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MHCA board approves pushback on provincial budget cuts


April 25, 2018
By MHCA

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April 25, 2018 – The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) intends to tell the public the impact of the deep cuts the government of Manitoba has made to the highways budgets since the Progressive Conservatives took power in 2016.

“When the highways budget is cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, that directly affects how people get to their jobs, how our goods get to their markets — that’s our economy,” MHCA president Chris Lorenc said. “And with 30 per cent of construction contracts supporting wages, that is a direct hit to the incomes of the women and men in the industry who fix our roads.”

Approval for getting that message out in the public was given at the MHCA Board of Directors meeting Wednesday. Lorenc said how that is done will be shaped in the coming weeks.

“The intent is to ensure that the government knows the highways budget cannot continue to bear the brunt of cutting the provincial deficit. Our industry understood and accepted that it, too, would share some of the pain, but the budget slashing has hit too deep.”

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Budget 2018’s impact on the heavy construction industry was among a number of items the Board discussed. Also on the table were:

• Premier Brian Pallister announced April 16 that no further work within the proposed $540 million Lake St. Martin/Lake Manitoba outlet channel project will be sole sourced. The MHCA vehemently opposed the sole sourcing of two contracts on initial work on the access road in the project;
• The MHCA will speak in opposition to Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman’s motion to write new provisions in its procurement procedures to give preference to local businesses; 
• Bill 14, recently introduced in the legislature, loosens the language in the duty to tender construction work and allows the government greater flexibility to sole source public contracts. The government has responded to MHCA’s inquiries, stating the language reflects the intent of current rules, which permits limited exceptions, including in a ‘pressing emergency’;
• Planning Act amendments, before the legislature now, may allow for an appeal when a municipal council turns down an application for a pit or quarry as a conditional use. As well, the government has said a conditional use application will be assessed by a technical-review committee, and the committee will submit its report to the municipal council prior to its decision;
• Review of Manitoba Infrastructure’s service-delivery model continues, with MHCA input;
• The MHCA signed, with about 80 Canadian business organizations, a letter April 12 urging the federal government to ensure the Kinder Morgan pipeline project moves ahead; and
• Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen confirmed in writing March 16 that provincial policies forbid arbitrary reprisal clauses within public entity procurement, including by municipalities.