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Manitoba eyeing federal, municipal cash to help pay for infrastructure promises

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

WINNIPEG - A promise of a record $5.5 billion in infrastructure spending — the keystone of the Manitoba throne speech this week — is not all provincial money, a government minister said Thursday.

The cash includes federal and municipal cost-sharing that has yet to be determined.

"The amount that we've costed out, basically, is the cost of the full investment in infrastructure. Some of that may be cost-shared," said Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton.

"We're in early stages with the federal government. It's hard to say (how much they'll pay). It's all project by project."

The NDP government has touted its infrastructure plan in part as justification for its sales-tax increase this year. The tax was raised to eight per cent from seven in July and the government has promised to spend every cent of the extra revenue on roads, bridges, flood-proofing and other core infrastructure.

At the same time, the New Democrats have promised to limit spending to balance the budget by the 2016-17 fiscal year. The budget plan calls for all government spending — in all departments — to rise by a total of only $832 million over the next three years.

The infrastructure plan calls for $5.5 billion over five years — an average of $1.1 billion annually.

Ashton said the government can meet both goals.

"I'm not the finance minister, but I can tell you that this is all done in the framework that we have, which is the target of 2016."

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said the government's promises will be hard to achieve without blowing the budget.

"This government ... has overspent every single years for 15 years," Tory Leader Brian Pallister said.

Pallister also accused the government of misleading voters by not specifying in the throne speech that the $5.5 billion would include funding from other levels of government.

"It's deceptive to suggest that the government of Manitoba deserves to get credit for $5.5 billion in infrastructure investment when, in fact, it's the taxpayer paying the federal, provincial and municipal governments' taxes at every level that is going to be used."

How much other governments chip in remains to be seen. Some projects, such as highways, can be cost-shared 50-50 with the federal government. Some municipal work, such as transit, can be split three ways between Ottawa, the province and the municipality. Some projects will likely be fully funded by the province, Ashton said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/131114/manitoba-eyeing-federal-municipal-cash-help-pay-infrastructu