Manitoba’s new minister of infrastructure says the $1 billion a year pledged for repair and renewal of key infrastructure will be aimed at projects that bolster economic growth.
Blaine Pedersen, a grain and cattle farmer, has served as MLA for Midland constituency since 2007. He was appointed minister of infrastructure last week by Premier Brian Pallister, as part of Pallister’s inaugural 12-member cabinet.
Pedersen’s challenge will be meeting Manitobans’ high demands for funding to help repair bridges, roads, water treatment plants and other important infrastructure, while adopting the return-on-investment approach his party pledged during their election campaign. Their commitment is to strategic investment in these things, said Pedersen.
“Roads, highways bridges… and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in urban Manitoba or rural Manitoba, it’s the lifeblood of our economy,” he said.
“There is this huge infrastructure deficit out there but what we pledge to do is strategic infrastructure. What we’re talking about there is return on investment. If we invest in a road or a bridge or whatever it is, it’s going to return an investment to the economy and help build our economy. That’s what we’ll be focused on. ”
His first priority is becoming wholly familiar with his new role which also includes responsibility for Emergency Measures, he said.
“There’s lots to learn yet,” he added.
The head of Manitoba’s municipal lobby group says his organization looks forward to working with Pedersen. They’re confident he understands the infrastructure needs of all municipalities both large and small, said Chris Goertzen, Association of Manitoba Municipalities president.
They are also pleased one of AMM’s own board members, Eileen Clarke, has been appointed minister of indigenous and municipal relations, he said.
Clarke is a former mayor of Gladstone and a business owner. She was elected vice-president of the AMM in 2010.
“AMM has had a good working relationship with both Minister Pedersen and Minister Clarke,” he said.
“We expect to sit down in the next while with both new ministers and a number of others as well, and first of all talk about how municipalities want to be a partner in resolving issues across Manitoba, whether it’s infrastructure, or reducing red tape and regulation that’s needing review.”
The AMM ran a pre-election campaign dubbed ‘Fair Say, Fair Share’ asking whoever formed the next government to give local government both a fair share of infrastructure tax dollars and say in how they’re spent.
“The ‘fair say’ part of our campaign very specifically said that municipalities be consulted and have a greater say in how infrastructure gets dealt with across Manitoba and how we deal with regulations across Manitoba,” Goertzen said.
“All indications early on with this government show that it wants us as a partner. We really welcome that.”