'We’re not immune to the crisis': Bowman responds to FCM report


WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman echoed the calls from municipal governments for help from the federal government to help mitigate the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, an advocacy group representing municipal governments in Canada, released a report outlining the financial impacts facing municipalities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Across Canada, cities and communities are seeing their finances drift toward collapse,” wrote FCM president Bill Karsten in the report. “This crisis exposes the cracks in an outdated model that is fundamentally misaligned with the modern reality of the role of local governments.”

Speaking Thursday afternoon, Bowman said the city is also feeling the effects.

“Revenues are drying up across the country, while costs continue to rise. Combined with an inability to run deficits, cities are increasingly getting anxious about the future.”

Bowman said the city is in better position due to passing a multi-year budget, he added “We’re not immune to the crisis facing municipalities as the length of the pandemic continues to grow.”

This week, the City of Winnipeg announced cuts to transit routes, resulting in the temporary layoffs of 253 staffers. Earlier in April, the city temporarily laid off almost 700 non-permanent employees who worked at facilities which had closed due to COVID-19.

“We do know that the longer the pandemic goes, and the longer the public health orders are in effect, the squeeze on municipal governments will increase each passing month,” he said.

The city is predicting a budget shortfall of at least $78.1 million if the pandemic is over by August, based on economic analysis released this week.

The FCM is asking Ottawa to deliver at least $10 billion in “targeted emergency operating funding” to all local governments, and also to provide immediate advance payments to municipalities facing “emergency liquidity issues.”

Bowman said the funding could help mitigate the effects of some of the layoffs, though he did not release an exact total of funding the city is looking for.

He said direct allocations are important.

“We don’t want to have funding and administrative red tape slow things down by having it go through provincial governments,” Bowman said. “This is a direct appeal to the federal government for the benefit of municipal governments across Canada.”