The government’s decision to save $2.3 million through cuts to snow clearing services on major provincial highways came about because snow plows had been deployed when there was no snow, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said.
“There is a change in operations that will save $2.3 million because we had plows out when there was no snow conditions as a routine and we are altering that to reflect a decision not to have those snow plows on the road when there is no snow on overnight or weekend shifts.”
Caldwell said the decision to have snow plows on the roads when there was no snow was, “made some time ago and when we reviewed our operations of highways, we determined that policy didn’t make sense.”
The cut to snow plow services has been criticized by industries and groups that rely on transportation as a decision that endangers Manitobans through a decreased commitment to road safety.
A Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation spokesman wrote in an email to the Brandon Sun that highways maintenance staff “used to be on shift overnight and on weekends whether there was a major weather event or not.”
The spokesman added that aside from operating snow plows, they may have been in other MIT trucks or “may not have been on the road at all” depending on weather conditions.
“I just don’t know what to say to that,” said Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer. “I’d be shocked and surprised if snow plows were on the roads plowing without any snow on the roads. I’ve just never seen that and I do and have travelled frequently on highways in my current career and my past career. When they are there, they are usually plowing or sanding. I’d be shocked if the government sent snow plows on the roads when they weren’t needed because we are having a lot of trouble with the management of that asset.”
Helwer said he has been on highways when weather conditions were poor, driving behind snow plows, and noted that MIT crews do “an excellent job of making our highways passable in very challenging conditions.”
He added cuts to that service will endanger Manitobans as well as trade and commerce.
“I think we have a government that is desperate to try to control their expenses and is looking at areas to do that,” Helwer said. “They promised no cuts to service and obviously they are breaking that promise to Manitobans, just like they broke their promise not to raise taxes, then did that with the highest tax increase this province has seen in 25 years.
“I don’t know what we can expect from this government or believe from them anymore.”
Caldwell said that if the snow falls, regardless of when it happens, MIT crews will be on the job.
“If there is a snow event, snow will be cleared,” Caldwell said. “The policy decision is to have no snow plows on the roads when there is no snow on weekend and overnight shifts.”