BY RICHARD GILBERT - One of the main priorities of Manitoba's 2014 budget is spending on infrastructure, including highways and bridges on major trade corridors and flood protection, which is based on a medium-term capital plan.
“At roundtable meetings throughout the province, we heard from Manitobans about their priorities for infrastructure investments,” said Finance Minister Jennifer Howard, during the recent budget speech.
“They told us that investing in core infrastructure will create jobs, expand trade and make our economy more competitive. They told us that we need a multi-year plan to give industry time to mobilize and the flexibility to carry forward funds.”
“And, they told us to clearly report where infrastructure dollars are being spent,” she said.
Howard tabled the 2014 budget at the provincial legislature in Winnipeg on March 6.
It identifies capital investment as a priority, in order to support economic growth and job creation.
The budget plans to invest about $1.026 billion in 2014/15 on core infrastructure, which includes roads, highways and bridges ($707 million), flood protection ($42 million) and municipal infrastructure ($277 million).
This represents a significant increase from capital investment in 2013/14, which is forecast to be $854 million. In the base year 2012/2013, capital investment was $729 million.
The foundation of the 2014 Manitoba budget is a new $5.5 billion five-year plan, which was released on March 5.
“To keep Manitoba competitive and build our core infrastructure, we all have a part to play, that’s why this plan is so important,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.
“We have to get started. We have to plan ahead to get the most for our dollar and when there are delays, we have to work together to carry those resources forward and get the job done.”
The planned investment over the five-year period includes a baseline investment of $3.6 billion or $729 million a year and $1.5 billion in projected revenue from the one per cent increase in the provincial sales tax.
The 2013 Manitoba budget started raising additional revenue for infrastructure investment by increasing the PST to eight per cent from seven per cent.
The one per cent increase in the PST is time limited and will expire after 10 years.
In addition, the 2014 budget plans to spend an additional $420 million over and above the increase from the PST.
This investment includes a projected federal contribution of up to $234 million and provides flexibility to carry forward any under investment in a given year, including 2013/14 which falls outside the five-year plan.
The government will invest more than $3.7 billion in roads, highways and bridges, which includes $215 million to build Highway 75 to interstate flood standards.
It involves the construction of higher bridges over the Morris River and rebuilding 53 kilometres of northbound lanes. The plan will invest $200 million in improvements such as interchanges to move products from CentrePort to Highway 75 and south to the U.S.
About $265 million will be invested in Highway 10, which is Manitoba’s longest highway and another important trade route connecting the northern part of the province to the U.S.
An investment of $320 million will be made in the Trans-Canada Highway, which is western Canada’s primary trade corridor to Ontario.
The government will invest more than $700 million in bridges, including a new interchange on the south Perimeter at PTH 13, the expansion of Brandon’s Daly Overpass to four lanes and building new bridges over the Morris River.
An emergency channel that was built to ease the pressure along Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin will be turned into a permanent water control structure.
The project includes a new Lake Manitoba outlet.
The flood control project will require extensive consultation, engineering and environmental assessment work.
A total of $320 million will be invested in flood protection in Manitoba over the next five years and $250 million to renew and upgrade Winnipeg roads.
An independent analysis conducted by the Conference Board of Canada estimates that Manitoba’s $5.5-billion investment in core infrastructure will increase gross domestic product by $6.3 billion and exports by $5.4 billion.
This analysis also found that these investments will create 58,900 person years of employment and that each dollar invested in the five-year plan will benefit Manitoba’s economy by $1.16.