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Economic, Government

City of Winnipeg continues capital plan despite pandemic

Warren Frey
City of Winnipeg continues capital plan despite pandemic

Manitoba’s capital city is combating COVID-19 with capital planning.

The City of Winnipeg recently released an analysis of the potential economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and has developed a cash flow management plan.

Short-term recommendations include sustaining employment and working with the federal and Manitoba governments to co-ordinate reopening of closed sectors in local economy. In the longer term the city will focus on current capital investment.

“The Crisis Cash Flow Management Plan maintains the city’s recently adopted 2020 capital program, which is set to invest $369 million in important capital projects. This investment will assist to stimulate the struggling local economy and is estimated to provide over 2,300 jobs. To make significant cuts to the 2020 capital budget would further exacerbate the challenges our local economy is currently facing,” said Winnipeg City Councillor Scott Gillingham, who also chairs the standing policy committee on finance. 

“The largest part of the capital program is the roads budget. For Winnipeg we’re looking at a record road budget of $130 million, which is almost a third of our capital infrastructure plan.”

Gillingham also highlighted transit projects and a significant investment in water and waste along with a basement flooding mitigation strategy as the “lion’s share” of infrastructure in the capital budget.

To provide context, he noted, this is the first time the city has moved to a multi-year budget model.

“We just came through a rigorous budget process where, for the first time, Winnipeg adopted a multi-year budget. We really scrutinized capital for the budget not just for 2020 but to 2023. We don’t believe there’s a lot that’s superfluous, and we’re confident the capital budget should proceed for the sake of the local economy,” he said.

He added Winnipeg’s construction industry, rather than the city, will lead initiatives to ensure worker safety against COVID-19.

“It would be up to respective construction companies to do their part to comply with health regulations on social distancing along with other measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE) that they would deem appropriate,” Gillingham said.

He noted the city has consulted with many industry and local business associations as the crisis plan was formed.

“We’ve had regular conversations with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association, and others,” Gillingham said. “They were all supportive of the City of Winnipeg maintaining its capital plan during the pandemic because it gives economic certainty to their members.”

Going forward with the plan will mean some sacrifices, he noted.

“While the city is aiming to maintain the capital program, we have had to make reductions in our operating budget and that has a trickle-down effect on local business, but we’re endeavouring to be good stewards of the financial purse,” he said.

The uncertain nature of the pandemic is another factor the city must continue to consider, he added.

“My concern is how long it will go and how deep the impacts will be. We’ve been talking to companies, and that’s the great unknown,” Gillingham said.

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