The news is full of threatened cuts as the City rolls out the new four year budget process and proposals. There is always public posturing and positioning while negotiations go on in private. Usually this leads to cuts not being as bad as signalled. This does not mean we should not be very concerned. A four year budget lends itself to the argument that it must be conservative. This will allow the City to set relatively low targets for fulfilling its social responsibilities. These may or may not be improved in successive years as there will be surplus and deficits to be dealt with. To date, there has been no information on what happens if the picture is different in year 2, 3 and/or 4.
For now, the City committed to implementing a poverty reduction strategy, but only within existing budgets. What we are hearing to date, such as drastic cuts to transit and only a .5% increase to community services, needs community to step up and push back.
Community groups have put forward solutions. Make Poverty History Manitoba’s Winnipeg Without Poverty has developed a visionary anti-poverty strategy with 50 recommendations of how the City can lead. These should be front and centre in the budgeting process. Moreover, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released an Alternative Municipal Budget that provides a detailed fiscally prudent template for to implement a progressive budget.
This new process has the presentation of the departmental proposals earlier than in previous years. This means more opportunity to speak out. There will be delegate presentations from November 22 to November 28. Community groups are coming together to have their voices heard. Please come out to our meeting to hear what others are saying and learn the basics on how to advocate for what you want. If you can’t make the meeting, please check out the City Clerk’s Department official website if you want to organize on your own.
If speaking at City Hall is not possible for you, you can always write the Mayor and Council here. Tips:
Know your points before you call
If emailing try to keep it short
If doing either or both, make sure you request a response
Follow up on that response
Try to be solution focused ie.: Where they can find the money. Our property taxes have been kept unsustainably low for decades. We have allowed urban sprawl to deplete our tax base (check out CCPA report on The High Cost of Free-Riding and How We Fix It and Brent Bellamy’s Free Press article – City’s expanding footprint has high cost). The Save Our Canopy campaign is a great example. It identified that taking less than 5% from the capital roads budget will increase our ability to save our tree canopy by 200%. In short, give the decision makers your permission to spend less on what can wait and more on what cannot!
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