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MHCA cautions Winnipeg council on road-funding challenges ahead

The MHCA is to caution Winnipeg City Council that its forecasts for the streets budgets illustrate the need for an urgent rethink of its long-term strategy to sufficiently fund local and regional street repairs, the MHCA Executive Committee heard at its monthly meeting Wednesday, December 2.

The size of the investment deficit for local and regional streets is about half the estimated total $6.9 billion (2019) required to bring all city capital assets to good condition.

The MHCA will speak in support of the 2021 draft budget at the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee Friday, Dec. 4 and again at coming Executive Policy Committee and City Council meetings this month.

Association President Chris Lorenc explained that support recognizes the 2021 budget for street renewal, while slightly lower than 2020’s program, has improved against forecasts printed in the 2020 budget. As well, core infrastructure investment was affirmed this spring, even as council had to cut budgets when the city’s revenues began to fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lorenc said the association’s message to Winnipeg is that the industry understands the hard work required this year to maintain the planned street works program.

However, the real challenge is to rework the long-term strategy to ensure the street renewal program is sufficiently supported so Winnipeg can build/maintain its transportation network, necessary to meet the demands of a growing population and the need for economic growth.

“City Council, over the years, has made a series of decisions that, together, have undermined the funding levels for local and regional streets, such that the original plan – which was the premise for implementing a 2% annual dedicated tax, eventually shifting to reliance on frontage levies, for road repairs – is no longer recognizable,” Lorenc said.

The Executive Committee also heard an industry stakeholder working group, composed of MHCA, Manitoba Home Builders Association and the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-MB, met recently with Public Works, as directed by a motion of IRPW earlier regarding the change in specifications for roadbuilding.

The meeting was disappointing, and the industry stakeholders are concerned about the lack of progress as yet toward resolving some challenging issues, including in working toward recommendations that can be given IRPW to support the increased use of recycled concrete aggregate.

Other items discussed at the meeting included

  • the Civil National Advisory Council of the Canadian Construction Association will be discussing how the heavy construction and equipment industry could lead initiatives to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency. The federal government intends to move Canada to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, and the industry’s current and potential initiatives to reduce GHG emissions can assist in that plan.
  • A report commissioned by the CCA is expected in the new year on the links between infrastructure investment and benefits to the environment, including GHG emissions and climate resilience
  • MHCA and its WORKSAFELY™ program have posted on the website a series of business professional development and safety training courses, as part of the move toward offering e-learning options to the industry