The provincial government is reducing highway operations to three regional offices from five offices, but promises the changes won't result in office closures or job losses.
"Moving to a new three-region highway regional operations model to improve service delivery and regional co-ordination will reduce red tape and better serve Manitobans, while ensuring there will be no office closures or reduction in staff," Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said in a release this week.
The new model includes a capital region based in Steinbach, a western region based in Brandon and a northern region based in Dauphin. The two regional offices in Portage la Prairie and Thompson will continue to serve as local hubs to support maintenance and construction activities, the release said.
The rollout of the model will take place this summer and fall and will be finalized in the winter.
"All offices will remain open, although they will be used in different ways to accommodate Manitoba Infrastructure's various types of work and projects," a spokeswoman for the province told the Free Press.
"The three-region model will bring engineering, technical, and administrative resources together to create efficiencies and improve services to Manitobans, " the spokeswoman said in an email. "The modernization will also allow for additional employment opportunities and our department has already launched a comprehensive recruitment strategy to ensure local needs are met."
The NDP expressed skepticism that the reorganization won't result in office closures or job losses in rural Manitoba.
"Under the (Progressive Conservatives, rural Manitoba has lost hundreds of good jobs that keep communities alive and drive local economies," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said in a statement issued in response to Schuler's announcement.
"They have shuttered dozens of government offices in communities across the province like (Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.) and Ag offices, Hydro customer services offices and now highway operational offices," Kinew said. "They even have a plan to close school division offices once their harmful Bill 64 passes - and they have no plan to help those employees find an alternative close to home," he alleged.
"It all adds up to devastation for our rural communities, where families are forced to leave and the services folks rely on disappear," he said. "We need to build up rural communities by investing in local economies and creating good jobs close to home."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.