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Manitoba budget expected to boost highways, infrastructure investment

Budget 2021, to be released April 7, is expected to see larger investment for highways capital and other infrastructure priorities, partly due to carryover of the provincial Economic Restart program announced last year, the MHCA Board of Directors heard at its meeting March 29.

“We know that there is a substantial amount of the planned expenditures out of the economic kickstart funding strategy that have yet to flow,” said Chris Lorenc, MHCA President. “And we understand that there is a roll-over from the annual highways capital budget. Both elements, we expect, will weigh in to raise the budget level this year.”

MHCA will be providing a “budget-in-brief” analysis immediately after Finance Minister Scott Fielding speaks to Budget 2021 Wednesday March 7.

The provincial budget was among the industry priorities the Board of Directors discussed.

The MHCA told the Board that the recent meeting of the Canadian Construction Association saw the Civil National Advisory Council lay out its main priorities for the coming year. They include: a federal, long-term transportation infrastructure investment strategy; focus on improving Canada-U.S. relations as they relate to trade, and; ensuring investment programs are in tune with climate-change realities, because resiliency of infrastructure is key to success.

Also, the Board heard that a lot of work has been done on the heavy construction work-force diversification front.

  • MHCA was central to a high-school “intro to heavy construction” program offered by River East Transcona School Division that saw young women complete training and get ready for job opportunities in the industry this summer
  • MHCA worked with the Seven Oaks School Division to create high-school credit courses for entry into the industry, in a co-op program that will involve work experience for students
  • MHCA will be creating program and informational resources as part of its workforce advancement initiatives to introduce our industry to under-represented communities and individuals – good jobs and good benefits, leading to good careers.

“We are very excited to be driving the agenda for expanding our industry’s recruitment, education and training in these non-traditional labour force groups,” Lorenc said, noting that MHCA Chair Nicole Chabot and past Chair Colleen Munro spoke eloquently to media and with government about the issue on International Women’s Day March 8. “Our industry is hungry for dedicated, skilled individuals and it has a lot to offer those looking for prospective careers.”

Other priorities the Board discussed included:

  • MHCA has cancelled its 2021 Spring Mixer, due to COVID-19 health restrictions on gatherings; the 2021 Golf Classic is proceeding, details to come
  • MHCA and industry representatives will meet with MI Deputy Minister Sarah Thiele to discuss the 2021 highways capital program, its tender schedule and industry capacity
  • MHCA is part of a broader construction industry coalition engaging in a working group that has been recommended to Winnipeg City Council for the preparation of principles to guide social procurement policy in its tenders
  • MHCA expects to see some reference in the provincial Budget 2021 to promotion of a Western Canada Trade Gateway and Corridor Initiative, which MHCA and the Business Council of Manitoba have been advancing here and regionally

On the WORKSAFELY™ front, Director Don Hurst said the association is still awaiting provincial government reply to an inquiry about the self-isolation rules for construction workers who enter or re-enter Manitoba from out-of-province.

The same inquiries have been sent to the federal level regarding expectations for those coming to Manitoba from outside of Canada, on special assignment at heavy construction worksites here.