Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spending On City Services

A new report suggests that the Winnipeg spends less than any other major cities on services.

The report was prepared by Georges Chartier. The Free Press had to file a freedom of information request to see it. Hats off to Bartley Kives on spotting it. I'd like to know who in the city thought that releasing after the election fell within the law on requests. By the way, thanks to Kives on providing some data on another issue that I wrote about during the election.

From the report:

Per-capita capital spending in 2009:

Edmonton $1,655

Saskatoon $1,508

Toronto $1,068

Calgary $1,041

Hamilton $823

Ottawa $812

Regina $639

Winnipeg $525

As you can see, the above report is a lot lower for everyone than in 2008.

Per-capita operating spending in 2008:

Edmonton $1,926

Toronto $1,878

Calgary $1,733

Regina $1,636

Ottawa $1,591

Saskatoon $1,548

Hamilton $1,382

Winnipeg $1,323

Colin Craig from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation didn't seem to believe the numbers. However, he only seemed to point to numbers comparing overall spending. Instead, he focused on salaries which doesn't answer the question about where we are compared to other cities overall. He seems focused on additional cuts from his laundry list of waste at City Hall.

I have no doubt that there are some savings that can be made but does Colin Craig think we need to spend less on infrastructure or simply cut elsewhere and direct it to infrastructure? I'm not entirely clear on that.

Sam Katz has said he will try and keep the tax freeze. I think he was elected in part based on that promise. He has pegged his hopes on keeping that freeze on getting a settlement from Manitoba Hydro and on some additional funding arrangement from the province. It is possible that we could see that money but given the record of the past, it is not something we should bank on.

So, a 14 year old tax freeze is likely going to mean more infrastructure spending put off to the future while Katz tries to pay for more cops and firefighters which he promised in the election.

The numbers are quickly indicating that things are not going to add up when it comes to how much is spent on roads and sewers.

The provincial NDP government saw the poll numbers a few years ago about crumbling infrastructure was doing to their popularity and poured money in and saved their bacon. It remains to be seen whether there might be anger in the next year directed at the city or the province when federal stimulus money ends and issues pertaining to infrastructure start really fraying the nerves of Manitobans.

Just off the top of my head, Kenaston and the St. James Bridge are really falling apart. It is a massive job and yet traffic is going to increase even more in the next five years with IKEA.

The new council can certainly look to find some savings but too many of them have promised to increase the civil service. Where will they find the money to fix the roads?

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