Manitoba throne speech sets out wider role for industry in highways work

Manitoba throne speech sets out wider role for industry in highways work

The Pallister government’s throne speech on Tuesday spoke to priorities that would fuel economic growth, including a higher highways budget, expanded role for the private industry in maintaining roads and pushing for the acceleration of the Lake St. Martin outlet channel.

This is Premier Pallister’s second throne speech, delivered by Administrator Chief Justice Richard Chartier. Lt. Gov. Janice Filmon is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

The MHCA was expressly named in the speech as working partners for the Progressive Conservative government’s action plan.

“Your government will work with key partners such as the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association and other groups to develop a plan that provides a more meaningful role for the private sector in the delivery of infrastructure, so that more kilometres of highways and roads can be constructed for each dollar of taxpayer investment,” the speech noted. The Progressive Conservatives set out moving inhouse highways work from Manitoba Infrastructure to open public tenders as one item on the to-do list this term.

The other priorities attached to the heavy construction industry included rewriting the rules of public tendering to remove any requirement for union membership or dues as part of large public infrastructure awards. A similar bill was introduced in the last term, but did not get approved before this fall’s election was called.

The Public Sector Construction Projects (Tendering) Act will be re-introduced “to level the playing field so that contractors are not forced to hire unionized labour, and each tender receives fair and unbiased consideration”

MHCA President Chris Lorenc said the MHCA and industry welcomed and appreciated the tone of the throne speech, which was in keeping with the discussions the industry had to date with senior officials and Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler.

“We are optimistic that in the second term in office, the provincial government will raise the priority of and commitments to sustained, predictable and incremental investments in core transportation infrastructure upon which Manitoba’s trade-based economy rides,” said Lorenc.

“The movement of goods, commodities and services in and out of Manitoba is the lifeblood of our economy. Our trade moves on infrastructure which must not only be reliable, efficient and seamlessly connect, it must also be able to move goods and people across borders, through land ports of entry and at deep-water ports,” Lorenc added.

 “We welcome the commitment to develop a 10-year highways capital plan to chart investments decision going forward. We are ready to partner with the Premier and his government to help guide policy development that steers Manitoba toward a better plan – long-term strategic investment in infrastructure that actually returns a really high value to our GDP quickly.”

The throne speech also said the government was planning to ask Ottawa to accelerate the construction of the Lake St. Martin Outlet Channel “in advance of the coming flood season.”      

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