Funding to repair Winnipeg’s roads and sidewalks has increased each year since our incumbent mayor was sworn in, and I applaud efforts to tackle our crumbling roadways. Unfortunately, there are many other significant infrastructure issues to resolve. Winnipeg has three major bridges with minimal time left in them, that is the Arlington, Redwood and Louise bridges. Our water and sewer line systems in many areas are approaching 100 years old, I’m certain well pass their expiration date. Our water and sewage treatment plants are behind the standards of other facilities in urban centres across the country. So, infrastructure issues will remain, which will require innovation and strategies to secure funding and create revenue.
This past June, Canadian taxpayers purchased the extension of the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion. This purchase allows a substantial amount of crude oil to flow west from Alberta to the Pacific coast of BC, for awaiting tankers, to send to the Pacific Rim, and China. At present, the federal government disperses profits from Alberta crude to other Canadian provinces to equalize the services provided to its citizens, in comparison to other provinces, to create service equity, dependent upon the economic strength of that province. Manitoba scores quite well with equalization payments to the tune of just over $2 billion dollars annually, or $1770.00 per Manitoban. This is due to a lower end GDP per capita, or in other terms, we are a “have not” province. With increased oil production and export, profit will rise, for the oil sector has yet to be replaced. But this does not necessarily mean equalization payments will increase for Manitoba, for the federal formulary relies on economic comparisons of all provinces. If Manitoba does better economically, and another provinces(s) struggle, the trend could be reversed. There is no guarantee the gravy train will keep rolling, or for how long. Therefore, we need to take advantage of this funding, NOW, and hold the province accountable and transparent of the spending of these payments, and ensure that Winnipeg, with nearly 65% of the provinces’ population, receives fair and equitable funding supply from the Province. Ken would like to see this funding used on infrastructure and innovative ideas to set a precedent in keeping Winnipeg’s transit system green, and its communities as well, with two innovative proposals.
1) A GREEN AND IMPROVED TRANSIT SYSTEM- Years ago, the City of Winnipeg trialed electric fueled buses in attempts to review the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of this climate friendly public transportation. The trial started with four buses, however this was not a large enough fleet to gather enough data. What we do know is, with the introduction of carbon tax, diesel fueled buses, as the fleet stands, would cost Winnipeg Transit $1.2 to 1.4 million annually in addition to the fuel costs already endured (117 million litres, or $134.5 million). City council must push hard to utilize provincial equalization funds to strategically plan for a full electric transit fleet. Ken intends to be a voice in the matter, for utilizing oil burning profits for a Green Winnipeg Transit service would be ironic, yet innovative, and set an example that Winnipeg is a modern city. In stating this, we must also realize there is skepticism with these plans. Although an emission free public transit system sounds great, it’s impact on the overall carbon footprint that Winnipeg presents, is minimal, less than 2%. Personal and commercial vehicles are much more significant contributors, at closer to 50%. Decreased bus routes have reduced ridership of Transit creating inconvenience to users of the service. We must incorporate strategies to increase ridership, which would include a more cohesive, efficient and time mannered transit system development. It will be important to listen closely to our transit employees to achieve this goal. Until incentives to utilize transit are more common, or personal vehicle usage becomes unaffordable, things will remain status quo. However, if we can make transit affordable, convenient, and service developing communities well, then ridership will increase, and the benefits of green transit will arise.
2) GREENER HOMES- While Ken pushes for a Green Transit system, he identifies how city homeowners, either new or existing, can benefit from the Green transformation, as we inherit equalization payments for now. Manitoba Hydro has been involved with solar and geothermal energy programs, specifically for businesses, for some time now. Instillation costs of these energy sources are more costly than traditional energy sources, deterring homeowners from interest even though there are long-term cost benefits to the consumer. However, if incentives such as a guaranteed property tax freeze, or even a reduction of the same, for a set period (5, 10, years) based on agreements and formularies between Hydro and the City of Winnipeg, more homeowners would seek green energy. Another possibility is a reduction in impact fees, by up to 50% for new home builds, which accommodate sources of clean energy within the new construction build. Again, formularies would have to be implemented so everyone involved benefits.
