City’s Budget Engagement MIA

Winnipeg, December 7, 2023: Winnipeggers have been expecting to hear about engagement on the four-year budget process for months, but as the calendar flipped to December, with holiday breaks quickly approaching, no engagement sessions have been announced. The Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TLUC) is calling on the City of Winnipeg to announce their plans, and a clear timeline, for work on the multi-year budget. 

The City of Winnipeg moved to a four-year budget process for the 2020-2023 cycles. As 2023 winds down, time is running out for meaningful engagement on 2024-2027. 

“Some elected officials and community members understand that things change for the better when the community is sitting at the table in collaboration on government budgets. Are there Winnipeg City Councillors that share this view?” asks Marianne Cerilli, a founding member of TLUC. “TLUC has been talking to councilors for years about linking the budget to clear goals and progress indicators based on existing public policy. Ensuring research, evidence and public policy guide the budget. Other cities do this, and Winnipeg needs to have this accountability as well.” 

“At Green Action Centre, we can see how critical the next four year budget cycle will be to move towards Winnipeg becoming more sustainable, both environmentally and fiscally” says Mel Marginet, who works in Sustainable Transportation at Green Action Centre and serves as the co-Chair of TLUC. “Too often, the public is only able to react to the budget put forward by the City, and within a very short time-frame. If we want to become a healthier city with more people who understand the budget and its impacts on their lives, we need the city to be more open to meaningful engagement. We can’t just rely on public opinion surveys. Public opinion surveys lack context and provide no opportunities for dialogue, as they simply query on overly broad categories without the ability to see the long-term impacts of various budget lines.”

TLUC is a collaboration of community groups and residents who are working together to share knowledge and resources on issues related to land use and transportation. The vision of TLUC is: Winnipeg is a sustainable and healthy city based on integrated land use and transportation planning with informed community engagement and decision making, providing for safe, equitable mobility and livability.

TLUC members have researched the community engagement processes in city budgets across Canada, and found Winnipeg among the worst in terms of the opportunities and timing for community input. Other cities not only engage community input long before the draft budget is prepared, but also have more collaborative meetings for dialogue and discussion than the hearing/presentation format favoured by the City of Winnipeg. TLUC is urging the City of Winnipeg to expand and improve their engagement with the public to ensure groups currently being underserved by the status quo methodology of engagement are connected in a meaningful way. For example, the voices of youth, newcomers, low-income and marginalized communities are less likely to engage with online surveys or open houses. The city must become more dynamic in how it reaches out and secures the participation of residents.

TLUC launched anatomyofapothole.ca in 2022, ahead of the mayoral election. 

“The reason we created TLUC is that member organizations and individuals were always involved in various policy projects the City of Winnipeg created, from the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies, Transit Master Plans, Infill Development strategies and more” says Mark Cohoe, Executive Director at Bike Winnipeg and a founding member of TLUC. “But at the end of the day, a city’s vision is reflected in its budget, and time and time again we saw that the spending needed to implement the policy recommendations so carefully developed through public engagement and discussion were virtually ignored at budget time. Instead, funding focused on maintaining the status quo, perpetuating the problems those plans tried to reverse. We realized we all needed to work together to ensure that the change envisioned in hard won policies gets turned into reality.”                                                              

“Members of TLUC are very concerned that, once again, we’ll be asked to react in a short time-span to a budget document already drafted by the city,” says Cerilli. “If the City of Winnipeg is interested in meaningful engagement, they can’t simply put forward a drafted plan and tell the public that only small changes can be made given lack of time. The current process eliminates the time necessary for any kind of meaningful conversation. It keeps community members and groups in the position of banging on the door, instead of sitting at the table.” 

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About TLUC (Transportation and Land Use Coalition):

The Transportation and Land Use Coalition brings together groups and individuals committed to working collaboratively for our shared vision, to increase the impact of each member group. While member organizations speak individually, we recognize we can have a greater collective impact through collaboration.