REGINA – The Sask. Party government has boasted about its record spending on highway repairs, but the Opposition says those dollars aren’t buying nearly what they used to.
The NDP uncovered documents showing the number of kilometres being repaired each year is on the decline.
In 2008-09, the first full budget year under the Sask. Party, taxpayers spent $226 million to repave and resurface 599 kilometres of highway. A high of 648 kilometres were repaired in 2010-11 at a cost of $250 million.
“It isn’t just resurfacing.” – Highways Minister Nancy Heppner
Following that, the construction bills increased – while fewer stretches of highway were repaired.
$281 million was spent in 2013-14 to repair 460 kilometres of highway. Then spending jumped to $405 million in 2014-15 to repave 478 kilometres.
On average, from 2007 to 2011, the government paid $407,250 per kilometre of highway repair. The following four years after, that cost went up 58 per cent to $644,571 per kilometre.
“They’re paving 120 fewer kilometres than eight years ago,” said NDP leader Cam Broten said.
Highways and Infrastructure Minister Nancy Heppner says the dollar figures include spending on culverts, bridges and twinning of highways – costlier per kilometre, she argues.
“When you look at those numbers, it isn’t just resurfacing this many kilometres and it costs this much money,” Heppner said. “There are more projects in there and different kinds of projects.”
She says culvert projects, in particular, have increased by 2,000 per cent, due in part to flooding and neglect over the years.
“A lot of them were at the end of their useful life. The maintenance and rehabilitation hadn’t necessarily been done as much as it should have been in the past.”
WATCH BELOW: Residents frustrated damaged roads not high priority (Apr. 7, 2015)
Broten points to government spending on consultants, which has risen 400 per cent since 2008. At the same time, more than 300 jobs have been cut by the Ministry of Highways.
“We’re paying more for work that could be done internally, within the ministry, at a more reasonable rate,” Broten said.
During question period, Heppner said more consultants are being used because of the increased complexity of construction projects.
The highways minister also said the government is working to consolidate its contracting office to prevent delays in projects.
“This year, our completion rate is higher than it has been.”