Preamble: Manitoba--the Land of Opportunity

In his annual address to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce on December 6, Premier Brian Pallister released his Government’s blueprint for Manitoba’s economic future. That future, he announced, is set out in Growing Manitoba’s Economy submitted recently to the Government of Manitoba by Barb Gamey and Dave Angus who led a six-month consultation to garner the views of 500 individuals and organizations on Manitoba’s economic opportunities. The 16-page report lays out guidelines in broad general terms that would allow Manitoba to capitalize on our economic strengths and meet our challenges head on.

Premier Pallister said that the Government’s role in this effort will be led by the Economic Development Committee of Cabinet which is chaired by Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade. The Premier also announced that his Government would be establishing an Economic Development Office with a goal of transforming the delivery of programs to be achieved in partnership with regional and sector-specific bodies.

From the point of view of the Manitoba Energy Council, the timing was fortuitous. The Council was established only a month earlier and had been contemplating ways in which it could connect with the Government and other stakeholders in putting Manitoba’s abundant hydro-energy to work for the socio-economic benefit of Manitobans.

Manitoba Hydro has built a reliable system for the supply of electricity for residents and businesses in Manitoba. But the system is capable of producing more electricity than Manitobans currently need. Today the surplus is sold primarily into the US market. A recent announcement of a planned sale to Saskatchewan beginning in 2022 is a welcome development because it expands and diversifies the extra-provincial market. Manitoba’s electricity is a clean source of energy and that is a selling feature in the external market, especially as those markets respond to demands for a reduced carbon footprint.

However, Manitoba’s hydro-electricity should benefit Manitobans too as we accept our share of the responsibility for reducing carbon emissions. It also opens up opportunities to develop or expand industries that can use our clean electricity.

We are a manufacturing centre for electric buses sold internationally. We have a major university with faculties of engineering, science and agriculture and a community college with an established record in producing sought-after technology graduates. Manitoba has been a centre of expertise for the development of lightweight and strong aerospace materials. We have under-developed deposits of lithium and a mining industry that is looking for new markets for its nickel.

What is stopping us from not only extracting the raw materials from the rich minerals deposits in our province but in refining them for export and for use in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs)? Why not, in fact, exploit our knowledge of aerospace materials for the full-fledged manufacture of EVs? We have already demonstrated our capacity for harnessing our natural and human resources for the manufacture of agricultural equipment and energy-efficient electric buses and for repair and maintenance in the aviation industry. The Government’s initiative is timely in that it opens up the opportunity to begin the dialog that can harness our resources for the benefit of all Manitobans.

The full report can be downloaded from: click here