As provinces across Canada begin to relax some safety measures related to COVID-19 and look at rebuilding their economies, the construction sector in Manitoba is urging the government to boldly spend on infrastructure.
Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA), explained the goal should be to get as many people back to work with shovel-ready construction projects and then focus on long-term infrastructure work to boost trade.
“If one looks at what governments have done in times of acute recession or depression, none have responded with austerity or the status quo of infrastructure programs,” said Lorenc. “Bring people back from unemployment, put them in circulation as a construction workforce, give them access to an income so they can pay their bills.”
After that, explained Lorenc, the medium and long-term should be building assets that address Canada’s needs for productivity and competitiveness. He said the most important segments are transportation assets as they enable trade and get high rates of return on investment.
Lorenc said the MHCA will be meeting with the federal government to suggest moving ahead on the Chief Peguis Trail Extension project which would take close to three years and employ thousands of workers. It would also enable the city and the province to be in a better position as a domestic, continental and global trade hub.
“These are the kinds of long-term nation-building and trade-enabling assets that should be at the top of the list of infrastructure projects that the federal, provincial and municipal governments want to invest in,” said Lorenc. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t other bridges and structures and community facilities to focus on. Construction puts people back to work immediately and that should be the focus.”
Lorenc said he is in discussions with the province to communicate the important role infrastructure spending will play in boosting the economy.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government has been tightening the belt by reducing non-essential spending and proposing reduced work weeks for non-essential workers. Starting in early May, Manitoba will begin the Restoring Safe Services: Manitoba’s Pandemic Recovery Roadmap — its plan to start easing restrictions. The first phase includes opening some businesses and increasing some recreation options under strict guidelines.
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