Brent Bellamy | Winnipeg Free Press

It has been a difficult time for Winnipeg’s infrastructure. Our water periodically looks, but certainly doesn’t taste, like a fine Canadian whiskey. A combination of the polar vortex and daily water-main breaks has entombed cars from Charleswood to Transcona in knee-deep ice. Recent snow-clearing efforts left most of us wanting to trade in our car for a late-model Mars Rover, and of course in the not-too-distant future, the annual pothole invasion will begin.

The rising cost of maintaining this infrastructure and other civic services have left the City of Winnipeg scrambling to balance its budget, resulting in a third straight property-tax hike for 2014. This increase will be accompanied by a rise in sewer and water rates and likely, education taxes. A few months ago, a KPMG report recommended a ‘winter surcharge’ be added to property taxes in years when snow-removal costs exceed the city budget.

These reactionary solutions to infrastructure deficits leave governments trying to catch up by spending greater amounts of money fixing problems, without addressing their root cause. Over the last 50 years, Canadians have built sprawling, car-oriented cities that have resulted in a sharp reduction in population density. This has left civic governments responsible for a larger stock of infrastructure with fewer taxpayers to pay for its construction and long-term maintenance. {….}