The Buller Centre for Business—along with its community partners KAP, CDEM, and the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce—hosted an all-party debate on rural economic policy on September 28, 2011. All four provincial parties fielding candidates in rural Manitoba—NDP, PC, Green, and Liberal—participated. The debate was open to the public and media, and was carried live by AM 1250.
|Sandra Hoskins||Dawson Trail||Liberal|
|Janine Gibson||La Verendrye||Green|
- KAP (Keystone Agricultural Producers)
- CDEM (Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba/Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities)
- Steinbach Chamber of Commerce
- AM 1250—CHSM Steinbach, a member of Golden West Radio
The overall topic for the debate is rural economic policy—what role our provincial government should play in the economic life of rural Manitoba.
A team of business students from Providence’s Business/Government Relations course consulted with a number of business, municipal, and economic development leaders to prepare questions for the debate. Six components of rural economic development rose to the top in those conversations:
- Rural Infrastructure Deficit
- Immigration and the Labour Force
- Payroll Tax
- Recurring Flooding Problems
- Building a Bioenergy Industry
- Telecommunications Infrastructure
The students participating in this project were:
|Adam Daun||Community Consultation and Issue Development|
|Andrew Freisen||Building a Bioenergy Industry|
|Mario Giesbrecht||Recurring Flooding Problems|
|James Hilton||Telecommunications Infrastructure|
|Cuthbert Mwale||Immigration and the Labour Force|
|Edwin Pankratz||Rural Infrastructure Deficit|
|Jonathan Schmidt||Payroll Tax|
|Jordan Siemens||Community Consultation and Issue Development|
From candidate campaign websites:
Janine Gibson, Green
“An author, educator & public speaker, Janine is an organic crop, livestock and process inspector teaching and inspecting throughout Canada and the US. The Past President of Canadian Organic Growers and the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Organic Food Council of Manitoba-COG, Janine was the recipient of the 2007 Manitoba Eco-Network Environment Award and a Rural Community Food Champion recipient from Food Matters Manitoba. A mother and grandmother, Janine lives off grid, on a small mixed farm using solar and wind power between Sarto and Pansy Manitoba.”
Cliff Graydon, Progressive Conservative
“Cliff Graydon was born and raised in Arnaud and has spent the past 30 years farming grain and purebred Charolais cattle. Cliff has held various critic portfolios during his time in office including: MPI; Liquor Control; Lotteries; and Gaming.
He was a founding member of the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association and served on its board of directors. He has also served as a member of the Stuartburn Piney Agricultural Development Association and the Prairies East Sustainable Agricultural Initiative.
Cliff and his wife, Rose Ellen, live in the Woodmore area and have two children, Amy and Warren, a daughter-in-law Venessa and three lovely grandchildren, Bailey, Colby and Renee.”
Sandra Hoskins, Liberal
“Sandra Hoskins is a resident of the constituency [Dawson Trail] who works and commutes to the city as part of her professional life as owner and president of The Kellan Group. The Kellan Group is a Charter Global Registered Education Provider with Project Management Institute and a partner in the improvement of project management education alternatives world-wide. Hoskins says: After a lot of thought and a thorough review of the situation in the province, I am convinced that it is better to be a voice for change rather than an observer. There is a saying that a person can be part of the solution or part of the problem. I would rather be part of the solution.'”
Stan Struthers, NDP
“Stan Struthers understands what matters to Manitobans. Elected as the MLA for Dauphin in 1995 and re-elected in 1999, 2003 and 2007, he has dedicated the last sixteen years to advocating for families in the Dauphin constituency and all across Manitoba.
Rural families and businesses are the backbone of Manitoba’s agriculture industry. As the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, Stan knows the value of listening to rural families and partnering with rural businesses.
These summaries are based on business students’ consultations with business and community leaders in rural Manitoba and their follow-on research.
Rural Infrastructure Deficit
In 2010 the Infrastructure Funding Council (IFC) was created and mandated by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and the City of Winnipeg to create a strategy to deal with Manitoba’s municipal infrastructure deficit.
In the IFC’s report released in May of 2011, Manitoba’s current rural municipal infrastructure deficit is estimated to be $4 billion, and is expected to increase by an additional $2 billion over the next decade.
This represents a $600 million annual funding deficit for Manitoba’s rural municipalities over the next 10 years.
Immigration and the Labour Force
According to the Government of Manitoba’s immigration website, 15,803 immigrants came to Manitoba in 2010. This website also indicates that 78% of them (12,340) came to Winnipeg, which means 22% came to the rest of the province.
Statistics Canada estimates that 1,240,020 people lived in Manitoba in 2010. The City of Winnipeg estimates that 684,100 people lived in the city in 2010–55% of Manitoba’s population. And that means 45% lived in the rest of the province.
