All-Party Debate on Rural Economic Policy

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.




Participants

Cliff Graydon Emerson PC
Stan Struthers Dauphin NDP
Sandra Hoskins Dawson Trail Liberal
Janine Gibson La Verendrye Green

Participant Biographies

Community Partners

Debate Issues

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

Our intention is to focus the debate on these issues.

Issue Backgrounders

Project Team

The students participating in this project were:

name focus area
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

Participant Biographies

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.

Prior to becoming Minister of Agriculture, Stan was the Minister of Conservation. Appointed to that role in 2003, he was the longest serving Minister of Conservation in the province.”

Issue Backgrounders

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.

Payroll Tax

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.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

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.

Sponsoring Organizations

KAP

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.

CDEM

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.

Steinbach Chamber of Commerce

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.

Buller Centre for Business

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/.


Comments

All-Party Debate on Rural Economic Policy — 28 Comments

  1. Okay, here’s a couple variations. What do you think?

    “In light of your 2001 goal to provide province-wide high speed internet access, what progress has been made to ensure that all Manitobans have access to computers with expanded access to networks and sufficient bandwidth?”

    “What progress has been made to provide Manitobans in rural and Northern communities with access to high-speed networks and a greater bandwidth in regards to the 2001 commitment to do so for all of Manitoba?”

    What do you think? More? Less? More information? Less? Too specific? Not nearly specific enough?

  2. Here is a great resource compiled by the AMM showing the election promises of the NDP, PC’s, and Liberals.

    http://www.amm.mb.ca/documents/ElectionpromisesSept16-NDP.pdf
    http://www.amm.mb.ca/documents/ElectionpromisesSept16-PC.pdf
    http://www.amm.mb.ca/documents/ElectionpromisesSept16-Liberals.pdf

    It really cuts through all the spin and sorts it nicely into categories. It cites sources for all of the promises so it is easy to validate.

    • Okay. The report you linked to comes from a construction association website, which could be construed as biased. That report was a version of a longer report released by the Infrastructure Funding Council, which was set up by the AMM and the city of Winnipeg. On page 40 it has the same information as your document did.

      http://www.amm.mb.ca/documents/FinalIFCReportMay_5_2_.pdf

      I think we should adapt the question a bit to read something like this:

      “The Infrastructure Funding Council was set up by the Association of Manitoba Munipalities and the City of Winnipeg in May of 2010. According to their report released in May 2011, Manitoba’s rural municipalities currently face a 4 billion dollar infrastructure deficit, which is projected to increase to $6 billion in the next 10 years. What is your plan to help rural communities and municipalities address this?”

  3. I have done a bit of research on some of the major Cell Service and Internet Providers for Manitoba: Fido, Telus, Koodo, Rogers, Bell, and MTS Mobility. The commonality between most companies is that service is provided for nearly all of Southern Manitoba with sparse coverage extending into Central and Northern Manitoba, with the exception of Bell, which only offers its 4G HSPA+ service in Winnipeg. Much faster service, such as HSPA (Koodo), 3G+ (Telus, Fido), and GSM/EDGE (Rogers), concentrated solely in Winnipeg and its bordering communities. MTS Mobility offers 1xEVDO coverage in Winnipeg along with several other larger towns and cities such as Flin Flon, Brandon, Dauphin, and the Pas (to name just a few). Next, I delved into XPlornet and Wiband, unfortunately with much fewer results. I actually could not find a service coverage map for XPlornet (that worked, in any case), but from what I found out it seems to be offered pretty much everywhere. Wiband offers service in about 30 some odd towns and cities across Manitoba, and interestingly, Winnipeg is not featured on the list.

  4. Latest statistics on Manitoba immigration

    • Manitoba welcomed 15,803 immigrants in 2010 – the highest number of immigrants since the start of modern record keeping in 1946.
    • Winnipeg received 12,340 immigrants in 2010, more than Edmonton, Ottawa and Hamilton and more than Quebec City, Regina, Saskatoon, Victoria, Halifax and Fredericton combined.
    • Manitoba’s share of national immigration increased to 5.6 per cent in 2010, up from the less than two per cent received in the 1990s and greater than Manitoba’s proportional share of Canada’s population (3.6 per cent).
    • Manitoba is on target to reach 20,000 immigrants by 2016.
    http://www2.immigratemanitoba.com/browse/news_resources

  5. Questions about payroll tax:
    – What other jurisdiction in Canada has this?
    – Who else is lobbying about this?
    – How much revenue does it raise?
    – What is the plan for the loss in revenue?

  6. Here are the relevant platform documents from all 4 parties:

    http://todaysndp.ca/jobs-and-training-opportunities-building-economy-tomorrow
    http://www.pcmanitoba.com/assets/downloads/growing_communities.pdf
    http://mlp.manitobaliberals.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Strong-Families-Healthy-Communities-Platform.pdf
    http://greenparty.mb.ca/download/GPM2011-Platform.pdf

    Between the four of them there is some good information on their positions for almost all of our issues. Unfortunately most of them are buried farther back or are not elaborated very well. Hopefully this debate can help bring attention to them.

