Premier releases Manitoba’s economic growth plan

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister at business lunch

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister at business lunch

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister told a sell-out business lunch at the RBC Convention Centre today that his government has a plan to boost economic growth in the province.

“The economy? Lots to do,” Pallister said, at the annual State of the Province lunch, hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “We’re making the investments we need to make to drive our economy.”

He noted when his party took power in 2016, it inherited an outdated patchwork of more than 80 different programs that had economic growth as a core goal. None of them were connected, however.

The government simultaneously posted online its new Economic Growth Action Plan, and alongside it, the Angus/Gamey report Growing Manitoba’s Economy, a result of months of consultations from across Manitoba on what’s required to boost business, trade and the GDP.

Pallister said his government wants feedback on the government’s action plan arising from the report’s recommendations. The province will conduct a “whole-of-government” review to bring together the shared interests and similar efforts across departments, to get a bigger return on the investments.

The government intends first to focus on workforce development – Manitoba Education and Training will focus on ‘skills, knowledge and talent,’ identified as a key ‘driver of growth’ in the Angus/Gamey report.

A focus on trade and research development will come in future years.

The Growing Manitoba’s Economy report underscored the importance of good transportation infrastructure in its discussion of trade as another driver of growth. During its consultations, the working group heard that “improvements to transportation modes, infrastructure and market access are essential for competitiveness. Market access is critical to enable trade and investment.”

Among its recommendations, the report said attention must be paid to strategic investment in infrastructure.

“Investments in roads, rail, air service, broadband access and hydroelectric generation can all have a significant, positive impact on market access and the development and growth of Manitoba’s economy. Infrastructure investments are often large and capital intensive. To spend funds in a manner targeted at creating the greatest benefit for Manitobans, their allocation must be guided by a strategic vision and goals for the province.”

Further, it recommended that government pull together those programs and departments that are involved in infrastructure investment, to coordinate the effort and get a bigger return for the dollar.

“Making sure that decisions on infrastructure spending are not made in silos and that they consider economic development goals will ensure that these investments can maximize their returns for Manitobans. “

MHCA President Chris Lorenc said those were hopeful words.

The MHCA, in its pre-Budget 2019 submission to the province this fall, recommended the government appoint an expert panel to conduct a full review of the current infrastructure funding model, to recommend a new way to ensure strategic, sustained investment in infrastructure for the greatest benefit to the economy.

Further, the pre-budget submission suggested that trade and infrastructure be combined in a single ministry, recognizing that transportation infrastructure is foundational to keeping trade on the road, increasing trade capacity and ensuring Manitoba is competitive in a new global trade environment.

The challenges – and opportunities – in global trade were given special mention in the Angus/Gamey report, noting that “we are living in a time of unprecedented change. Evolving trade negotiations, foreign policies, new technologies and other economic factors are reshaping the global economy.”

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