MHCA: Provincial highways budget cuts break the promise

Conservatives pledged to hold to $500 million annually, adopt five-year program
May 04, 2018
May 4, 2018 - The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) is continuing to press, including through meeting with provincial ministers, for a restoration of Manitoba Infrastructure’s highways capital budget, after a series of deep cuts since 2016.

“Manitoba needs a strategic, sustained approach to investing in its highways and trade-enabling infrastructure,” said MHCA president Chris Lorenc. “This is why the industry has advocated for an annual and five-year infrastructure investment program, to set out future investment in a strategy that gets the most value out of each year’s budget for highways.”

The government promised to:
• Maintain investment in traditional core infrastructure (land drainage, streets, sewer, water, highways, bridges and structures) at no less than $1 billion annually;
• Invest no less than $500 million in Manitoba Infrastructure’s annual highways capital budget;
• Apply six infrastructure investment guiding principles - a permanent, predictable sustainable program; strategically invest in infrastructure to focus on economic growth; harness innovation in all areas; partner with the private sector; dedicate revenues to purpose; and, review annually for discipline to purpose;
• Implement an annual and five-year rolling program; and
• Release an infrastructure investment deficit report to underpin infrastructure strategies.

It has:
• Expanded ‘core’ infrastructure definition to include schools, institutions, healthcare, recreation;
• Cut the annual highways capital program by 40% since 2016; $150 million cut in 2018, alone;
• Underspent by $92 million over two budgets, $72 million of which was in 2017-18;
• Not adopted an annual and five-year rolling budget; and
• Not released the infrastructure investment deficit report.

Worker wages account for about 30% of each project budget. The unprecedented single-year cut of $150 million to the provincial highways budget will see $50 million taken out of employee income this year.

“That will hurt our local economies directly and immediately,” Lorenc noted.

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