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Province planning $100M in additional road projects

THE provincial government announced Wednesday it is adding 50 road-building and improvement projects to those tendered last fall for the upcoming construction season.

The new projects will add $100 million to the road infrastructure spending in 2014-2015, Premier Greg Selinger told a news conference on Wednesday. He said total road spending for the year will be revealed in the March 6 budget.

Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said the province would spend a record amount of money on infrastructure in the coming year.

The NDP government is still smarting from the political beating it's been taking for raising the PST last year to eight per cent from seven per cent. The move is expected to raise an additional $278 million a year.

After first saying the additional revenues would be devoted to a broad range of infrastructure, including new schools, the government has more recently redefined how it will spend the tax bonanza. The focus is now to build and restore roads, bridges, sewers and flood protection.

Selinger's announcement was applauded by representatives of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association and the Manitoba Trucking Association. Members of both organizations stand to benefit from the announcement, but the groups said Manitobans as a whole will gain as well.

The PST hike likely contributed to a lower than normal NDP vote in a pair of byelections in two traditional Conservative ridings on Tuesday. The government is hoping Manitobans see the benefits of the tax hike by the time the next general election rolls around, likely in the spring of 2016.

"Today's announcement is another example of how we've listened to Manitobans," Selinger said. "We will be accountable for ensuring that revenue goes back into key infrastructure that will create good jobs and those good jobs will lead to a more-prosperous Manitoba."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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