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Winnipeg: The Budget

by ​Marianne Cerilli, TLUC Co-founder


In 2019 Mark Cohoe from Bike Winnipeg and I decided with another budget and Transportation Master Plan development coming it would be a good idea to bring together groups working on sustainable transportation and urban planning to increase collaboration and collective impact. This group became TLUC – The Transportation and Land Use Coalition. 


We discussed the time and effort that community groups put into meetings with the city to develop policy that was often not implemented and not funded in the budget. We also discussed the fact the budget was not really driven by public policy at all and contained all sorts of hidden subsidies for vehicle reliance, underfunding for public transit and a lack of planning to reach goals for transportation emissions reduction targets and mode shift. We realized the budget process was not effective to incorporate research evidence and best practices needed to make Winnipeg a more sustainable healthy city. While we supported this stated corporate vision of the City of Winnipeg – a sustainable healthy city - it was clear we are not making progress towards that vision. We discussed how, if we want to improve city planning and public policy, we have to challenge the budget process, especially since the adoption of the  four year budget process, and we must make the budget process more democratic. We had a few ideas about how to do this. 


Goal of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition

  1. Bring community stakeholders into the Transportation Master Plan Process

    1. Have meaningful community and public engagement

  • Make recommendations for public engagement that uses the experience and expertise of stakeholders and builds agreement between stakeholders and the city – draft document on improvements to public engagement methods, timelines, and strategies.

  • Ensure transparency and accountability to the public 

  1. Link Transportation Master Plan process and outcomes with Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities, Density and Infill Strategy and other strategies

    1. Ensure policy coordination throughout the policy development process that ensures policy goals can be achieved.  

    2. Draft a policy map or policy hierarchy 

  2. Ensure budget and development decisions match Master Plans and Policies 

    1. Create a budget checklist to demonstrate policy and budget alignment

    2. Create clear goals and indicators to align with policy area budget allocations

    3. Create budget indicators that include the value of green infrastructure, ecology health, improved income equity, human health and other social impacts and allow tracking of progress on policy goals

    4. Help to create a Participatory Budget Process for Winnipeg with community stakeholder and the City of Winnipeg. 


TLUC believes we need to challenge the processes at City Hall and in civic government to ensure systems of governance for accountability, transparency, and public engagement if we are going to effectively implement the health city policy agenda. 

TLUC is proposing work on 4 key areas on the budget and community engagement in budget making.

  1. A new Budget Checklist as part of the City Budget that would compare public policy goals with budget allocations and indicators. This checklist would be developed by City staff in collaboration with TLUC and other stakeholders. 

  • Policy progress indicators that match the public policy goals for equity and inclusion, for sustainability and mode shift, for improved tax base density and maintenance of green space, tree and vegetation coverage, etc. These indicators should be on a accessible tool like the Data Consortium and Food Policy Council and the Peg Indicator Project. These are good formats but there are key indicators missing related to density, land use and finances. Many indicators are do not account for population growth and demographic changes. 

  • A policy map with all the strategies from Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities on down that shows the policy framework for Winnipeg and policy timelines for each strategy.

  • More information like this summary that will explain these tools to the public, integrate them into the budget process. This includes pubic and stakeholders education about how this proposal fits with the best research evidence on climate, equity and public engagement. 

The budget checklist is a tool to link public policy goals, progress indicators on those goals with budget allocations/estimates in both city revenues and expenditures.

We developed the budget checklist tools, fact sheets, a website, and met with councillors to build understanding and support for the idea as a way to ensure the City of Winnipeg are allocating funds in line with policy goals for mode shift, improved density, shifting away from sprawl, building well designed mixed use and mixed income housing, inner city urban renewal and in general sustainable development.

Many of the challenges we face in Winnipeg are not a matter of public opinion, they are a matter of science, which for too long has taken a backseat to politics and short sighted economic policy. It is time to flip the script, and bring Winnipeg into alignment with international/national climate and equity agreements. 


  1. Secondly there was a report submitted by 60 groups to the City of Winnipeg Governance Review calling for a collaborative governance model at city hall to build on the community engagement office and policy to ensure community groups like those in TLUC have equal access and influence as groups like Heavy Construction Association, Home Builders Association, developers, and other private interests that benefit from the status quo on unsustainable urban planning and urban development.


  1. We conducted research comparing the budget engagement process in major cities in Canada that showed, not surprisingly that Winnipeg is about the worst on engaging citizens and civil society groups in the budget making process. Other cities had much longer time between public meetings and review of a budget draft or budget information and when the final budget was passed. They held more and better public meetings with various interest groups in meetings that discussed research and looked for ways to apply it. There was a stronger connection between planning, positive progress on sustainability and just transition indicators and the allocation of funds. 


  1. We advocated with other community groups to move to a participatory budget process that brings groups together in collaboration to better shape the budget in a more transparent, inclusive and democratic way. 


These three strategies or social innovations would transform city operating procedures to make the city more inclusive, accountable, transparent and democratic.  These procedural or process changes are needed to change the political and governance structure that protect the status quo and prevent changes in the budget to address the inequity and climate crises we face. We all know the progressive policies on the books are not getting funds, while allocations still go to unsustainable road widening, new precincts and new transportation expansion projects like the Chief Peguis Trail extension. 

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