Tories accused of cutting highway maintenance fleet
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Opposition Leader Wab Kinew borrowed a familiar refrain to pine over crumbling roads.
“I’ve been to Neepawa, Pinawa, Boissevain, Deloraine and just like the Johnny Cash song, everywhere I go man, people are complaining about the potholes and the lack of snow clearing under this PC government,” Kinew hollered over the heckles of Tory MLAs in question period Friday.
He accused the provincial government of selling off its fleet of heavy equipment, owned by the Vehicle and Equipment Management Agency.
According to records obtained through a freedom of information request, the special operating agency had 273 fewer pieces of heavy equipment in its fleet last year compared to 2016-17, when the Progressive Conservatives formed government.
“They are selling off the heavy equipment,” Kinew bellowed, as deputy speaker Andrew Micklefield ordered the government benches to calm down.
“Anyone driving on the roads sees that they are in rough, rough shape,” Kinew said.
According to the records, VEMA had 1,945 units in its fleet at the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Deputy Premier Cliff Cullen defended the government, saying it has spent a record amount on roads and infrastructure. The department has also been able to do less with more by buying more efficient machinery, Cullen said.
“I don’t know what the member opposite is trying to measure,” the deputy premier said. “If he gets out and about across Manitoba, he will see heavy equipment operating. A lot different equipment than we ever had before.
“Newer, modern, bigger equipment which is more efficient.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure said it has reduced the size of its snow-clearing equipment fleet and better aligned highway maintenance using newer, more efficient heavy-duty equipment, all the while meeting winter service levels.
“Manitoba will be adding 17 new pieces of snow-clearing equipment this season to replace and supplement the existing fleet of approximately 350,” the spokesperson said. “Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure is committed to providing high levels of service while also creating opportunities for better value for money.”
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.