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Highways Capital investment rises in Manitoba’s 2021 Budget

The provincial government is raising the Highways Capital program to a total $398 million, according to Budget 2021, announced in the House April 7 by Finance Minister Scott Fielding.

The program level includes $22.9 million carry-over from unexpended funds for Highways Capital within Budget 2020. It also includes an incremental increase of $12.5 million, part of the Progressive Conservative 2019 election promise to move gradually to $400 million for the core Highways Cap program over 4 years.

In addition, Manitoba Infrastructure has budgeted $107 million worth of work in 2021, out of the $2020 Economic Restart investment program, announced last May in the midst of the economic shutdown triggered by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $500-million restart investment program, MI was to see a total $215 million over two years, but that has been extended now to three years, due to a slower rollout of projects. Some $16.5 million was expended last year.

The provincial government has committed to budgeting no less than $500 million annually for Highways Capital in this and the next two years.

While glad to see the rising budget levels, MHCA President Chris Lorenc said the industry remains intent on its push for an annual and five-year budget to be made public by Manitoba Infrastructure.

“The stated commitment to $500 million for three years is welcome, but for the industry to plan, it needs approximate budget forecasts and projects long-term,” Lorenc said. “This doesn’t set program levels in stone, but it – along with a tentative list of projects in the program — does allow the industry to set up, scale up their labour and supply plans.”

Further, he said, the department confirmed that any unspent dollars carried forward are not a first charge on the succeeding year’s budget, but added to it. “That is a significant decision we welcome.”

Also under the MI budget, $31 million has been budgeted in water-control structures, the same amount budgeted in 2020-21.

The budget for “strategic infrastructure” transfers to municipalities, which includes roads and bridges, will be $61.7 million. The Manitoba Water Services Board’s budget this year remains static, at $15.824 million.

“I would characterize the budget as a ‘turning the corner budget.’ It attempts to ease the tax burden, freeing up money into the economy, harnesses infrastructure investment to spur growth and protects the social program fabric of programs,” said Lorenc.

The program for rehabilitation of pits and quarries will be $6.9 million in 2021; the annual rehabilitation budget is funded by a provincial levy that aggregate producers pay, per-tonne of extraction.

To read Budget 2021 click here.