Season 5 kicks off with an in-depth interview with Elmwood-East Kildonan Councilor Jason Schreyer, who takes on bureaucrats, unchecked construction inflation and ongoing City borrowing he says is unsustainable.

The 3 term Winnipeg councillor wants a review of the rules around long-term borrowing, especially when it’s underwriting infrastructure projects that come in way over budget.

“It was not something being talked about regularly” when he was first elected. Now city finances are in trouble. A member of the Water and Waste standing committee, he also addressed whether the City should be leveraging performance bonds posted by contractors to control spiraling costs.

Part 1 – 3:05: “The problem is more and more pressure is being put on municipal governments”, since the 1980’s, said Schreyer.

Council recently voted to finance an extra $23M for a South Winnipeg recreation campus but is draining Happyland Pool over a $100,000 shortfall, which Marty Gold challenged as being unfair to the less affluent St. Boniface ward.

“I’m not going to dispute what you’re saying,” replied Schreyer. “We’ve got a problem with construction inflation more than any other inflation at city hall.”

9.30- A discussion about contractor performance bonds. How is Council protecting the public interest and who is being held accountable? An example Schreyer has seen first-hand is in our report: ⁠Goulet Bike Lane Barricaded, New Lanes A Treacherous Wreck⁠

“There should be answers for these questions you’re asking.”

Part 2 – 16.07 – Jason Schreyer notes the media had never once asked him about construction inflation before this interview.

He feels that the media contributed to a lack of information for taxpayers “about why costs are going up, increasing all our taxes, fines, fees, levies, and rates at an unprecedented rate and actually reducing services.”

Citing the rate of inflation outpacing wages for 30 years, “now we’re forced to, relative to the income of Winnipeggers, sell more and more debentures.”

The interest being paid on long-term bonds is “not sustainable” and Schreyer agrees that it’s time for a review of city practices.

“I don’t feel like its my job to defend the administration or City Hall. Cost overruns happen, (but) we should do a record of how often contractors are actually under the estimates… we should always be vigilant in terms of every single construction contract, yes we should.”  

22.10- A former Mayoral candidate has raised the idea of the City generating millions by opening an aggregate plant- and Schreyer said there was a good precedent:  

“I’m very grateful to Don Woodstock for taking up these issues. … back in the day, the city owned its own gravel quarry.”

Hear Schreyer describe his questions about whether the City selling off its quarries had saved any money- and the stonewall bureaucrats put up.

“There is no answer from the administration on this. That tells you what kind of trouble we’re in. We can’t think, “if the administration can’t give answers that’s the end of that’- the opposite is true!”

Listen for why Schreyer and Coun. Russ Wyatt just pushed off a proposed housing plan on Dawson Road because bureaucrats were unprepared for their line of questioning. “It’s the right thing to do.”

26:56  The interview concludes with Schreyer focusing on accountability from City Hall and councilors.

“I don’t blame people for that concern, I have that concern. Do you think I get my questions answered at city hall?” he states.

“There is no accountability on the issue of further debt. Because if you really project it… I don’t see how it’s sustainable… I’m not here to look at things with rose-coloured glasses on.”

28:18 – Episode 1 closes with a recap of Schreyer’s major points, and our focus on first-time donors for the Season 5 funding campaign!

COMING UP: Winnipeg Transit swerves Route 10 users; Pride Winnipeg has a bigger Jewish problem than we knew; More from Coun. Schreyer on EK and City-wide issues

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