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Manitoba municipalities fail to control spending, business lobby says – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Spending by Manitoba’s largest municipalities has increased at three times the rate of population growth, even after inflation is factored in, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says.

The small- and medium-sized business lobby released its first report on Manitoba municipal spending on Tuesday.

The organization contends that spending increases equal to the rate of inflation plus population growth should be sufficient to run a municipality, but most civic governments aren’t holding to that pace.

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It compiled a chart of inflation-adjusted spending increases by municipal governments from 2008 to 2012 for the new report.

“Many taxpayers are tiring of unsustainable spending leading to annual municipal property tax hikes while services stagnate and infrastructure crumbles,” Elliot Sims, CFIB’s Manitoba director of provincial affairs, said in the news release. “With local elections just around the corner, Manitoba taxpayers have a chance to ask candidates for their plan to end this cycle by bringing operating spending under control.”

Winnipeg’s spending, adjusted for inflation, increased nine percent from 2008 to 2012, the report says, but its population increased only five per cent.

If the city had kept its spending increases to the rate of inflation plus population growth, it would have spent more than $326 million less over that time, the report states.

The CFIB blames much of the problem on public-sector employee costs.

Municipal workers earn an average of about 10 per cent more than private-sector workers, the report contends. When employer-contributed benefits such as pension, health insurance and shorter work weeks are factored in, that soars to nearly 35 per cent, the report says.

“Municipal governments must get their day-to-day spending under control if they want to provide residents with cost-effective services. Reining in excessive growth of labour costs is the best way to achieve this goal,” Sims said.

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