Article appeared in the Aug 25, 2011 issue of the Interlake Spectator…
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) met with members of Gimli council, business, tourism, and political representatives at the Lakeview Resort and conference Centre on Aug. 16 to specifically explore the question of how infrastructure, or a lack thereof affects rural communities.
Joe Masi, Executive Director of the AMM facilitated the meeting. He called upon the approximately 30 people in attendance to each describe the impact that infrastructure development has on their “line of work”.
More than one person identified flooding, shoreline erosion, and the health of Lake Winnipeg as issues that need to be addressed. Gimli’s housing shortage lack of good-paying jobs also was put in the spotlight. Monies to deal with sewage and wastewater also rated high on the list of priorities. Recycling and affordable childcare were mentioned as important needs that would enable the community to move forward.
Mayor Lynn Greenberg, RM of Gimli, spoke about the high cost of maintaining the sewer and water system in Gimli. He mentioned other topics of concern—poor cell phone service, and the need to partner with other levels of government in order to make projects, such as the proposed Multiplex facility, a reality.
Greenberg also made a suggestion that the government adopt a new formula for funding rural municipalities. He suggested rather than the current 33 per cent split each way between federal, provincial and municipal governments, that the formula be changed to 45-37-18 per cent.
“Whoever gets elected, please bring that forward,” Greenberg said.
Meanwhile the AMM has been calling for one per cent of the provincial sales tax to be dedicated specifically to municipal infrastructure, as well as seeking a rebate of provincial sales tax.
“We don’t understand why one government taxes another government,” Masi said.
A consensus among participants that municipalities need to do their best to come up with solutions before seeking the support of other levels of government was evident.
After community representatives spoke, Masi gave government representatives a chance to respond. In attendance were Gimli MLA, Peter Bjornson, Lakeside MLA- Infrastructure Critic for the Progressive Conservatives, Ralph Eichler, and Progressive Conservative candidate, Jeff Wharton.
Eichler explained that currently the division of tax revenue per dollar is 50 , 42, and 8 cents respectively for federal, provincial and municipal governments. All agreed that the amount allotted to municipalities to enable them to meet infrastructure needs is inadequate.
In his closing statement, AMM president, Doug Dobrowolski, remarked that the cost of infrastructure will continue to go up, and that the AMM is currently in discussions with the federal government on the “next generation of infrastructure programs”.
A brief “field trip” to Aspen Park followed the meeting to give Dobrowolski an opportunity to see an example of Gimli’s infrastructure priorities.