CFIB says spending out of control in Manitoba municipalities

Report suggests the province's largest municipalities have increased spending three times the rate of population growth.

WINNIPEG — The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says spending by Manitoba’s largest municipalities has increased at three times the rate of population growth, even after inflation is factored in.

In a report, the lobby group for small- and medium-sized businesses 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.

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

Spokesman Elliot Sims says many taxpayers are tiring of unsustainable spending leading to annual municipal property tax hikes while services stagnate and infrastructure crumbles.

He says with municipal 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 per cent from 2008 to 2012, the report says, but its population increased only 5%.

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% 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%, 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.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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