PORTALS OF ENTRY
About 5 years ago, one of our city councilors brought forth the idea of a tolling system in Winnipeg to increase revenue for road infrastructure. The idea was to toll bridges within the city and is practiced in other parts of the country. However, the proposal was to toll already tax ridden Winnipeggers, within the city limits. Ken has weighed the pros and cons of this proposal, for at present the idea has been placed on the shelf. What Ken has confirmed, is that neighbouring communities within 30 km of the city’s perimeter highway are growing exponentially because of growth fees imposed on new home builds within city limits, as well as lower RM property tax, and personal preference. Areas such as Niverville, Lasalle, Dugald, Oakbank, Headingley, Ste. Anne, and Stonewall, to name a few, have grown up to 30% according to census data, from 2011 to 2016. On any given day, as many as 80,000 commuters from these “bedroom communities” travel to Winnipeg to earn their living. In doing so, this adds to traffic flow issues to the edges of the city, as well as the downtown, requiring infrastructure adjustments to accommodate. Therefore, Ken would propose a tolling system to be implemented on roadways which feed our city and run perpendicular to our perimeter highway. The tolling system would be in effect for larger commercial vehicles entering the city for drop offs and pickups as well, at a higher rate for it is these vehicles which are the hardest on our crumbling infrastructure. THOSE WHOM RESIDE IN AND PAY MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAX IN WINNIPEG WOULD BE EXCEMPT FROM THIS FEE. The toll would be open during daytime working hours of the majority, and be implemented only upon entry, not exit. Evenings and weekends would be exempt, for Ken does not want to deter our neighbouring communities from enjoying what our fine city has to offer. A per diem system could be utilized, or for frequent commuters, a quick pass, or a license plate scanning system in collaboration with MPI, could be purchased or incorporated within MPI’s billing systems. The costs would be reasonable and less expensive compared to other urban centres in Canada. Ken is aware that this initiative will not be popular with citizens residing in neighbouring communities, but he wants harmonization between the city and its neighbours therefore the rationale behind the ideas is as follows:
A) Implementation of a road toll could potentially be an incentive for citizens of nearby RM’s to car pool to work. This would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the current 80,000 daily commuters. Ken would also propose a motion for a park and ride system, near the perimeter highway’s portals of entry. We would develop an express bus system from the park and ride directly downtown for commuters from outside the city. Of course, land deals with RM’s or private land owners would have to be negotiated. But, if implemented, it would have significant impact on carbon emissions and traffic congestion. Those whom utilized this system would not have to worry about road portal of entry fees, or parking fees downtown. It may not be a system all could utilize, for not everyone works downtown, but many do.
B) With a population increase of 30% to some neighbouring communities in the last 5 years, it can be projected that at this rate, by 2028, the daily commuter volume entering the city limits will rise to 128,000 vehicles per day. Our current infrastructure will not accommodate this. Soon enough, portals of exit which are currently double lanes leading to highways such as 7,8,9,59,75 and the Trans Canada, will be congested.
C) This revenue flow obtained by the city can go towards the needed infrastructure to accommodate our neighbouring daily commuters. An increase in city revenue in this fashion, will expand the city’s capacity to improve infrastructure with less reliance on provincial contributions. In partnership with the Province, this will allow infrastructure dollars saved to improve highways which feed the city’s neighbouring communities, as well as rural roads and other rural infrastructure concerns.
D) Aforementioned, costs will be reasonable. In Toronto, multiple road tolls are located on Route 407, and if your daily commute requires travel along this route, the cost is $12 to $16 one way for light vehicles plus return home. Ken’s proposal would be a $2.00 to $2.50 per diem charge one way, or a $35.00 frequent commuter pass per month, for light vehicles, or $1.59 daily (22 days). Totals for larger transport or commercial vehicles would be $4.00 to $6.00, one way. Total revenue estimated at $130,000 to $210,000 daily or $34.3 to $55.5 million annually, for light vehicle commuters from neighbouring communities. Added to this are the large truck or truck/tractor vehicles entering the city daily. This could raise revenues closer to $80 to $100 million annually. This amount in perspective is approximately 10% of the City of Winnipeg’s annual budget at present. This is based on the tolls open 22 days per month, and entrance fees only, not including the incurred costs of the actual toll system. Of course, Ken would work with council and public works to implement a traffic flow study, something the public works department is already involved with.
