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Winnipeg is Failing at Fiscal Management

Winnipeg City Councillor Kevin Klein serving Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood

Two years ago, I received the honour to represent Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood. Not long after, I shared my concern over this administration's budget practices supported year after year by EPC members.

I have called for a Zero Based Budget Review (ZBR) to better understand our spending and revenue sources. Calgary began a ZBR a few years back and have saved over 100 million dollars after completing only a couple of departments.

A ZBR would tell us where every tax dollar is spent and why. It will help uncover unused accounts, similar to the recently discovered Future Services Account that had millions of dollars unused. A proper review will improve service delivery to residents by reallocating staff where necessary.

Each time I have attempted to introduce a new fiscal management strategy at City Council, members of the Mayor's inner-circle and EPC have not supported the call for sound fiscal management.

Sun Media asked me to comment on the city's finances recently. I said I'm not confident in the financial numbers reported to City Council and the public.

We do not have proper access to financial information; Councillor Lukes has often spoken on this topic. We see what the administration wants us and you to see. I know you'll hear a different story from this leadership. But, I remind you, this is the same leadership that told us we were legally allowed to change the police pension, which cost us millions, and we had to pay each officer a cash settlement. Were you informed about that? The same leadership said we won the Impact Fee lawsuit despite being ordered by a judge to pay back over $30 million to residents and builders, plus interest. Have we been told how this leadership will make up the funds they would use from the Impact Fees for spending in their budget now that money is gone? Will they borrow more money? or not tell you?

Ours is not a truly balanced budget. This leadership borrowed millions and siphoned from the stabilization fund to balance their budget. That's like using your credit card each month to balance your household budget. That wouldn't work for long.

When we reach the end of Councillor Gillingham's Four-Year budget, supported by the City Councillors on EPC, our city's debt will be double what it was when this administration took office in 2014.

It appears the Fraser Institute shares similar concerns with this style of budgeting practices.

(From WInnipeg Sun article) Executive Vice-President of the Fraser Institute Jason Clemens said Canadian municipalities, generally, spent too much in good times and saved insufficient funds for hard times. Notwithstanding, he's urging Canadians to consider the existential threat presented by financial mismanagement in Ottawa.

"Of the 35 industrial countries, the International Monetary Fund expects Canada to have the highest level of borrowing this year," he said. "We are expected to have the 11th worst recession, and the fourth highest level of unemployment. Those three data points really tell me that our governments are not getting this right." Read more in this Winnipeg Sun article.


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