Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding says investment in core infrastructure, including provincial roads and highways, is key to an economic revitalization post-pandemic.
“If you’re travelling anywhere in Manitoba, you know more work needs to be done” on provincial roads and highways, Fielding said during the February 16 webinar that launched MHCA’s 2021 virtual ‘Breakfast with the Leaders’ series.
“To come out of the (economic) downturn, it’s important to invest in infrastructure.”
Fielding listed a variety of programs and supports the provincial government has mounted during the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure individuals and businesses get through the economic shutdown, the second phase of which was triggered mid-November. The Finance minister said Manitoba lost about 90,000 jobs at the outset of the pandemic, with some 78,000 then recovered, and he expects to see similar results when employment statistics are released in the coming months.
The renewed interest in the role that infrastructure investment must play in the economic recovery comes amid recognition provincially that Manitoba Infrastructure’s budget was substantially reduced post-2016. That’s why the Pallister government has made a commitment to invest in transportation infrastructure on a sustained basis.
Fielding said the province’s $500-million economic restart program targets not just highways but water and wastewater infrastructure.
He said the renewed levels for core infrastructure must be maintained provincially. Fielding expressed his support for the government releasing annual and five-year budget forecasts, noting he would bring that back to Cabinet and for discussions with Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler.
Releasing an annual budget with five-year infrastructure program forecast, which is what is done by the City of Winnipeg, allows industry to plan ahead, line up human resources, financing and supplies, which ultimately makes for more competitive bidding on tenders.
MHCA President Chris Lorenc noted that such long-term planning and forecasting can result in up to 15% more value for the program dollar value because industry can line up better prices ahead of time, and scope their business planning based on the outlook.
The webinar drew participants across the heavy construction industry and Manitoba’s business community.
The next webinar in the ‘Breakfast with the Leaders’ series will see Manitoba Business Council President Bramwell Strain, on March 16, speak about the critical role for trade transportation infrastructure investment in economic growth and prosperity, nationally and regionally. You can register for the webinar here.