FRONT LINE SERVICES
Ken, as a front-line service provider himself, holds incredible value towards the work done by our civil emergency responders. His work in the core area of Winnipeg as a nurse, as well as his contributions to the homelessness sector through Albert House, has exposed Ken to the amazing and important work these individuals provide our citizens daily. It is truly a special individual who chooses to pursue a career that puts them in danger, holds them witness to horrific events, requires determination and flexibility, and subjects them to highly stressful and extenuating circumstances. To say their services are vital, is an understatement. More so now than ever, with an ongoing and exacerbating methamphetamine and opioid crisis plaguing our city and communities. Ken wishes as a city council member, to ensure our emergent front-line services remain properly staffed, have fair and comparable wages and benefits, and most importantly, have access to mental health supports to deal with the sights and traumas they witness and endure. Recently, new information regarding our frontline transit drivers has come to the forefront. It has been reported that an increase in stress and trauma by our transit employees to organizations such as WCB is trending. Our drivers need secure safety measures on the job site, and certainty of the same if we want to recruit and retain drivers to streamline transit services. Perhaps a push button distress signal as used by the taxi industry, or a left side emergency exit door in the driver’s area would be helpful. Similarly, to emergent front-liners, our transit drivers are quite often in precarious positions, and they’re safety and mental health well-being need to be a priority as well.
FRONT LINE PERSPECTIVE AND IDEAS
Just this past spring, our provincial counterparts developed a $50 million transformation capital fund to promote innovative ideas from their public service employees, in attempts to streamline and harmonize public service without compromising or cutting those same services. When Ken heard of this announcement, he was ecstatic. This proposition now allowed those working within the provincial public sector to present ideas and innovation so that their department can function more sustainably, goals can become more realistically met in day to day operations, and it would empower its employees. Through Ken’s work with Albert House, he has made it abundantly clear of the benefits of this type of opportunity for public service staff. While meeting with CEO’s and government representatives during lobbying efforts for support of Albert House, Ken would deem “You must listen to your front liners, for these are the people whom dedicate their lives to serve, and witness lived experiences and systemic gaps daily. They’re opinions and ideas are invaluable to the successes of any organization”. As a front-line servant himself, Ken continues to promote all institutions of service to listen to the front lines, and provide opportunities to voice and implement ideas, for it will only make an organization or service provider stronger. Ken will absolutely promote this principle at city hall, and advocate to have a similar capital fund structure as our provincial government has already started, to have our civil servant’s opinions and ideas heard, to promote worksite engagement, cost effectiveness and sustainability. Knowledge and intellect at the corporate level is valuable, however if these benefits are added with experience and wisdom from the front line, then the sky’s the limit! For more information please visit Provincial Transformation Plan.
Unfortunately, Winnipeg remains one of the most impoverished urban centers in our nation, and continues to lead in child poverty statistics, despite its affordable cost of living. As a city, poverty reduction strategies and organizations are working diligently to reduce these numbers, but it is certainly a daunting, multi-dimensional task to resolve. As a city, Ken knows we can do better. Current trends in substance abuse and methamphetamine use, are direct results from socio-economic struggles many Winnipeggers face. Ken’s experiences working in the core as a nurse, and being witness to poverty first hand, has made him committed to be a part of the resolution to this issue. In relation to poverty is absolute or partial homelessness, again an unacceptable statistic here in Winnipeg. Ken’s work within the homelessness sector, through Albert House, has given him the opportunity to express ideas to reduce the stigma around the issue, and be an active participant to end it. Ken would like to see even more effort, and collaboration, of city hall working with community service providers to alleviate these issues. Ken will not stop until these statistics are much improved, the impoverished are no longer below the poverty line, and homelessness is eradicated.