Manitoba’s Budget 2022 sees the highways capital program increasing to $407.954 million, with an additional $60 million carried over from an under-expenditure of last year’s highways budget.
In 2021-22, highways capital was set at $375 million, with an additional $23 million in carry-over from the previous year. In total, just $338 million was expended in 2021-22.
Further, the 2022 provincial budget sets out $110.8 million for highways in 2022 from the Economic Restart program, which was launched in 2020 to kick-start economic recovery post-COVID.
As well, the province is once again slotting in $106.7 million for the Lake Manitoba-Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels project, pending federal environmental approvals and consultations with First Nations.
“We saw some good signs in this budget of incremental increases to highways capital investment, but also a commitment to planning ahead,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said April 12, immediately after Finance Minister Cameron Friesen presented the budget to the legislative assembly. “We are very pleased to see Manitoba present a three-year capital plan, as we have been advocating for some years. This allows industry to see what we might expect years forward.”
The MHCA will press for improvements to that multi-year plan, moving it to a five-year capital plan. Forward planning allows industry to line up supplies and resources, including workforce commitments, which makes for a much more competitive bidding environment. That returns greater value to the province, for the program expenditure levels.
The three-year plan sees highways capital rising to $509 million in 2023-24, and then dropping slightly to $506.2 million in 2024-25. (Those figures include airport runway capital, which typically receives about $6 million annually.)
Lorenc said what he sees is a good platform upon which to build for strong levels of investment specifically in trade corridors and gateways – a focus of the proposed Western Canada Trade Gateway and Corridor Initiative advanced by MHCA, the Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association and a number of national advocacy groups, including the Canadian Construction Association.
“We have work to do provincially, but also across the West, to raise our trade profile and productivity and that means significant, strategic investment in our trade transportation network.”
The 2022 budget, which forecasts a deficit of $548 million at year-end, also includes $20 million for the Manitoba Water Stewardship Board. Last year, the WSB budget was set at $15.8 million, but was raised by $4 million through that year.
“Roads, bridges and waterways are foundational to economic growth and the quality of life of Manitobans,” Budget 2022 says, noting over the coming years the government will develop a longer-term capital strategy.
Further, the budget commits the government to do a condition assessment of its infrastructure assets – roads, highways, water-control structures and the likes – so investment planning is backed by an asset management plan, to better prioritize expenditures.
“The Manitoba government’s longer-term capital strategy will include developing and maintaining an updated government-wide inventory of the state of infrastructure,” the budget book states. “This will identify what infrastructure is in a state of good repair, and what investments are needed for repairs so that future investment go where they are needed and better prioritized.”
Lorenc said this is a very significant step forward in strategic investment planning, and welcomed the announcement.
“Manitobans deserve to see a clear picture of the state of their transportation infrastructure. This is critical to understanding how we can move the province not just to a higher level of every-day service but to greater trade productivity – the movement of people to jobs and goods to market — and that is pivotal to economic growth.”
Overall, Lorenc said, what we see in Budget 2022 is that this government understands the building blocks to a prosperous economy.
“There’s a focus on growing the economy, focusing on maintaining and protecting social services such as health and education and hope for a positive destination for the province.”