Piwniuk wants to use infrastructure for economic development


After six years as Manitoba’s vice-president, a Westman MP says the collaborative experience he gained prepared him to become a cabinet minister for the first time.

When Premier Heather Stefanson shuffled her cabinet on Jan. 18, Progressive Conservative MP for Turtle Mountain Doyle Piwniuk was promoted from the backbench to become Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.

He succeeded Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer, the new Minister of Labour.

“I am very honored that the Prime Minister has entrusted me with the management of the portfolio, Piwniuk said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I was with her on her leadership run through the whole southwest corner of the province, from Roblin to Notre Dame, so she saw all the highways.”

He said the prime minister sees good relationship builders in himself and in new municipal affairs minister Eileen Clarke, who returns to cabinet after stepping down as minister of aboriginal affairs last summer.

Coming from a financial background as an insurance broker and financial planner, Piwniuk also said he was seen as someone who understands the importance of economic development and the role infrastructure plays in this process.

The minister regained his riding, formerly known as Arthur-Virden, when current Brandon-Souris MLA Larry Maguire resigned from the provincial legislature to run for federal office. Piwniuk said since then he has noticed many neglected roads in his constituency and across the province that need to be repaired and improved.

He would like to see some of Manitoba’s most important trade corridors, like the Trans-Canada Highway, built to a level where they are almost considered US interstate highways.

“One of the best economic development opportunities we have is to expand our food processing opportunities and bring products to market,” he said. “I have a lot of hog operations in the southern part of the province, like in my riding, and we have to get those products to market. Corridors like Highway 5, Highway 10, and Highway 3, we have the oil industry.

In order for these industries to get their goods to the right place, Piwniuk said Manitoba’s highways must be ready for heavy truck traffic. Removing seasonal weight restrictions on some highways will also improve revenues for some industries and, by extension, improve the province’s tax revenue.

The Minister also wants First Nations communities to be included to ensure they have access to future economic opportunities.

On the largest provincial infrastructure project underway in Brandon, the replacement of the Daly Overpass, Piwniuk said he was informed that the contractor would begin mobilizing for the next phase of work in February and begin the construction in March.

The overpass is expected to be completed by the summer of 2024 with the majority of the work taking place in 2023. In December, the province announced that Russell’s Redi-Mix Concrete had been awarded the contract for the work.

Asked about progress that would be made in repairing structures, like the Rapid City Dam, which were damaged during the massive rains in late June and early July 2020, the minister did not provide a timeline, but said that the works were a priority and the department is working on how to rebuild them in a way that makes them more resilient to large-scale events caused by climate change.

Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Piwinuk spent a month in Florida over the Christmas holidays, leaving the country before the premier asked her party’s MPs to avoid non-essential international travel.

“It was announced on the 17th; if we had planned to go on the 20th, we would not have gone,” he said. “The fact is that we have this property that for two years we have not seen it. I would have stopped this if it had been announced before I left.

After testing positive for COVID-19 in November, Piwniuk said he had experienced mild symptoms and was now in good health.

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Twitter: @ColinSlark


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