By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Manitoba municipalities are losing some of the guarantees they have when it comes to provincial funding for transit and infrastructure.
An omnibus budget bill before the legislature would eliminate a requirement for the province to fund at least 50 per cent of municipal transit operating costs each year.
The bill would also stop requiring the province to spend at least one percentage point of the provincial sales tax on local capital projects.
Instead, the amounts would be determined by the government each year.
The proposed changes could put a pinch on Winnipeg, which is expanding its rapid transit.
The 68-page bill contains other detailed changes that were alluded to in the provincial budget in April, including higher penalties for tax evasion and tobacco smuggling.
People who transport contraband tobacco would see their driver’s licences suspended on top of existing fines.
And people convicted of tax evasion would face a maximum fine of three times the amount they avoided paying — up from the current two times.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says the proposed changes are part of the government’s plan to control spending, reduce the deficit and bring some penalties in line with those in other provinces.
James Allum, finance critic for the Opposition New Democrats, says changes to municipal funding would hurt. He accused the Progressive Conservative government of keeping cities and towns in the dark as to how much money will be provided in the future.
“It’s disappointing to have these things buried in a piece of legislation like this. It would have been better if they came clean and described these things in the budget,” Allum said.