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OPINION: It's Not The A-B-C's, but it's the H-I-J's


Manitoba Municipal Relations Minister Ian Bushie addressing AMM Delegate in Brandon, Manitoba

When it comes to Manitoba municipalities, it's not as simple as your A-B-Cs.


Instead, it's more akin to the H-I-Js of municipal governance: Healthcare, Infrastructure, and Justice. These three pillars loom large over the landscape of municipal affairs, commanding attention and resources, and demanding innovative solutions to address the pressing needs of residents.


Recently, at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) conference in Brandon, Manitoba, 600 municipal leaders from across the province convened to deliberate on the issues that weigh heavily on their communities.


A prevailing theme emerged among the delegates: healthcare access, infrastructure deficits, and justice reforms stand as paramount concerns. The spotlight for these municipal leaders turn to the new Kinew government, with municipalities seeking collaborative efforts to tackle these critical areas.


Kam Blight, the President of AMM, has been a vocal advocate for municipal interests. In discussions following the provincial election, optimism tinged with expectation for tangible action reverberated. Healthcare emerged as a central theme during the electoral campaign, and since assuming office, Premier Kinew and the Manitoba NDP have shown a commitment to prioritize healthcare in their agenda.


Municipalities grapple with staffing shortages and the recruitment of healthcare professionals to bolster local healthcare facilities. At the AMM conference, healthcare took centre stage as representatives from Shared Health fielded questions from municipal leaders across Manitoba, underlining the urgency of addressing healthcare access disparities.


Infrastructure deficiencies stand as another formidable challenge confronting municipalities in the province. In conversations with municipal leaders, the clamor for increased funding for infrastructure reverberates loudly. The lifting of the municipal funding freeze by the new government was welcomed as a positive step forward, yet the consensus remains that more concerted efforts are needed to address the infrastructure backlog plaguing communities.


And then there's justice—an age-old issue ingrained in the fabric of municipal governance. Crime rates, particularly in rural communities, cast a long shadow over municipal affairs. Municipalities find themselves on the front lines, grappling with the repercussions of crime and the challenges posed by repeat offenders. The AMM is unreserved in its call for justice system reforms, urging both the federal and provincial governments to take decisive action to prevent recidivism and enhance community safety.


After the provincial budget was tabled earlier this month, Blight engaged in discussions with the Manitoba Attorney General, a discussion that was met with approval. After all there was some concerns lingering among municipal leaders that the budget fell short of adequately addressing rural crime.


Manitoba municipalities find themselves at a critical juncture, navigating a landscape fraught with challenges while striving to serve the best interests of their residents.


While some may perceive municipalities as facing a relatively smooth sailing in 2024, candid conversations with municipal leaders paint a different picture—one marked by concern, challenges, and cautious optimism.


However, underlying their voices is a palpable sense of determination, buoyed by the belief that with committed partners, municipalities can not only weather the storm but thrive in the face of adversity. It's imperative that stakeholders at all levels of government heed the calls of municipal leaders and work collaboratively to address the pressing issues of healthcare, infrastructure, and justice that loom large on Manitoba's municipal landscape.

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