WINNIPEG, Man. -- The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) has identified the repair and improvement of provincial highways and bridges as a top priority in a meeting yesterday with the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport) and Manitoba's Minister of Local Government, the Honourable Ron Lemieux. The select stakeholder groups in attendance at the meeting were asked to provide insight on federal and provincial infrastructure spending in the short, medium, and long terms.
"Our members have identified a number of infrastructure improvements that, if done properly, would have a significant impact on the economic growth of this province. Highway 75, the Perimeter Highway, and improvements to Highway 6 are all areas we would like to see the government spend significant infrastructure dollars. It is important to keep in mind the enormous impact that these improvements would have, not only for the provincial trucking industry. Manitoba is a gateway to a number of significant markets. We have the opportunity to become a major distribution centre for North America, but that cannot happen without significant infrastructure improvements,” said MTA general manager Terry Shaw, who represented the association and its members at the meeting.
“Further to that, every time there is infrastructure failure – the closure of Highway 83 is just one example – commercial vehicles are re-routed, resulting in extra miles and additional costs. These additional costs are passed on to the consumer, unfortunately. Improvements to highways and bridges are in everyone's best interest, not just Manitoba's trucking industry.”
The MTA says all levels of government need to commit regularly to infrastructure investment, not only as a short term tool for economic stimulation, but also as a means for continued economic competitiveness and growth.
"For a number of years, all levels of government have failed to see the value of investing enough money in infrastructure projects. We understand that resurfacing a highway or repairing a bridge doesn’t have the same flash as investing in a new national park, but the reality is, without proper infrastructure in place to bring people and goods into the province, the other developments are insignificant," says Shaw.
"Our economy depends on a solid infrastructure in order to retain and recruit economic development in Manitoba. This isn’t limited to the trucking industry. Manufacturing and transportation account for almost 20% of the provincial GDP, and those industries rely on a solid infrastructure in order to be successful."
The MTA says that with proper investment in roads and bridges, Manitobans could see environmental benefits as well. MTA officials pointed to long-combination vehicles and wide-based tires as technologies that are not being used to their full benefit in Manitoba, in part, due to the lack of infrastructure investment.
The MTA also identified a commitment from governments to commit any funds raised through road user taxes to infrastructure as a priority.
"We know that our industry makes a contribution to the wear and tear on our highways and bridges; however, we also pay significant amounts in fuel tax, as well as other related fees on road users. These other fees include excise taxes, increases to vehicle licensing and PST on cargo insurance, to name a few examples. We are asking all levels of government to support infrastructure growth and development by committing to putting 100% of money raised as a result of road user taxes directly back into infrastructure budgets. Redirecting these taxes into other projects does a disservice to all Canadians as we all, in one way or another, rely on our transportation network in our daily lives,” Shaw adds.
Estimates from the meeting place the provincial infrastructure deficit in excess of $20 billion dollars, a deficit created in part by all levels of government not directing 100% of fuel taxes raised back into infrastructure, the MTA said.