The Red River Floodway was built by Duff Roblin’s government in the 1960s. Since its completion in 1968, it has saved Manitoba billions of dollars in flood damage. Its northern outlet lies just north of Lockport Dam.
“Roblin’s Folly!” cried the liberal opposition when they heard the proposed floodway would cost Manitoba 63 million dollars. Some said it wouldn’t even work. Others said another big flood was unlikely anyway.
After the great flood of 1950, studies commissioned by Douglas Lloyd Campbell’s government scrambled to find a way to protect Winnipeg from the Red River. They suggested making the river wider and deeper, building dams, or building a floodway. No solution would be easy.
Campbell brought forward a modest new three-point plan for fighting floods. In contrast to his cautious statements however, Winnipeg papers shouted for action.
The Free Press warned that “The city suffers a handicap in industrial development because of the so far undealt with danger of flooding.
MLA Dufferin Roblin started raising his voice in the legislature. He insisted that Winnipeg needed the floodway. Roblin’s Progressive Conservatives won a minority government in 1958, and a majority in 1959.
Even with a majority, Roblin encountered difficulties. Once he won over his own party, there was still the issue of money.
While Agriculture and Conservation Minister George Hutton had a debate with the opposition in the assembly, Roblin met with Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker and managed to secure partial federal assistance for the project.
On October 6, 1962, three years into Roblin’s majority, the floodway broke ground. It took until 1968 to complete, moving more dirt than the original Suez Canal route had to in the process. By stretching out the project, his government built it without debt spending.
The floodway’s value was quickly recognized, and it was expanded after the 1997 “flood of the century” to protect Winnipeg from a 700-year flood as opposed to a 160-year flood.
Roblin’s long-term foresight saved billions of dollars in flood damage, and made Winnipeg safe for homes and industries.