Manitoba throne speech hits infrastructure, training
Reaction from community leaders mixed
The Manitoba government is promising new road work, and new help for farmers, consumers and polar bears in its annual throne speech.
The NDP government is promising a back-to-basics approach to infrastructure work, after taking heat for raising the provincial sales tax this year.
The money will help pay for $5.5 billion in infrastructure over five years, including some projects that have been talked about previously.
Premier Greg Selinger said building new bridges and roads and training young people is the way of the future in Manitoba.
He said the PST hike allows the province to do that without making cuts to health or education.
"That is our plan," he said. "It is focused. It is targeted. It's efficient. And it keeps Manitoba affordable."
Highway 75 south of Winnipeg will be rebuilt to prevent it from flooding - which closes down the highway most springs.
A new highway bypass will be built around Headingley west of Winnipeg, and money will be committed to new rapid transit in south Winnipeg.
In Brandon, the Daly Overpass will be redeveloped.
The province is also promising livestock price insurance for beef and hog producers.
The government will also work on a new provincial park to protect polar bears along Hudson Bay.
Selinger says there will also be new rules for payday loan companies and home renovation companies, to protect consumers from hidden costs.
Winnipeg rapid transit gets boost
Winnipeg mayor, Sam Katz, said he is pleased with the province's plans to expand the second phase of rapid transit to the University of Manitoba.
"It's nice to hear the provincial government is saying they're committed to rapid transit," he said. "So that to me is a positive."
But Katz said he wants to know more about the province's pledge to spend PST revenues on 'core infrastructure.'
"I know that when it comes to roads and bridges and sidewalks and curbs, community centres, that's core infrastructure. (But) specifically, what they (provincial officials) mean, I'll have to find out."
The throne speech also promises the government will help pay for another lane on Pembina Highway at the Jubilee underpass.
Paul Hesse of the Winnipeg Transit Coalition says that's good news for transit users.
"We are encouraged by any provincial commitment for rapid transit," he said. "It's a good thing."
He said the people have been frustrated it all stops at the Jubilee overpass.
"It was never meant to stop there, so let's get the job done and then let's move on to other quadrants of the city," Hesse said.
Outside Winnipeg, reaction is mixed
Headingley Mayor Wilfred Taillieu is disappointed with the government's plan to build a bypass around the community, linking the CentrePort industrial area to the TransCanada.
He said work is already underway in the community west of Winnipeg to divide a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway that area residents and motorists say is dangerous.
Taillieu said another construction project is not what the area needs.
"Very disappointed, put it that way, very disappointed," he said. "Why not complete one before you start another one?"
Taillieu said a bypass won't make the roads any safer, because drivers will still head to businesses they need.
"Truckers are lured through the Trans-Canada because we have several major truck stops there," he said. "We have a Co-op, we have a large Husky station... so truckers are still going to go there."
Taillieu said residents want a barrier that would divide the Trans-Canada all the way to Winnipeg.
Morris mayor Gavin Van Der Linde is thrilled with the government's promise to rebuild Highway 75 south of Winnipeg to prevent it from flooding most years.
"This is really great news," he said. "This is something we've worked on for a very long time and it's really good that it has come to the top of the priority list for the province."
Van DerLinde said he's pleased a portion of PST revenues will go into the work.
"The PST has been very controversial," he said. "And it's really good, for me, to see that the premier and the province is taking some leadership in showing us where this PST increase is going to be used."
Phase two of the rapid transit corridor in Winnipeg and the Headingley bypass will also get a portion of PST funds.
Tories say Manitobans should be skeptical
Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister said Manitobans should be skeptical about the promises in the throne speech.
Pallister said Manitobans have heard promises from the NDP government before, including one not to raise taxes, which the Selinger government broke when it raised the PST in last spring's budget.
"The question I think I have, and Manitobans will have to ask themselves, is can this government be trusted to do the things that it says it's going to do, after all these broken promises for so long?" he said.
"People are natural, I think, to be skeptical," he said. "We all understand the importance of investing in critical infrastructure I hope by now, but the reality is, this is a government that doesn't have a record of doing that."
with files from The Canadian Press