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City's 2017 Capital Budget Actually Included $158M Accessibility-Related Spending

Jul 15, 2017

Winnipeg skyline in evening

As you will recall, the City of Winnipeg was one of three Canadian cities to have been awarded the 2017 Accessible Cities Award by the Rick Hansen Foundation. This is quite an honour and Barrier-Free Manitoba shared the very goods news of this award on our website as soon it came our way on June 1, 2017. We also followed up with a cautionary comment two days later.

We invite you to read our earlier posts:

While congratulating the City, our second article raised several issues that gave us pause to wonder. Among these were that the Rick Hansen Foundation does not provide any information on what if any measures were used as the basis for selecting the three cities for this award, nor on how many cities applied (it is an application process). This is a significant limitation as there is no basis to compare Winnipeg to other cities across Canada or even the cities that applied for the award.

A second concern related to one of Winnipeg's features that was reported to be particularly noteworthy and meritous. The Foundation highlighted the over $425,000 that the City spends annually to improve accessibility. Nice figure though this seemed like a drop in the bucket given that it accounts for less 0.1% of the City's overall $433M capital budget. But this reported spending was even more problematic. Back in March 2017, the City Council had identified the $425,000 accessiblity investment as one of budget item among seven for possible cuts or elimination to help cover last year's snow removal over-expenditures. Thankfully, the accessibility funding was not cut but we commented that the Council's direction to consider funding reductions went to show just how precarious the City's commitment was to spending the money required to improve accessibility.

Pretty reasonable comment, we thought.

Well not so much. Supplementary information provided to us from the City's 2017 Capital Budget paints a very much brighter picture. The spreadsheet shared with us shows the budget including 18 capital projects, accounting for spending of just over $158M, that specifically incorporated accessibility features (15 projects) or were fully focused on accessibility (3 projects). We are pleased provide a copy of this spreadsheet based on City's 2017 Capital Budget as a PDF document for your review (PDF).

This level of expenditure is an impressive 373 times higher than the $425,000 line item that the Foundation chose to highlight in its profile of the City of Winnipeg. It seems very likely that this same information on the 2017 capital budget was included in the City of Winnipeg's application to the Foundation. It just didn't catch the attention of the Foundation's editors.

So we again are very pleased to offer our congratulations to the City of Winnipeg. It's wonderful to have one's efforts recognized. We know that you have made a lot of progress over the years. We also know that there is still a long way to go before we have barrier-free city. We hope that your good work continues and expands to meet this challenge.

Yet we are still left wondering how the City of Winnipeg, its spending and its progress in improving accessibility compares to other Canadian cities. While awards are wonderful, we actually need data based on consistent and well thought out metrics and measures for all major cities to get a true sense of whether the City of Winnipeg is an accessibility leader or laggard, or somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, these data are not yet available and the Rick Hansen Foundation Award does not really help us out much.  









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