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Investing in Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, existing infrastructure, including roads and public buildings, has been left to deteriorate for decades. Sadly, even though it is critical to maintain and enhance vital infrastructure to preserve its value and promote economic expansion, Newfoundland and Labrador has for too long been without a plan to identify the needs and find ways and means to address them responsibly. Our government has therefore developed a comprehensive Infrastructure Strategy which evaluates the needs and sets out to address them on a priority basis progressively over time. We are making an investment in excess of $300 million this year in infrastructure, the first installment of a planned expenditure to exceed $2 billion over the next six years.

This year, we will move forward with a road construction program worth $142.2 million. Included will be a $60 million Provincial Roads Improvement Program, $29.7 million in cost-shared improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway, $25.5 million for Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway, and cost-shared funding to extend the Team Gushue Highway and begin the Torbay Bypass Road. We are also committing our share of Phase I of the plan to place a hard top on the Trans-Labrador Highway. Further highways investments this year include salt management, brush cutting, line painting and $10 million to renew our heavy equipment fleet as part of a multi-year strategy to enhance both summer and winter maintenance capacity. To address concerns about highway safety and potential damage to our highway infrastructure, we will be strategically reactivating weigh scales at Port aux Basques and Foxtrap.

We are committing $9 million this year to refit ferry vessels, another $6.1 million to maintain wharves and terminals, and $1.5 million to initiate design work for the construction of two ferry vessels right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our province�s municipalities also recognize the importance of investing in public infrastructure to promote growth. To work cooperatively with our municipalities, we will invest $22.5 million this year in the municipal capital works program to help municipalities develop priority infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer, and municipal buildings. We will leverage federal funding for municipalities under the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Infrastructure Program through our investment of $700,000, the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund through our investment of $9 million and the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund II through our investment of $1 million, for a total provincial investment in municipal infrastructure this year of $33.2 million. Furthermore, our government will administer the federal gas tax rebate program under which $19.8 million will flow to municipalities for environmentally-sustainable projects.

The province�s public buildings also require regular investments to maximize the value of these properties. We will invest $8.5 million to maintain public buildings, another $8 million to remediate or remove buildings as needed, and $1.5 million to reconfigure buildings to optimize usage and reduce rental costs. We will also begin construction of a much-needed courthouse in Corner Brook.

Nowhere is the need for new investments in public buildings greater than in our health and education sectors. In our health sector, we will invest close to $40 million in new capital construction projects, including new long-term care facilities in Corner Brook, Clarenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and planning for long-term care in Lewisporte and St. John�s. In response to the growing need for health care services, we will build a new health centre in Labrador City, continue with renovations to the older section of James Paton Memorial Hospital in Gander, and complete the Cancer Clinic in Grand Falls-Windsor. Budget 2006 includes funding to continue with a new primary health clinic in Grand Bank and renovations to the Blue Crest Nursing Home. In the education system, we will be investing $20.4 million in capital equipment, construction, alterations and improvements at Memorial University, $8.6 million at the College of the North Atlantic, and $37 million in the K-to-12 system.

We will make these significant investments in infrastructure with a keen understanding of the relationship between reliable infrastructure and our attractiveness to investors, and also with a clear appreciation of the capacity of infrastructure work to generate strong economic activity on its own and to improve the lives of our people in numerous ways.

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