WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) met with Manitoba’s Minister of State Transport, Steven Fletcher, and Minister of Local Government, Ron Lemieux on July 18. At the meeting, the MTA said the repair and improvement of highways and bridges in the province should be a top priority for the federal and provincial government.
The MTA said all levels of government need to commit to infrastructure investment, not only as a short term tool for economic stimulation, but also for continued economic competitiveness and growth.
“Improvements to highways and bridges are in everyone’s best interest, not just Manitoba’s trucking industry,” said Terry Shaw, MTA’s general manager.
Shaw acknowledged that the trucking industry contributes to the wear and tear of highways and bridges, but he said that they also pay significant amounts in fuel tax and other road user fees like excise taxes, increases to vehicle licensing and PST on cargo insurance.
“We are asking all levels of government to support infrastructure growth and development by committing to putting 100 percent of money raised as a result of road user taxes directly back into infrastructure budgets,” Shaw said. “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.”
An estimate from the MTA shows the provincial infrastructure to have a deficit in excess of $20 billion that was in part created by the different levels of government not investing 100 percent of fuel taxes back into infrastructure.
“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,” Shaw said.
He said that for a number of years, governments at all levels haven’t invested enough money in infrastructure projects because they fail to see the value in it.
The MTA said they want to see improvements on Highway 75, the Perimeter Highway, and Highway 6.
Shaw said that when infrastructure failure causes commercial vehicles to be re-routed, like with the closure of Highway 83, trucks pack in extra miles and additional costs. Unfortunately, Shaw explained, these additional costs are passed onto the consumer.
“We understand that re-surfacing a highway or repairing a bridge doesn’t have the same flash as investing in a new national park,” he said. “But the reality is, without proper infrastructure in place to bring people and goods into the province, the other developments are insignificant.”
Shaw explained that the trucking industry is not the only one relying on a solid infrastructure.
“Our economy depends on a solid infrastructure in order to retain and recruit economic development in Manitoba,” he explained. “Manufacturing and transportation account for almost 20 percent of the provincial GDP, and those industries rely on a solid infrastructure in order to be successful.”
Aside from economic growth, by improving the infrastructure development system, Manitobans could also reap environmental benefits.
Furthermore, technologies like long combination vehicles and wide-based tires are not being used to their full benefit in Manitoba, partly because of the lack of investment in infrastructure.
But Shaw said he was happy to see the government was listening to the industry’s infrastructure needs and concerns. He said he hopes that when the time comes to address those concerns, the government will consult with the industry again and take their needs into account.