“We’re looking to create careers, not jobs.” – Minister Pedersen.
Recognizing the economy’s health is tied to the health of our communities, The Winnipeg Chamber has been an outspoken advocate for a comprehensive provincial strategy to support Manitoba business. We’re deeply pleased with the province’s recent work to build that plan (including a summit co-hosted with The Chamber for private business owners) as we look for action that leverages our strengths, addresses modern opportunities and shares prosperity with all Manitobans.
That dialogue and relationship with Minister Blaine Pedersen and the team at Growth, Enterprise and Trade continues. Today we hosted the Minister, Deputy Minister Dave Dyson and a number of our members for a wide ranging discussion, including
Online submissions to shape Manitoba economic strategy are open until May 18. You can share your insights, priorities and feedback here.
This op-ed first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.
There’s an outdated notion that support for business growth and success comes at the expense of social programs and community well-being - and vice versa. Nothing could be further from the truth. Business and community prosperity are interwoven. We are in this together.
That’s one reason The Winnipeg Chamber weighed in during the province’s just-concluded consultation phase on a new poverty reduction strategy.
The Winnipeg Chamber believes the best way out of poverty remains a good job. Median household incomes are close to 10 per cent lower in Manitoba than our Saskatchewan neighbours, and we lag below the Canadian average. Raising Manitoba’s median household income levels to the national average would constitute an over $1-billion income increase.
To create the jobs that foster this rise in income, we’ve pushed the province to develop a provincial economic development strategy – one that works in lockstep with a poverty reduction strategy.
We’ve also advocated for actions that improve educational outcomes, given the well-documented link between higher education and good incomes. Among other suggestions, we recommend re-profiling the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative and increasing investment by $14 million a year to offer significant tuition reductions to students from Manitoba families earning less than $70,000 a year.
We should also ensure younger students can actually get to the place of considering post-secondary. It’s critical we address a child’s physical needs so they can bring their whole selves to class. The Chamber strongly recommends Manitoba strengthen breakfast and lunch programs with a focus on our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, setting the conditions for young minds to excel. In a recent Toronto study of over 6,000 students in a high poverty neighbourhood, a breakfast program was credited with increasing high school graduation rates by 20 per cent. Not only were there more graduates, but they had higher test scores as well.
Statistics show Indigenous Manitobans face disproportionately higher poverty rates. A specific focus in Manitoba’s strategy is required. Our full submission included a number of suggestions around culturally appropriate, specifically tailored training programs to elevate education and employment outcomes aligned with Indigenous communities’ needs and aspirations. Likewise, new immigrants, who are projected to be a growing part of our community and workforce, need tailored programs to address the disproportionate poverty they face.
We also believe it’s time to revisit mincome and an overhaul of our social support framework. Other Canadian jurisdictions have drastically raised the minimum wage in a misguided effort to address poverty – the right objective, but the wrong tool for the job.
The Winnipeg Chamber believes a guaranteed annual income is a more targeted tool that may prove to be more effective in helping people meet their basic living needs. Such a study was done in Dauphin in the 1970’s. It is time for another, evaluating measures such as social outcomes and employment impacts. Perhaps the study may find a guaranteed minimum income actually works in reducing poverty while reducing administrative costs of the current myriad of social supports.
That is the key to the new strategy: focusing on what works. The province has limited resources at its disposal, and it should only put them into programs that have shown to have the greatest impact.
The province doesn’t have to and shouldn’t go it alone. Delivering an effective poverty reduction strategy will require partnering with the private and non-profit sectors. Both are ready and willing to lend their expertise and knowledge.
The private sector is well-positioned to build affordable housing options if the right regulatory and tax regimes are in place. The new federal housing strategy provides an ideal opportunity for collaboration, and we recommend moving to a housing-first model. While there is a higher upfront cost in providing housing for homeless individuals, having them housed can drop the cost of delivering services by 70 per cent. The long term savings are immense; Alberta recently estimated a fully implemented housing first model could save their province billions over the long term.
