Economic growth must be priority for Manitoba: MHCA
Manitoba’s blueprint for government, delivered in the throne speech Oct. 7, was timid on grasping real opportunity for economic growth for the province, but laid out some initiatives that give cause for hope.
That was the MHCA’s initial reaction to the throne speech, read by Lt. Gov. Janice Filmon at the opening of the legislative session Wednesday. The speech broadly sets out the government’s priorities for the coming session and longer-term policy directions.
The government committed to balance the budget, sent spiraling into deep deficit due to the economic shutdown triggered by the pandemic in March, over the course of two terms. In the immediate, the priorities are protecting Manitobans from the novel coronavirus, maintaining strong health services, and in planning to strengthen the education system (K-12).
“Given the impact on the economy of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were hoping to see a higher profile on growing the economy as an overall theme in the throne speech, because we know consumer and investor confidence is still lagging in Manitoba and across Canada,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said.
There were bright spots, Lorenc noted, including an announcement the Premier’s Economic Opportunities Advisory Board will advise the province “on new ways to unleash private sector capital and investment to create jobs and build on Manitoba’s unique strengths as a transportation hub, an agricultural powerhouse, a small business engine, and a clean energy producer.
“Specifically, they will be asked to recommend a new, independent private sector-led economic development agency to attract investment and promote international trade for our whole province. They will also be asked to examine the need and role for a provincial venture capital investment fund to give Manitoba businesses better access to innovative financing to bridge established private investment capital sources.”
The throne speech also noted the Pallister government will “vigorously pursue” federal approval for the Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin outlet channels project, which continues to be reviewed by a federal agency. “This is the largest single infrastructure project in our province and will help protect people and communities from climate change, and give people in the region their lives back.
“It is past time to get it done.”
Lorenc said he was hoping to hear more about strategic investment in trade transportation infrastructure, given the proven high economic returns from such investments.
The province this spring announced additional $500+ million in funding, over two years, for an economic kickstart in a variety of infrastructure areas including $50 million for water and sewage projects and $150 million in asphalt highway resurfacing.
It is frustrating, Lorenc said, that there continues to be delay to getting cost-shared projects under the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan off the ground.
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