WINNIPEG -- The Pallister government is exploring the possibility of selling Manitoba’s Amphibex machines.
A Request for Information issued on September 18 states it’s seeking ideas and recommendations for a new delivery model for the ice jam mitigation program, which includes annual ice cutting and breaking activities in February and March.
The RFI also states that because the program’s equipment is only used for part of the year, there is an opportunity for an entity to pursue activities when the program is inactive.
The RFI indicates that submissions could include leasing three Amphibex machines, revenue sharing for off season work, and divestment of the amphibexes, which could include their sale to another service provider.
CTV News asked the province how much the three Amphibex machines are worth.
“I am told because the RFI is issued, government will not discuss values,” a provincial spokesperson said in an email.
Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said in a scrum there are no plans to abandon the ice cutting program, and RFI is going out to test the market.
“It would be very clear in the contract that they must be here for the entire spring session. We know that our spring program starts late January, beginning of February, that equipment would have to be here for that time frame until the ice has cleared up,” said Schuler.
Schuler said government owns the machines, which cut about 28 kilometres of ice every year, but the operations, which costs about a million dollars a year, are contracted out to North Red Waterway Maintenance.
NDP Infrastructure Critic Matt Wiebe said the machines are a made in Manitoba success story and designed for a purpose, so they can be in place when needed.
“Ultimately people want to make sure that they are publically owned. That they are available, when they need to be available. This RFI I think shows that the government is looking at privatizing just another piece of our important infrastructure when it comes to flooding and emergency measures," said Wiebe.
Concerns about changes to ice-cutting program
North Red Waterway Maintenance’s executive director Darrell Kupchik told CTV News the organization is a non-profit.
One of his concerns involves leasing Amphibexes out to a private company in another province during the summer months.
The machines can be used to clean waterways, he said they could be used to clean tailing ponds and the equipment could become fatigued.
Kupchik is also concerned because the machines are being used more in Manitoba.
He said a machine went to Alonsa, Man. to help with the tornado clean up from last summer and it may be needed this fall because of all the rain and high water levels in the Whiteshell.
Amphibexes discussed in Legislature Monday
In the Legislature Monday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked Premier Brian Pallister why the government was looking to sell the machines.
Kinew said not having them could put communities at risk.
Amphibexes are used to protect the communities of St. Clements, St. Andrews and Selkirk, said Kinew.
He added the machines represent an innovation to protect against climate change.
Pallister responded by saying the government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in flood protection and raised the importance to prioritize.
Pallister also said the previous NDP government depleted the province’s rainy day fund from $800 million to $100 million.
Minister Ron Schuler said in a scrum there are no plans to abandon the ice cutting program.
Schuler said the RFI is going out to test the market.
He said every year the machines cut about 28 kilometres of ice.