Another example of a skilled partner is Manitoba’s growing social enterprise sector. Several organizations, for example, have demonstrated effectiveness in re-integrating those with a history in our justice system into the workforce. The province has made steps in reforming our justice system, and we encourage them to work with our social enterprise sector members to reduce recidivism, which leads to savings for taxpayers.
There are no easy, quick fixes. We all need to pull in the same direction – a direction the province needs to provide guidance on. That direction needs to be grounded in a concrete, measurable goal.
So why not be bold? If Manitoba is to be Canada’s most improved province, let it be in changing the lives of far too Manitobans for whom daily life is a constant hardship. If we can do that, then Manitoba will be more than the most improved province – it will be the model for shared prosperity.
Read full Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Poverty Reduction policy
After many years of limited to no progress, a milestone was reached today in regards to the development of the former Canadian Air Forces based in Winnipeg, Kapyong Barracks.
An agreement in principle was signed between the Canadian government and the seven Treaty 1 First Nations Chiefs. The terms of this agreement in principle will guide the development of a final settlement agreement. While no time frame was given for a final agreement, all parties are optimistic one can be reached in short order.
In the immediate future you won’t notice many changes to the site. The Department of Defense plans to continue with demolition and removal work, which should be completed in the next two years. Vacant since 2004, at the very least the site will be cleaned up over the next few years, but now is the time to start imaging potential uses for this massive plot of land.
It’s not often a community gets the chance to rejuvenate a 160-acre area, valued at tens of millions of dollars. In Manitoba BOLD, The Winnipeg Chamber called for the creation of an urban reserve on the site, as one of several measure to improve economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Other recommendations included creating an Indigenous business incubator where participants would receive specialized supports and mentorship opportunities. Kapyong Barracks could be an ideal spot to host such an incubator.
Negotiations will hopefully soon start with the City of Winnipeg, with a top priority for the site being widening Kenaston Boulevard. It will take years for the site to be fully developed, but today’s agreements shows there is finally some positive momentum behind the re-development process.
On Wednesday, April 4, your Winnipeg Chamber hosts one of Canada's busiest leaders and the person tasked with guiding national interests through NAFTA negotiations - Minister Chrystia Freeland.
With a mandate that includes rapidly developing geopolitical events and relationships, it's hard to keep up with Ms. Freeland. Check the headlines - her To Do list likely overlaps with several breaking items.
Nevertheless, as we prepare to discuss NAFTA, supporting rules-based international order and increasing gender equity in Canadian leadership (whether the boardroom or the caucus meeting), we'd like to offer some suggested reading.
Earlier today Mayor Brian Bowman gave his fourth State of the City address to 1,200 business and community leaders at the RBC Convention Centre. The Mayor announced several new initiatives, some of which were based on Winnipeg Chamber policy. They included:
It is also exciting to see Winnipeg take a leadership role with the new national committee, and it is always good for governments to share best practices. As well improving online services is much needed, especially as more and more of those citizen requests are taking place on mobile devices.
Other announcements focused on working to electrify our transit system, reducing aggressive panhandling and the creation of an illicit drug strategy. A lot was announced in the speech, but the real work begins now.
When Canada first became a country 150 years ago, only 20 per cent of the population lived in urban areas. We had only one city with more than 100,000 residents.
Today, we have more than 50 municipalities with over 100,000 residents, and only 20 per cent of our population lives in rural areas. We have long been an urban country, yet we lack a national strategy that will help our urban centres grow, thrive and compete in the 21st century.
Recently the Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC) released Planning for an Urban Future: Our Call for a National Urban Strategy for Canada. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is a founding member of the CGCC, which represents the eight largest urban chambers of commerce and boards of trade in Canada. These eight city-regions combined account for over half of Canada’s GDP.
The report calls for the development of a national urban strategy in Canada. The cornerstone of that strategy will be the development of national urban infrastructure goals and objectives. It is imperative we measure progress against those goals by a clear set of metrics.
