Highways budget static in 2019-20; extra $45 million set for highways projects for Manitoba’s 150th birthday
The provincial government has held Manitoba Infrastructure’s Highways Capital program to $350 million for 2019-20. Further, the budget sets out much lower planned expenditures for water-control structures — $65.4 million this year, $35 million of which is expected for the Lake St. Martin (outlet structures).
Notably, however, the provincial government has set aside an additional $45 million for 2019-20 for infrastructure projects to mark Manitoba’s 150th anniversary. The Manitoba 150 fund is a one-time expenditure; it is included as a budget line classified within the “enabling appropriation” section, separate from core departmental budgets.
Finance officials said, however, that almost all of that amount will be for highways and roads, flowing through Manitoba Infrastructure. No details were released Thursday as to what kinds of “projects” are on the 150 agenda; officials could not say whether the projects would be subject to the open, public tendering process.
“We are interested in the additional investment in highways and roads, in these commemorative projects and will be looking for details in the next weeks,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said Thursday, just after the release of the Pallister government’s 4th budget to date.
“It’s very important to us that the special commemorative projects be part of an open tendering process, that the government hold true to its commitment it would not sole-source any more highways and roads contracts.”
As well, the Pallister government announced it is cutting the PST from 8% to 7% as of July 1, 2019. That will reduce tax revenues to the treasury by $237 million this year, and by $325 million for a full year.
Lorenc said the heavy construction industry is concerned about the province’s investment in water-control structures, and water & sewer projects. The $65 million planned in water-control structures is significantly less than 2018-19’s budget — $103.6 million – likely due to delay in the rollout of the Lake St. Martin control channel project. Budget 2019 includes about $35 million for Lake St. Martin, primarily for the outlet structures.
The Manitoba Water Services Board, the budget for municipal sewer and water assets, is set at $15.8 million this year, up by $2 million.
“Manitoba has a $9-billion infrastructure investment deficit – that is the estimate of how much it would cost to bring our highways and bridges up to good condition,” Lorenc noted. “At current Highways Capital program budgets, that deficit is compounded every year. We need a long-term, sustained investment plan to give Manitobans the quality of highways they deserve and need, to ensure their economy can grow.”
Budget in Brief