Local News Briefs

Report on fire stations seeks budget increase

City council will be asked to approve just under $2.5 million in next year’s budget to pay for overruns in the city’s controversial fire station replacement program, the Winnipeg Sun reports. The overruns costs include expansions on the plans for the new Fire Station No. 11, which grew from 10,500 sq. ft. to 14,000 sq. ft in size without council approval, and accounts for $2.2 million of the budget increase. Deepak Joshi, the city’s chief operating officer, claimed the fire chief approved the change in the project believing it would not require a budget increase.

Pension battle taken to Supreme Court

MTS pensioners’ appeal has been granted leave to appeal its case to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. The 14-year-old dispute is over a $43.3 million pension surplus lost when the company switched from a Crown Corporation to a publicly traded company in 1996. In 2010, the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned a Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that forced MTS to repay the lost surplus - a ruling that would have cost the company about $100 million. Although the pensioners are pleased with their opportunity to appeal, MTS chief legal officer Paul Beauregard does not believe the upcoming hearing will overturn the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Katz celebrates public-private partnerships

Mayor Sam Katz praised public-private partnerships in an appearance before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa on Oct. 23, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. The House of Commons government operations committee is looking into the usefulness of P3s, where governments contract out the design, construction, operations and maintenance of public infrastructure to the private sector. Katz has completed three P3 projects in Winnipeg since his inauguration, including the recently complete Disraeli Freeway upgrades, which Katz claims saved the city $48 million. P3 proponents claim the private sector better delivers projects within budget and time constraints than governments. Opposition MPs on the committee requested Katz provide documentation to support his assertion.

Phoenix inquiry to resume

An inquiry into the death of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair has been cleared to resume, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. Three days after it began Sept. 5, the inquiry was delayed to discuss the disclosure of witness interviews. Manitoba’s Court of Appeal recently ruled that transcripts of interviews with some 140 testifying witnesses do not have to be fully disclosed.  The inquiry examines how Sinclair was beaten to death in 2005 by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend only months after child and welfare workers returned her to her family. The inquiry is expected to resume in a few weeks.

Tories pitch income tax cut

In calling for an income tax cut on Oct. 24, Manitoba Opposition Leader Brian Pallister was criticized for entertaining the idea of a harmonized sales tax in which companies do not pay sales tax on items bought for their business, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. Pallister requested an increase to the threshold earners start paying income tax at - from $8,634 to $10,617. The increase would save each earner $200 annually, Pallister said. The governing NDP claims Pallister’s request has left the door open to a harmonized sales tax. The provincial finance department said HST would save businesses $510 million, and cost consumers $405 million annually.

Published in Volume 67, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 31, 2012)

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