Low Winnipeg Transit ridership mostly to blame for city deficit: Gillingham

The financial projections for the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba are at odds.

The province’s Finance Minister Scott Fielding says Manitoba’s finances are doing very well, but Scott Gillingham of Winnipeg’s finance committee says their books are deep in the red.

Fielding says he expects Manitoba’s economy to grow four per cent in 2022 and there’s about “$360 million above and beyond what we had budgeted to finish the year.” However, he says on a global scale the province is “running about a $1.1-billion deficit.”

He says the government is hearing Manitobans asking for “the support during the pandemic to get us through this,” but at the same time, Fielding says “we need to advance the economy in so many different ways post-pandemic, which we’ve been looking at during our budget process that’s been going on for the last month to month-and-a-half.”

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He says “there’s about $1.2 billion we’ve put away to address health, education and supports for businesses.”

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Scott Gillingham, meantime, says the City of Winnipeg is looking at an almost $18-million deficit, some of which has to do with snow removal but “the biggest impact on the city’s finances is transit ridership.”

“Ridership continues to average about 53 per cent below normal levels. We’ll need the pandemic to wind down so people will have greater confidence getting on the bus,” he says.

The most recent financial update, which will appear before city councillors later this week shows the deficit caused by low ridership is forecast at $3.5 million but will “be covered by retained earnings.”

Gillingham says the low transit ridership is the “biggest impact of COVID-19.”

Low Winnipeg Transit ridership mostly to blame for city deficit: Gillingham - image

Winnipeg’s annual budget for snow removal is $35 million but Gillingham says that budget doesn’t play a critical role in snow clearing because “it’s not like we hit $35 million and stop clearing the snow.” According to the Finance Chair, the city is roughly $4-million over budget for snow clearing.

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According to the agenda for the Jan. 18 meeting, for the period from Nov. 6, 2020, to Dec. 17, 2021, “$47,488 remains owing” to the city for public health order enforcement out of a total of $104,644 in fines.

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