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Construction association lauds infrastructure spending

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Premier Greg Selinger, left, and Chris Lorenc, president of the  Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, speak at the MHCA breakfast Tuesday morning.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Premier Greg Selinger, left, and Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, speak at the MHCA breakfast Tuesday morning. Photo Store

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger probably wishes every workday could begin as smoothly as today's did for him.

Selinger was the guest speaker at Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) breakfast event at Winnipeg’s Victoria Inn and Conference Centre.

He was there to tout his government’s recently announced five-year, $5.5-billion infrastructure investment plan. And because MHCA officials had long been calling for a boost in infrastructure spending, he likely wasn’t expecting to receive too rough a ride.

But even he must have been surprised at just how smoothly things went. When MHCA president Chris Lorenc opened the floor to questions following his address, only one person stood to pose two short questions to the premier, both of which he easily handled. And that was it.

Even Lorenc seemed surprised, telling Selinger, "Boy, you’re getting off easy."

He then went on to praise Selinger for his government’s new commitment to improving the province’s crumbling infrastructure, and for giving the provincial economy a much-needed boost in the process.

"I’d like to thank you for your leadership. "We appreciate everything you do," he added.

In his address, Selinger said Manitobans have made it clear they want more money spent on improving the province’s battered streets, highways and municipal infrastructure. That’s why his government is committed to spending more than $3.7 billion on roads, highways and bridges; $320 million on flood protection; and $1.5 billion on municipal infrastructure improvements over the next five years.

That's also why the government made the controversial decision last year to raise the provincial sales tax by one percentage point to eight per cent, he said. And why it’s promising that every dollar raised from the sales-tax hike — an estimated $1.5 billion over the five years — will be matched by new investments in core infrastructure over an above the existing baseline investment level.

"So you’re going to see some very significant investments in infrastructure," he added. "Strategic infrastructure investment is priority number one."

The premier also noted Manitoba’s infrastructure network isn’t the only thing that will benefit from all of this new investment. He cited a recent Conference Board of Canada study which concluded a $5.5 billion investment in infrastructure will provide a $6.3 billion boost to the local economy and lead to a $5.4 billion increase in provincial exports, a $1.4 billion boost in retail sales, a $1.4 billion investment in new equipment and machinery, an estimated 2,100 new housing starts and the creation of approximately 58,900 new jobs in the province.

Murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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