Winnipeg recently hosted the Provincial Leaders Forum at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities 2023 Spring Convention. President Kam Blight says Premier Stefanson, NDP Leader Wab Kinew, and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont were present to discuss and debate various topics that were important to municipalities.
"It was quite exciting," notes Blight. "We feel very fortunate that all three leaders agreed to be a part of this great event."
Among the highlights, Blight notes a large contingent of municipal elected officials, administration, CEO's, and city managers were in the audience.
"They were listening to the three main party leaders discussing municipal priorities which were financial contributions to municipalities," says Blight. "We've seen the funding frozen for the past number of years, and it was just recently lifted by the provincial government, which we're greatly appreciative for. We were discussing what the funding models could look like going forward."
Investing in people was another strong discussion, along with the concern around healthcare across the entire province.
"That's something that we heard at every single municipality we visited so far," continues Blight. "It just was so important for us to be able to hear the provincial leaders discuss the importance of healthcare and what their plans would be going forward. Every single person deserves good quality care close to home, and that's something that we're trying to achieve here again in Manitoba. We're lobbying the provincial government to really invest in the people so that we have the healthcare professionals there in place to ensure that, regardless of where you live, you're going to have good quality healthcare in a timely fashion."
Blight explains public safety was another key priority that they discussed.
"There are massive concerns around the province in regards to public safety," adds Blight. "So, we got to hear from all three different provincial leaders and what their thoughts are on public safety, and what we can do to stop the revolving door issue that seems to be out there, where the criminals are constantly re-offending. There's a catch-and-release program going on with the RCMP. We're calling for better supports for the RCMP to ensure that they can do their jobs and not have to spend time constantly re-apprehending these offenders. We want to make sure that the supports are there in place, and the infrastructure and resources to make sure those individuals that want to get the help can get the help that they need."
He explains municipal leaders wanted to hear candidates' thoughts on investing in key infrastructure such as water and wastewater infrastructure for municipalities.
"The growth demands for these municipalities is really taking off at a very rapid rate," says Blight. "We wanted to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to support that residential and economic growth, and the demands that are being put onto the system. We just wanted to talk about key strategic investments, which aren't just water and wastewater. It's highway infrastructure; it's housing and schools, etcetera. It's connectivity, fibre optics, and that sort of thing. We just wanted to hear these leaders' thoughts on all those topics and it was really, really quite interesting and quite exciting at times."
All in all, Blight describes the event as a great opportunity to speak with the leaders.
"We certainly are grateful for them coming forward and taking the time to be part of this leadership forum," adds Blight. "It was just an excellent opportunity for our Members to hear their thoughts on the future and what they would do if elected in the next election. Once again, it was just a great opportunity for us to have our ministerial priorities front and centre."