The Conservative government went into an overdrive of infrastructure funding announcements in Manitoba in the few days before the launch of the election campaign, promising nearly $140 million dollars for projects scattered around the province.
The bevy of announcements sent Conservative ministers and MPs, especially those running for re-election, to public events where they unveiled funding packages under a handful of signature federal infrastructure plans. The Conservatives hold all but three federal seats in Manitoba, and so a lot of the funding went into Conservative-held ridings. But the announcements had the added benefit of putting Conservative MPs seeking re-election front and centre, all on the taxpayer’s dime.
An analysis of government announcements from last week shows more than 70 scattered projects across Manitoba got funding, all announced between Thursday, July 27 and Saturday, Aug. 1. The election was called on Sunday, Aug. 2, and no further funding announcements can be made after that.
In addition, the federal government announced they would contribute $165 million to a plan to mitigate flooding in communities close to Lake Manitoba.
The funding came from a range of programs, chiefly the Small Communities Fund, which is a part of the New Building Canada Fund. The fund includes $1 billion for projects in Canadian towns with less than 100,000 people. The provinces submit project proposals to the federal government and in many cases jointly contribute to the funding.
Since the Small Communities Fund targets smaller communities, and the Conservatives hold rural ridings with small towns, the funds end up mostly going to Conservative ridings in Manitoba. Last week, Conservative MPs announced nearly $60 million in funding under the Small Communities Fund.
The Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Fund, a boutique plan worth $150 million for upgrading community facilities across the country, was a smaller source of money but provided another opportunity for reaching out to many neighbourhoods. Small amounts of money went out to about 40 community centres, parks and schools for facility upgrades, and gave Conservative MPs another chance to make announcements in their ridings. About $4.2 million in funds were announced under this program.
The MP for Portage-Lisgar announced close to $25 million under the Small Communities Fund and Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Fund. She is Stephen Harper’s Minister of State for Social Development, and was also on hand for the announcement of $165 million in federal funding for better flood protection near Lake Manitoba. She is running for re-election in her riding.
The MP for Selkirk-Interlake clocked in around $15 million in funding announcements under the Small Communities Fund. Bezan, who is the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Jason Kenney, is seeking re-election and was also on hand for the Lake Manitoba flood protection announcement.
Smith, the current MP for Kildonan-St. Paul, is not seeking re-election in the upcoming election. She did not feature prominently in last week’s announcements, clocking in a mere $532,000 in funding packages.
The MP for Winnipeg South Centre won her riding by a mere 722 votes in 2011. Prior to that, the riding was held by the Liberals. Bateman is seeking re-election, and was on hand for funding announcements nearing $50 million last week. Most of that was the $46 million contribution to the Waverley Underpass, which will bring some serious traffic relief to people in her riding.
The MP for Brandon-Souris made announcements totalling $31 million in funding. In addition, he was on hand to announce a federal commitment of up to $19.2 million (final amount depending on the final cost of the project) for a new four-lane divided overpass in Brandon. Maguire is seeking re-election.
Toet is another MP who faces a challenge in his riding. He won Elmwood-Transcona by only 300 votes, defeating Liberal Jim Malloway. He made announcements nearing $50 million in his riding, mostly small upgrades under the Canada 150 fund.
Ted Falk and Robert Sopuck
Falk, the MP for Provencher clocked in announcements totalling $3.7 million while Sopuck, MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa announced $7.9 million. Both are in safe Conservative ridings.