Similar Issues at the Heart of WMA Neighborhood Gatherings – PortageOnline.com

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities holds district meetings each year to hear from its members how things are going in the province.

This year’s series of seven meetings ended Friday with the final stop in Minto.

Approximately 80 elected officials from across southwestern Manitoba attended the day-long meeting.

AMM President Kam Blight said all the meetings had similar topics that were raised by municipal leaders.

“Some common themes and a lot of it comes down to funding,” Blight says. “Rising inflation has put additional financial pressures on municipalities. Our municipalities have faced a seven-year operating basket funding freeze, which creates many challenges for municipalities.”

Blight says another issue that’s popping up is the Investing in Canada infrastructure program.

“Many municipalities had projects approved in 2019 and now these tender prices are quite low compared to current costs in real numbers. It’s up to 30-40% more in some cases and that’s a major concern.

City leaders are also expressing concerns about health care and in particular attracting and retaining paramedics and first responders.

“We have tried to raise this issue with government ministers and hopefully we can see movement in this area as well,” Blight continues.

A group of city leaders met with government ministers in mid-June to present their case on healthcare workers.

“We met to lobby the province regarding our request for additional training for paramedics across the province and to look at the overall paramedic situation to see if they could implement any new ideas to make it more efficient and better for people in rural Manitoba,” adds Grassland RM Reeve Ruth Mealy.

She says paramedics are understaffed and some are reaching retirement age, and the municipal group is lobbying the province to increase training in rural Manitoba.

Blight explains that the new regulations will make it even more difficult for people to move to rural areas.

“There are better salaries in the city of Winnipeg,” notes Blight. “There’s less on-call time, and to be a volunteer first responder, your training time is tripled and the costs go up dramatically. This has an impact on the training and retention of these people for these communities. We are also seeing staffing shortages and wait times are increasing dramatically,” says Blight.

“The key to resolving these issues is dialogue and getting both sides to sit down and discuss the issues. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution, as it is different in rural areas compared to the city. They need to sit down with these municipalities and see how they are affected

Sara H. Byrd