Infrastructure minister acknowledges ‘assumption’ on untendered road contract

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Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says he assumed everyone understood a $10-million access road project into the Lake St. Martin flood-management channels area was an untendered contract.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2018 (1726 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says he assumed everyone understood a $10-million access road project into the Lake St. Martin flood-management channels area was an untendered contract.

And that it was just part of an estimated $30-million road system into the eventual $540-million flood-mitigation construction site.

“We were just under the assumption that this was common knowledge,” he told reporters Thursday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler

A positive story Tuesday — that the access road will be built for crews and equipment to eventually construct flood-management channels to Lake St. Martin from Lake Manitoba, and on to Lake Winnipeg — became controversial.

The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association complained Wednesday the work was awarded without tender.

On Thursday, Schuler was still trying to make clear — for a second day — what he didn’t at the outset: a Tory government that still taunts the NDP over two untendered contracts it tried to award while it was in power, has awarded $10 million in two separate untendered contracts for the road project.

Premier Brian Pallister told reporters Wednesday he wouldn’t discuss the issue: “If the minister made a mess, he’ll clean it up, not the premier.”

On Thursday, Schuler sometimes referred to the situation as a “sole-source contract” (he’d used “sole-source tender” on Wednesday). He emphasized the province went without open tenders, because the two companies awarded separate portions of the road project have guaranteed at least 50 per cent of the workers will come from Indigenous communities in the area that were devastated by floods in 2011.

It was also not initially clear the access road announced is just the portion which already has environmental approval of a much-larger $30-million project.

“Any time the government does this, it has to justify it,” Schuler said during a pre-budget photo opportunity at a Youth for Christ outreach centre in Winnipeg. “I should have made it very clear it was a sole-source tender.

“This is not precedent-setting, it’s a one-off. This is not something (untendered contracts) we want to see go forward,” the minister said. “We believe Manitobans would say yes (to) 50 per cent Aboriginal participation.”

Schuler said he played no part in choosing the companies that were awarded the work without tender.

“That is done within the department — I, as minister, have nothing to do with it,” he said. “They identified the companies. No standards are ever compromised.”

Schuler said the remainder of the road work project will be awarded through open tender.

Lake St. Martin is 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Thursday, March 8, 2018 4:16 PM CST: fixes wording

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