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Manitoba Heavy Construction Association lobbies province on use of highway budget


October 19, 2021
By Manitoba Heavy Construction Association

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The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) has sent a letter to interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen, asking that the provincial government ensure the full budgeted program for highways infrastructure is invested in Manitoba’s roads and bridges, with any year’s unexpended amounts rolled into future budgets.

“We heard very clearly – and it is on the record – the provincial government committed to fully expending the highways capital budget and to carrying over any expended dollars to future highways program budgets,” says Chris Lorenc, MHCA president. “Our letter reiterates the critical nature of full expenditure of the program, especially given Manitoba’s $9-billion investment deficit for highways and bridges.”

The letter to Goertzen comes in the wake of the Public Accounts being published Sept. 23. Those documents showed that in 2020, some $60 million of the $367.9-million highways infrastructure budget was not spent. The government carried over $22.9 million to the 2021 budget year, and $38 million lapsed.

Lower-than-expected prices returned by bidders on tenders made up the great majority of the under-expenditure – in total, some $49 million – so Manitoba Infrastructure pulled $11 million worth of projects into the program during the construction season.

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The letter to Goertzen, copied to Progressive Conservative leadership candidates Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover, notes that the industry accounts for more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Further, for every $1 of public funds invested in strategic infrastructure, the Manitoba economy realizes a return to GDP of between $1.30 and $1.90, depending on the nature of the investment. The ROI is felt both in the same year – because of the immediate job creation, with generation of tax revenues – and long-term, especially in the case of trade-enabling infrastructure because of its indispensable role in the economy.

“It is for these and many linked reasons that the MHCA consistently cautions all levels of government against delaying strategic infrastructure investment to balance expenditures. The provincial economy, ours and allied industries all rely upon predictable, sustainable and incremental budgets invested strategically in infrastructure to ensure economic growth, providing revenues to government with which to meet its responsibilities including pandemic impacts.”

Lorenc said the association will follow up on this issue, once the party selects its new leader Oct. 20. The leader automatically assumes the premier’s office.