Investing in highways

Investing in highways

The following appeared as a Letter to Editor in the Winnipeg Free Press, August 12, 2019.

Re:  Yes, spend on highways, but only whats affordable (Aug. 8)

The public should thank columnist Tom Brodbeck for engaging in debate about “spending” — we prefer “investing” — on the Manitoba highways system, the foundation of our trade-based economy.

Brodbeck and I can offer different approaches to tackling a roughly $9-billion investment deficit in Manitoba highways and bridges, left by successive governments’ failures to invest. Brodbeck and I can differ on what is meant by good versus bad debt, or whether the current approach is solely about borrowing, or should be a combination of cash-to-capital and dedicated revenue streams.

We can debate about why or whether the conditions and needs assessment reports of Manitobans’ highways and bridges should be public or, as is the practice, maintained as “state secrets” — we know, because we have tried, unsuccessfully, to access them through freedom-of-information applications.

The real debate at this time, however, belongs to Brian Pallister, Wab Kinew and Dougald Lamont.

We need to hear our major party leaders declare what is their commitment, plan or approach to strategically and transparently invest in (not “spend on”) highways. Is it more of the same? If so, that means a “finger in the political air” test of what government “can get away with” for annual highway capital programs, instead of a strategy, transparently supported by annual and five-year capital plans.

We are headed into an election. It is now the responsibility of Pallister, Kinew and Lamont to offer a public commitment to a transparent plan. Let’s have that open debate.

Chris Lorenc

President

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association

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