The Manitoba Infrastructure department underspent its 2020-21 budget for highways capital by about $60 million, largely due to good prices from the industry on their projects. Some $22.9 million of the under-expenditure was carried forward to the 2021-22 budget presented last spring.
The highways capital actual expenditure in last year’s budget was expected to be $367.9 million, including almost $5.4 million in carry over from under-expenditure in 2019-20.
The updated financial reporting, produced by the provincial government September 23 and confirmed by senior government officials, was presented to the MHCA Board of Directors Wednesday Sept. 29, at its quarterly meeting.
MI explained that while $22.9 million was carried over to the 2021-22 budget, some $38 million budgeted to the program effectively lapsed as a savings to the province. MI stressed that the full program of projects that were planned pretty much proceeded.
Through the year, as it became apparent there would be an under-expenditure due to lower-than-expected prices coming in on tenders, MI pulled forward some $11 million in other “shovel-ready” projects. That kind of planning is expected to be relied upon increasingly in future budget years, as MI is able to present multi-year budget planning and programs, although this year the prices are coming in as expected.
“We understand that MI continues to work through its scheduling of the highways capital program, to ensure that any holdup in projects that are planned does not thwart the planned total expenditures for the year,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc told the Board. “This is what we have been pressing for – to see MI put on the shelf, projects that are designed and ready to be rolled out, should any one year’s budget make that possible That is intrinsically the value of an annual and five-year program.”
In addition, the Public Accounts showed that the budgeted $101 million in 2020-21 for the Lake Manitoba-Lake St. Martin outlet channels project saw an actual expenditure of $17 million, because the province is still awaiting the federal license approval.
The $31 million budgeted in 2020-21 for MI’s water-related infrastructure was under-spent by $10 million, due to rain and flooding that shifted the department’s priorities.
The numbers give some clarity to the total provincial under-expenditures in strategic infrastructure in 2020-21. The Public Accounts indicate that $525 million was under-spent on the total strategic infrastructure budgeted, but the bulk of that was in health, education and housing projects.
MI stressed that the government and department are committed to flowing an annual budget of no less than $500 million, and that the Economic Restart funding for highways will see $113 million carried forward, to ensure the commitment is fully expended.
At the meeting of the Board, it was decided that both the City of Winnipeg and the Highways Committees would call meetings to review how the investment programs at each level of government were proceeding this construction season.
Other items discussed at the meeting Wednesday included:
- The board approved MHCA sending a communication to the City of Winnipeg’s Social Procurement Working Group, responding to a draft social procurement framework document. The working group, composed of representatives from industry, social enterprise and building trades, is feeding into a social procurement framework and action plan, to provide Winnipeg City Council with necessary detail for a policy on procurement.
- The board adopted in principle that a communication to be sent to the Manitoba Employers Council, for a formal response to the Workers Compensation Board’s plans to create a prevention advisory council.
- Lorenc and MHCA Chair Nicole Chabot met with interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen September 16 to impress upon the provincial government the need to invest public dollars strategically to enable economic growth, and reassert the MHCA’s six principles for core infrastructure investment, which also underscores the goal of economic growth.
- The provincial Quarry Rehab Program review by an advisory committee has discussed a number of issues for a revitalized program, including set backs from property lines and adjustment to the levy collected from the aggregate producers
The Board members also decided against the MHCA holding its annual Chair’s Gala this year, due to COVID public health restrictions, opting instead to direct the Events Committee to consider holding a Chair’s Reception at a later date.
The MHCA annual general meeting will take place virtually, Thursday, November 18, at 8:30 a.m.