastructure that supports housing, including fire and paramedic stations, sewer treatment plants, water and sewer pipes… All of those needs are infrastructure that’s required to support housing.”

Brain Pincott with the Right to Housing Coalition has a few ideas on just how the city can stretch those dollars a little further. One of which is investing some of those precious municipal tax dollars into invigorating existing neighbourhoods and holding onto already established front-line services.

“Investing in getting more people to live near the services we already have,” Pincott said. “Rather than just building on the edges and struggling to keep building more and more services, at the same time we are closing down more and more we already have.”

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For now, though, residents of Waverley West will look forward to quicker responses from Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic services going forward as work will begin on the new modular hall, and the city will look forward to figuring out how to best balance the needs of an ever-growing city in the months and years ahead.

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