Federal infrastructure spending has increased by billions over the past several years, and yet we have no common measure to judge whether that spending was successful. Data is sparse, and poor data leads to poor decision making. With no indication of where shortfalls are, governments have little incentive to change their approach to infrastructure.
Below the broad national level, the strategy calls for city-regional agreements with clear goals and targets. These more localized agreements would spell out the city-regions priorities, and showcase where private-public partnerships could best be utilized. Longer-term contractual agreements would then be developed to deliver on those local priorities. This would mean funding the regional plans, not specific projects. It would allow for greater flexibility and speed up construction times.
Why does this matter to Winnipeg and Manitoba?
As we have recently seen, local priorities are often drowned out by higher levels of government. The City of Winnipeg’s $182-million ask to the Building Canada Fund to accelerate regional road repair lies in limbo. Not only is that an issue, but the current ask is again based on the outdated model of funding projects, not plans. Current federal infrastructure funding methods lack flexibility, and force governments to put forward projects that may not best meet local needs, but instead check off the right funding box.
Instead of going cap in hand to higher levels of government, a national strategy will set the goals and objectives for all governments to meet. While a national strategy must be federal government driven, it will rely on provincial and civic governments as well as the private sector to come together to set those local priorities under the national objectives. However, with no national objectives or priorities currently in place, federal infrastructure funding is currently too unfocused.
We need high quality infrastructure in order to move people and goods in an efficient and safe manner. You can have the best tax rates and regulations in the world, but if you can’t move your country’s goods and citizens effectively, your economy isn’t going anywhere fast. Improving the quality of our infrastructure will increase our country’s competitiveness – an urgent issues as other countries move on their own urban policies.
Right now Canada is one of only two OECD countries with a federal government system that doesn’t have a national urban policy. Developing one will take time, effort and federal leadership. With billions more being spent on infrastructure, we need to ensure all that spending’s effectiveness is clearly measured against strategic goals and objectives.
On March 12, the provincial government tabled the 2018 Budget, highlighted by record deficit reduction, a restocking of the Fiscal Stabilization Fund (aka the Rainy Day Fund), strategic and responsible social investments, strong measures to support small business and a series of milestone taxation measures, in particular the introduction of the provincial carbon price. Many of these measures are consistent with changes long advocated by your Winnipeg Chamber.
Overall, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce gives the budget a grade of B- (with a B+ in economics and a C- in environmental studies).
Positive Business Tax Changes
The Chamber will continue to work with government on their carbon pricing policy. There is still time to support our trade exposed sectors and provide additional accounting clarity.
Taken as a whole, Budget 2018 delivered a sound fiscal blueprint and positions Manitoba well on its road to fiscal recovery.
On Friday, March 23 Mayor Bowman returns for his last State of the City Address before Winnipeggers head to the polls for a civic election.
The Winnipeg Chamber asked some of our members what questions they'll bring with them as 1,200 community leaders gather to hear how city leadership plans to tackle our pressing financial, infrastructure and social needs.
Jessica Dumas, President, Jessica Dumas Coaching & Training
Winnipeg is a popular living area for many Indigenous people, it has the largest Indigenous population than any other major city in Canada. Indigenous community members share a common vision for our city and in order to gain real success, we need to engage and involve the Indigenous community in a much more bold and active way.
Some Winnipeggers will acknowledge that we are on the land of Treaty 1 and home of the Red River Metis, but still few know what that means. Acknowledging “Treaty” should call to acknowledge the legal binding Treaty agreement and the contribution and dedication by the original Treaty signatories. Indigenous people want to help Winnipeg achieve higher economic opportunities, and Urban Reserves are a way to do that. What will Winnipeg do to ensure the success and efficient access to potential Urban Reserve land?
