Mr. Reg Helwer (Brandon West): I note that the NDP campaign signs have been popping up all over Manitoba kind of like, well, kind of like dandelions, you know. It’s those orange hazard diamond markers, the hazard warnings that warn people of potholes.
And in Brandon, they warn people of the launch pad onto the Thompson bridge. The aprons have dropped yet again and drivers risk damaging their vehicles on a bridge that was over budget and overdue.
Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us how often he expects the aprons to drop? Is this something we can expect every year just like the dandelions or maybe every two years? Is it a perennial?
Hon. Steve Ashton (Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation): There’s something that’s pretty — it’s not perennial, Mr. Speaker, it happens daily, it’s when members opposite get up and talk about infrastructure. Of course, later on in the day, if they have the chance, they’ll vote against it. They have no credibility on infrastructure.
I’d like to perhaps indicate to the member opposite we’re taking the challenge on. And, in fact, I look forward tomorrow when we are going to be joining with the CAA when they announce their worst road contest in Manitoba, because our government, whether it be here in the city of Winnipeg or any of our highways, we are — due to our historic investment in infrastructure — we are targeting those highways.
We’re making a difference, unlike members opposite who stand up, talk about infrastructure, then vote against it.
Mr. Helwer: So many choices in Manitoba for the worst road, so it’s difficult to narrow it down.
Indeed, you know, I think back to the last election. The MLA for Brandon East said that, well, people vote against budgets for a variety of reasons, not because they’re necessarily against a project. Interesting.
But the minister is fond of saying that the approaches in Brandon, they’re part of the design. So is it also part of the design when the vehicle goes off the launch ‘pad’ and crashes down on the bridge eight to 10 feet in, that that added pressure there was part of the design process, that this bridge can withstand that extra impact not only from cars but from fully loaded semi-trailers?
Was it part of the design to take that extra pounding?
Mr. Ashton: I’m not sure where the member for Brandon West got his engineering degree from, but he certainly seems to be a critic.
But I want to put on the record I thought he went a little bit too far recently. It was only a few weeks ago that he was criticizing the work that had been done on Victoria Avenue, and I want to remind you he stood up last year, said we needed to work on Victoria Avenue. We did announce that in the budget; he voted against it.
But what was particularly noticeable, Mr. Speaker, was a number of weeks ago he criticized the work that was done. It was done, by the way, by Zenith Paving from Brandon. I wonder if the member opposite will apologize for insulting a good Manitoba — a good Brandon business.
Mr. Helwer: Well, I spoke to Zenith Paving about Victoria Avenue, and this was specified by the minister’s department. They followed what the minister said to do, just like the Thompson bridges.
Mr. Speaker, this NDP government has failed at maintaining Manitoba’s infrastructure and has underspent by over $1.9 billion over the last four years. With the Thompson bridges, the minister’s design, like Victoria Avenue, has created a long-term maintenance issue dangerous for motorists and possible structural damage.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister admit that the NDP’s chronic underspending on Manitoba’s infrastructure has created the infrastructure deficit that we suffer from today?
Mr. Ashton: You know, it’s spring in Manitoba. It came a little bit later this year, but there’s a tremendous sense of optimism out there. And pretty soon we’re going to move to another season; it’s called construction season.
Now, I know the members opposite or the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Brandon West will try to find something to criticize. I’m predicting that pretty soon the member for Brandon West is going to be up complaining about construction delays. Well, I want to apologize in advance for this government because there’s going to be record construction, record construction delays. That’s how you fix our infrastructure in this province.
» An occasional look at the to-and-fro from the floor of the Manitoba Legislature with an emphasis on Brandon and Westman issues.