If oil companies want timely upgrades to critical infrastructure in Westman, they better be prepared to pay for it.
Last week, after speaking to more than 300 Brandon Chamber of Commerce members, Tundra Oil and Gas CEO Dan MacLean said Highway 256 is paramount to the industry’s continued growth.
MacLean called the highway, which runs north and south near the Saskatchewan border, the "lifeblood" of moving oil into the Cromer area, where it can be transported east by rail or pipeline.
He also said it would cost $24 million to turn a stretch of the road into an "all-weather" highway.
Yesterday, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation press secretary Jean-Marc Prevost said the NDP government unveiled the Commercial Infrastructure Fund in 2013, which allows private companies to prioritize vital economic highways.
"We would welcome them to apply for this cost-shared program, which could bump this highway to construction within two years," Prevost said.
Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer said he fielded a number of calls regarding the poor condition of roads in Westman. While the road in question is in the Arthur-Virden constituency, Helwer filled in when former MLA Larry Maguire left to run federally in Brandon-Souris.
"The Bakken reservoir and oilpatch in Manitoba is a major contributor to Manitoba’s economy and has been ignored for a long time by this government," Helwer said.
"The NDP don’t even seem to know what is happening down there."
Helwer said he has travelled that section of the highway many times and understands its importance to the burgeoning oil sector.
The condition of the highway is a microcosm of systemic short-changing of core infrastructure from the province, according to Helwer.
"The NDP has cut funds from infrastructure, underfunding it by 14 per cent over the last four years on core infrastructure," Helwer said. "We know the government wants people to focus on infrastructure and they’ve tried to pretend that the PST hike is all going to infrastructure, but we know that isn’t the case."
With a provincial election still years away, Helwer said the Progressive Conservatives couldn’t commit to the project until they "see just how bad of shape the province’s books are in."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 4, 2014