As a result, the benefits immigrants bring to communities–including economic benefits–have been concentrated disproportionately in Winnipeg. This concentration of immigration to Winnipeg helps explain, in part, why the rest of Manitoba faces chronic labour shortages. These shortages make it difficult for businesses in rural Manitoba to grow, and hold rural communities back from achieving their full potentials.
The Payroll Tax (properly called the “Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy”) is levied on all employers with a permanent establishment in Manitoba who have yearly payrolls of more than $1.25 million. Manitoba is the only western province (MB, SK, AB, BC) that has a payroll tax.
The most recent provincial budget estimates that the Payroll Tax will raise just under $400 million in the current fiscal year–roughly 12% of all tax revenue the province collects. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has called for a 50% reduction in revenue from this levy and it has been an issue in the election campaign.
Many employers—including many in rural Manitoba—have payrolls larger than $1.25 million, and pay this tax. This puts these employers at a significant disadvantage, particularly when they are competing head-to-head with competitors from rural Saskatchewan and rural Alberta.
Recurring Flooding Problems
This year’s flood disrupted a significant portion of rural Manitoba. In addition to the disruption communities, home-owners and cottage-owners experienced, farmers and rural businesses also found it difficult (and, in some cases, impossible) to operate. Tensions ran particularly high when some parts of rural Manitoba saw their land flooded to relieve flooding elsewhere.
Governments can’t prevent flooding, and sometimes painful trade-offs are necessary. However, we can expect them to make every feasible effort to minimize the harm flooding causes. And we can expect them to compensate those affected when trade-offs are made. In addition to the flood-fighting that continues in some parts of rural Manitoba, at least two important issues are relevant this now:
- Administering fast and fair compensation.
- Taking the right steps this fall and winter to minimize the effects of future floods.
Building a Rural Bioenergy Industry
In January, 2011, the Premier Selinger, speaking on behalf of the provincial government, announced an ambitious Bioproducts Strategy which has the production of bioenergy in rural Manitoba as one of its central elements.
In addition to providing background information on the potential for Manitoba of bioproducts and bioenergy, this Strategy laid out objectives and detailed the actions needed to achieve its vision of:
A sustainable and competitive bioproducts industry to diversify rural and northern Manitoba and strengthen the growth of Manitobaís bioeconomy. By 2020, Manitoba’s bioproducts industry will generate $2 billion in revenue annually, at least 80% of which comes from rural and northern Manitoba.
The information contained in this report appears to be carefully-researched and accurate. If the strategy it proposes is feasible, implementing it would result in sustained, accelerated economic growth in rural Manitoba. It could also significantly reduce Manitoba’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly for heating, and lower Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Liberals, PCs, Greens, and NDP, have all made energy issues part of their campaign commitments, but the focus has been on primarily Manitoba Hydro, with bioenergy receiving little attention.
In recent years, rural Manitoba has seen a significant build-out of telecommunications infrastructure—particularly in cell phone and internet capabilities. Some of that has been commercially driven, and some has been government-led.
As good as this progress has been, rural Manitoba still lags well behind Winnipeg in high-speed, large-capacity internet capabilities. This makes it difficult for rural communities—and rural businesses—to compete on a level playing field in knowledge-based industries.
Keystone Agricultural Producers is Manitoba’s largest general farm policy organization, and its job is to represent and promote the interests of the province’s farm families.
KAP is a democratically-controlled general farm lobby organization which represents and promotes the interests of agriculture and agricultural producers in Manitoba. In 2009, they celebrated 25 years as The Voice of Manitoba Farmers.
The mission of the CDEM – Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba is to stimulate, encourage, support and coordinate economic development in the communities that belong to the Association of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (AMBM). CDEM has been the driving force behind economic development in Manitoba’s bilingual communities since 1996.
The Steinbach Chamber of Commerce is an advocate for business and community in Steinbach and acts as the anchor that connects them both. The Steinbach Chamber’s mission is to promote and improve trade and commerce and the economic, civil and social welfare of the district.
Established more than 50 years ago, the Steinbach Chamber is one of the most active chambers of commerce in Manitoba.
Launched in 2010, the Buller Centre for Business is a program of Providence University College & Theological Seminary.The Buller Centre provides support to the business community, to Providence’s business students and alumni, and to the community.
This debate is one of two projects undertaken by students in Providence University College’s Business Administration program as part of their Business/Government Relations Fall 2011 class. The other is finding an alternative to the municipal landfill for the organic “waste” from Providence’s commercial kitchen. Last year’s project is covered here. How these projects fit into the education students receive in this program is outlined here.
Documents stored in the online Providence folder relevant to this project can be found at http://buller.prov.ca/BG/materials/debate/.