Over the last couple of months, we have had a record amount of rainfall here in the North which has had a major impact on our highways and access roads. In the last couple of weeks alone there have been several serious washouts and some communities have been cut off from the rest of the province completely.
While the government can’t control the weather, they can control how they invest in our province’s infrastructure. With climate change, these new extreme weather patterns are sadly going to be our new normal. The government needs to ensure that infrastructure investments are made that take these changes into account. The Progressive Conservatives have historically made cuts both to upgrades and to maintenance on northern highways, now the North is paying the price.
Over the last four years, the Pallister government cut the highways budget by 40 per cent. This means less maintenance and less staff in a region where small problems can become big problems very quickly. Highways are the lifeblood for northern communities where there is often only one road in and out. If that road is washed away, there are no food shipments — aside from what can be flown in at great expense — and people can’t access medical services. Since we know that the changes in climate will cause high water levels more often, we need to make sure that all communities have access to all-weather roads that can withstand the more extreme climate events.
All levels of government need to contribute to these infrastructure changes, in addition to increasing their investment in northern roads. All levels of government should rethink how they build the roads. In addition to spring washouts of all-season roads, the winter road season is becoming shorter and shorter making it harder for communities to bring in supplies in a shorter period of time. We should be looking at what other areas in Canada and around the world are doing to connect their northern communities, and then developing a Canadian-made solution to the problem. As an example, mining companies in the high North are using roads that actually take advantage of the changing permafrost to keep their supply lines open. Technology is changing and now is the time to invest in our North.
I will continue to stand up against these cuts and demand that the Pallister government invest in Northern Manitoba highways and access roads so we can make sure that Manitoba works for all of us.