Manitoba investing $500M in infrastructure projects to help stimulate economy
WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is investing an additional $500 million over two years on infrastructure projects to help restart the province’s recovery.
“This is an addition to the previously budgeted $3 billion in projects that we have committed to,” Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference on Thursday.
The money will be invested through the Manitoba Restart Program, which will include new water and sewage projects; road and highway resurfacing repairs; bridge repairs; municipal infrastructure priorities; and the possibility of cost-sharing projects with other levels of government.
“I should mention this commitment does not include the additional contributions that would be made by other levels of government, but is our commitment as a government on behalf of Manitobans,” he said.
The premier said these types of projects are essential to the growth of the communities, will improve services for Manitobans, and will improve residents’ quality of life.
“We know that the Manitoba construction industry, like all of us, has experienced a downturn in demand in recent weeks and months, but we also know that our Manitoba heavy construction industry and other construction industry participants are ready to work. They want to work,” he said.
The premier also said the province has a long list of potential projects the funding can go to and has identified a number of priority projects.
“I’d mention by the way, that we are not going to be limiting the ability of workers or companies to participate in the tendering process to just those companies that are unionized,” Pallister said.
“We’re going to allow the 80 per cent of the heavy construction industry that isn’t unionized to also participate in this without an additional levy or fee being out in front of them.”
The premier said Thursday’s announcement also builds on the government’s commitment to supply municipalities with critical funding, as promised in the 2020 budget.
“I, and my colleagues, were able to assure over 40 municipalities personally in the past week that they will be receiving, as will al our municipalities, our committed budgeted amounts in support of their governments."
Pallister said the province has been able to get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic with good planning.
“We must remain vigilant, there’s no room for complacency,” he said. “We need 100 per cent support from Manitobans. We do not want a COVID comeback.”
CLIMATE AND GREEN PLAN PROJECTS
The Green Action Centre, a Winnipeg-based non-profit that promotes recycling, composting and other activities, received a letter from the province that says annual funding to the group worth $200,000 is being suspended this year.
"This ... will directly impact our ability to maintain our sustainable transportation and waste reduction programming and activities that Manitobans depend on," executive director Tracy Hucul wrote in an email to supporters Thursday.
The government said nine groups had requested and were denied funding this year, including the Green Action Centre and two others that received a total of $360,000 last year.
Hucul said her group does much more than advocacy. The centre helps schools and other institutions set up composting programs and educates people about carbon-free transportation such as cycling, she said.
The Opposition New Democrats said Pallister should reverse the cut.
"A real leader should think about more than one crisis at a time, and that starts with funding the organizations that push our government to protect our environment," environment critic Lisa Naylor said in a statement.
The premier noted that some of the $500 million announced will go to green projects.
“We’re investing more as a government in green than any previous government in the history of Manitoba,” he said. “And today expands on those investments."
Pallister went on to say the province is looking for savings that it can redirect to the front line.
“We have front-line expenses that were not anticipated, that are going to add up to billions of additional dollars,” he said.
“So advocacy groups have been notified, in this category, that their funding will be suspended for a time. We’ll review it, and I should mention we have expanded in this very category our investments to record levels.”
-With files from The Canadian Press