  7. i’v been doing a a fair bit of research and there are a few directions to go with the question but one direction i decided to go with is to acknowledge that efforts and programs are currently being implemented, “Canada Manitoba Immigration Agreement allowed for 200 immigrants and their families to be admitted to Manitoba per year. Now that number is 1500. When those targets were announced by Denis Coderre, Canada’s minister of immigration and the Honourable Becky Barrett, his Manitoba counterpart, both ministers publicly announced their objective of welcoming 10,000 immigrants per year to Manitoba, which would give this province its fair share of Canada’s immigration flow”(Immigration Policy, Business council of Manitoba). added with other information that i obtained through a fair bit of investigation of the matter outlining problems with the current immigration policy, the draft question i have is as follows.

    What steps are being taken to unlock the enormous potential that has been slumbering in Manitoba (which is immigrants that have being accepted into Canada, Manitoba but can’t find jobs especially in there feilds, are forced to go back to school which they cannot afford and in some cases of some professional careers like law, engineering or the medical field, are forced to have to go back to school for a considerable number of years that they cannot even begin to fathom how to afford it, have families they have to support and thus end up leaving)?What is being done to attract immigrants to Manitoba and more importantly keep them here?

  8. I have done a lot of research digging through what the causes of the yearly flooding in Manitoba are. Promises where made by the NDP to build dams and channels (ex building the leaf gates on the Shellmouth dam that were never completed). Damages in 2011 were so large that these projects not only need to be completed but done so very quickly. The question I came up with for now is trying to find out what the parties are planning on dealing with the devastation and when projects are going to be completed.
    Here is my question:
    It seems that every year flooding is a massive issue in Manitoba. From a reported loss of $1 billion in ag revenues to the destruction of lake front property to rapidly decreasing wetlands in 2011 alone, how are you planning on dealing with the long-term economic devastation caused by flooding? And how long will the public have to wait to see the channels, dams, and other flood protection projects to be completed?

  9. Here are some draft questions regarding energy:
    What are Manitoba’s Kyoto commitments, and how is each party planning to honour those commitments? Manitoba’s GHG emissions are regressing instead of progressing.
    Is the bioeconomy industry an avenue to obtain the Kyoto commitments MB made in 2008 to reduce emissions by 6% from 1990 to 2012?
    Are the parties aware of the 50/30 group in Winnipeg?
    If plans are laid out to produce a greener economy, how does each party plan on financing green energy initiatives?

    Thoughts?
    Also, James: I saw an update by the Liberals regarding improving telecom in rural Manitoba on the CBC. I can’t find that article now, but I’m looking.

    • This looks good Andrew. I don’t think we should ask them what the commitments are as we can find those ourselves.
      A kind of summary question that I would propose could be something like this:

      “In 2008 Manitoba signed the Kyoto accord, committing to 6% reductions in GHG emmissions from 1990 levels by 2012. Currently levels are 10% above that. In January of 2011 the Manitoba government released the Manitoba Bio-Products strategy, which seeks to create a $1.6 billion bioproducts industry in rural Manitoba by 2020. Do you support this plan, and what level of Government support do you believe is needed to grow an industry to this size by 2020?”

  10. I thinking the payroll tax question should be something along the lines of:
    The NDP party has helped small businesses grow by eliminating business tax on them when they increased the business income limit to $500,000. What is your party planning to do to increase larger business activity in Manitoba with the presence of the payroll tax?
    It still needs some work with the wording, what do you guys think?

    • You want to make sure the question is politically neutral. Maybe better phrasing: “In its campaign literature, the NDP has highlighted its elimination of business taxes on businesses under 1/2 a million dollars. What…” I’m not sure that’s better…

    • What do you think of this Jon?

      “By eliminating the business tax on small businesses the Manitoba government has shown committment to helping small businesses grow. However, both small and large businesses in rural Manitoba are at a competitive disadvantage as they are in one of only two remaining provinces to burden businesses with a payroll tax. What is your plan to increase the competitiveness of Manitoba’s rural businesses?”

      • Ok here’s what we got.
        “By eliminating the business tax on small businesses the Manitoba government has shown commitment to helping small businesses grow. However, according to the Business Council of Manitoba, large businesses are plagued by the second highest payroll tax in Canada (*reducing their ability to be competitive). What do you plan to do with the payroll tax?
        Do we want the * part in there? I think that sounds pretty good! Thanks for the help!

  11. Here is a draft question for the issue of infrastructure in rural municipalities:
    Manitoba’s rural Municipalities have a 4 billion dollar infrastructure deficit (according to the report prepared by the Infrastructure Funding Council for the Mayor and the Executive Policy Comittee). What is your plan to help rural communities and municipalities address this?

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