Quarry rehab program tops items at MHCA board of directors meeting

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association
May 03, 2019
By Manitoba Heavy Construction Association
MHCA board of directors.
MHCA board of directors.
The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association's board of directors has decided to escalate the association’s request to the province for information regarding suspended payments for the rehabilitation of pits and quarries. The issue was among the top matters discussed at the May 1 board meeting.

The board directed a letter be sent to Blaine Pedersen, minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, seeking his direct attention and response to some pressing issues.

“The board has decided to escalate the association’s requests to the department for action on this issue,” MHCA president Chris Lorenc said. “Operators, affected municipalities and communities deserve to know what is planned for the program this year, to ensure rehabilitation of spent pits and quarries continues appropriately.”

The letter asks the minister to reply to MHCA questions within five business days. 

The MHCA has since August 2018 been seeking answers to the issues surrounding the suspension of funding out of a reserve that is provincially held and controlled, to pay for the provincially approved rehabilitation work. 

That work returns spent pits and quarries to near natural or recreational state, for the benefit of the communities near the aggregate resources that have been extracted.

The Quarry Rehabilitation Program sees aggregate producers paying a per-tonne fee to the provincial fund, which is then drawn upon to pay for rehabilitation once approved, completed and then provincially inspected. 

Last year, the province began an internal review of the program’s operations, and the industry learned that all payments would cease pending that review.

However, almost a year on, operators still have not been paid for rehabilitation work that was approved and inspected, when completed, by the province, leaving some $900,000 owing by government to industry. 

“We need the government to pay contractors and operators for work they were authorized to do and that is completed," Lorenc said. "Further industry, affected municipalities and the public deserve to know whether or not the program will continue to operate in 2019 given that the dedicated levy will continue to be collected."

“We cannot suspend that work; in many cases, that progress rehabilitation is part of development agreements that aggregate producers sign with the municipalities. We understand the real community interest and benefit to seeing the property returned to a more natural state.”

The MHCA has sent emails to all members of the Aggregate Committee, updating them on current discussions and actions.

The quarry rehab program was among a number of items the board of directors discussed May 1.

Other pressing issues include:

• The MHCA will begin discussions with Winnipeg’s mayor and councillors about the allotment of the remaining $20 million from the surprise federal government gas tax “top-up” of $43.9 million to the city, toward the local street renewal program for 2020. At the April 25 meeting of council, it was decided to put $19.25 million to restore some of the local street work cancelled due to a shortfall for 2018 out of the province’s payments from the Manitoba Roads Fund. Council has also decided that bridge construction projects should qualify for funding out of the local and regional street renewal fund, something that could have serious impact on street repair budgets in any given year.

• MHCA sent mayor and council an email, making clear that the association has no connection to the “Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Winnipeg” ads running on CJOB attacking Mayor Brian Bowman.

• The MHCA continues to work with Manitoba Infrastructure on construction specification changes in highway projects. The industry has asked that the spec changes be flexible and sensitive to the unique construction conditions and material sourcing within the province that affect construction.

• MHCA, in partnership with Manitoba Construction Sector Council and the Southeast Collegiate, is proposing a Heavy Construction Certificate Program for Grade 12 students. Such a program would make students ready for entry level employment in the heavy construction industry. It is hoped to have such a program ready for the 2020 fall semester.

• MHCA, WCA and ACEC-Mb met with Mayor Brian Bowman and senior staff to talk about forming a working group to look at accelerating construction projects and improving procurement processes.

• Manitoba’s Budget 2019 holds the Highways Capital program to $350 million for 2019. This means that the investment deficit for Manitoba’s roads and bridges, currently at approximately $9 billion, will grow by $175 million each year. Discussions with the province for a sustained, incremental investment strategy for core infrastructure are continuing.

• The MI service delivery model review continues. The MHCA has asked the department to define what it believes should be its core functions, after which the industry will respond with its suggestions on how some functions can move to private delivery.

• MHCA’s WORKSAFELY program and other industry-based service providers continue to talk to the Workers Compensation Board about a new funding model for prevention services. Those discussions include ensuring SAFE Work Manitoba is able to support, enable and champion the success of IBSPs.

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