Infrastructure is the largest single area of public investment. It platforms our economic activity, growth and quality of life; it helps determine investment in our community; and it facilitates all of our social and commercial activity. The public expects it to be maintained in a timely and fiscally responsible manner.
The ability of Winnipeg businesses to function efficiently and to be competitive in local, national and international markets also depends, in part, upon the condition and adequacy of the City’s infrastructure.
The City has long recognized the importance of a strong infrastructure to business prosperity and economic growth. This is reflected in Plan Winnipeg … Toward 2010, Financial Management Plan – 10 Goals for a Stronger Financial Future, and Priorities for Winnipeg – Building Towards the 21st Century.
The City’s major infrastructure (bridges, streets and water/sewer mains) represents a cumulative public investment of about $14.4 billion. However, the City still faces an annual infrastructure investment deficit of about $80 million. This lag in annual investment will only contribute to a growing infrastructure investment deficit, estimated to approach $1 billion.
The Strategic Infrastructure Re-Investment Policy (SIRP) Task Force reports of 1998 and 2000 identified civic infrastructure needs. They presented a menu of policy and financial framework options for developing sustained and sustainable infrastructure management and investment decisions.
To the City’s credit, it has acted on some of the recommendations, but it has yet to adopt a formal infrastructure investment policy.
Investment in infrastructure requires identifiable priorities, pro-active maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement strategies, a strategic asset management system, a commitment to innovation, new technology and transparent funding streams.
Without a comprehensive, yet flexible policy, the City runs the risk of ad hoc approaches to infrastructure investment, which will accelerate infrastructure deterioration, further imperiling the City’s fiscal flexibility.
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Recommendations:
- Establish a task force with a mandate to recommend to City Council within 12 months of being appointed a Strategic Infrastructure Re-Investment Policy, which ensures planned, strategic and transparent investment in infrastructure and reflects a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable approach that does not compromise overall fiscal prudence and debt reduction, and does not require unnecessary additional tax burdens.
- Negotiate a long-term agreement between the City and Province that: defines shared infrastructure investment objectives, distinguishes their respective roles and responsibilities, allocates the investment costs inherent to the responsibilities, establishes transparent funding mechanisms that ensure each party can fulfill its responsibilities and promotes transparency and simplicity to enhance accountability and minimize discord
Adopted by The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce board of directors, June 2007