Tanjit Nagra, President, University of Manitoba Students' Union
Public transportation systems impact everyone in our city, even those who don’t use the bus – but this issue in particular is especially important to students. This past year, the federal government eliminated the Public Transit Tax Credit, and the provincial government dismissed their commitment to pay for 50% of municipal transit operating costs. I hope to hear from the Mayor how Winnipeg is going to ensure that Winnipeg Transit remains efficient, reliable, and accessible to all in spite of these recent changes.
Alfred Schleier, Director Business Development, PCL Constructors Canada
I hope to get clarity on the process to confirm the development fees for commercial properties, which is stagnating or delaying development investment.
i also want to hear more on how city leaders are approaching prioritization of projects to proceed to construction.
Justin Phillips, CEO & Co-Founder, Sycamore Energy Inc.
What steps has the city actually taken to implement their sustainability plan? And how are sustainability plan initiatives prioritized - by best return on investment or best carbon improvements?
Also, does the city have plans similar to other leading municipalities to take advantage of all the unused roof top real estate on city buildings by installing solar?
Sarah Leeson-Klym, Manitoba Regional Director, Canadian CED Network
How does the Mayor and City plan to integrate social value and community benefit into their procurement processes?
We believe governments can not only 'get the job done', but can dramatically increase their impact for the public good by choosing local, socially responsible vendors like social enterprises, co-operatives, and local small businesses. These vendors are typically environmentally responsible, focused on local jobs (often employing folks who have trouble accessing the mainstream labour market), and they re-circulate dollars in the local economy. But, without valuing those kinds of impacts in the procurement process, often the choice comes down to price and nothing else. Other cities like Vancouver are making the shift to this kind of social procurement, and we'd love to see Winnipeg become a leader in this area.
Lanny McInnes, President & CEO, Manitoba Home Builders Association
Winnipeg needs an inclusive and fact-based plan for growth. The discussion on how to grow our City should not be reduced to a “Downtown” vs “the rest” debate.
Our city needs an approach to growth that drives both economic and residential growth in a sustainable way and that is followed and implemented by our civic government to encourage confidence and investment. What steps will the Mayor take to facilitate a fact-based plan for growth being adopted and implemented by both Council and the City’s administration?
Liz Choi, Chief Strategy Officer & EVP Business Development, ECG Education Group Canada
With the recent announcements of new real estate developments in downtown Winnipeg, many look forward to positive changes. However, I have also heard from commercial real estate agencies that the increased vacancy rate will pose a significant challenge. Recognizing the potential and the exciting opportunities new development brings, I am curious how this will impact downtown businesses overall and if you and the City Council are concerned. Quite likely there will be movement by large businesses to move to new towers which will drive consumers to alternate downtown locations. What strategies are in place to ensure all parts of our downtown remain vibrant and businesses stay viable? Would you offer any special incentives to small to medium sized businesses to locate in the downtown?
Kevin Selch, Founder, Little Brown Jug Brewing
The prosperity and cultural life of our city depends on our ability to retain and attract mobile talent. What is the city doing to support innovation and to ensure that the kinds of services that mobile talent looks for in a city are available in Winnipeg? More specifically, which metrics are you benchmarking and how will you know when you’ve achieved success?
Scott McFadyen, Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition Spokesperson
What is the Mayor’s vision for transit in Winnipeg, and how does he see taxis, ride-share, buses and active transit working together to ensure Winnipeggers get from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible? What is the City’s long-term plan to enforce the Vehicles-for-Hire bylaws as the Winnipeg Parking Authority has suggested their role is interim? Is the Mayor open to creating a Transit Ombudsman to manage complaints and issues with Winnipeg Transit, active transit and Vehicles-for-Hire?
Michelle Richard MCP. MCIP. RPP, Richard Wintrup & M Richard Associates Ltd.
The first Our Winnipeg sent out the warning that the City needed to embrace ‘growing up’ as well as ‘growing out’. It said that density needed to be embraced and it identified the best places for it to go. It set up the City’s first urban structure that included for the first time, areas for growth called ‘Transformative Areas. These include the Downtown, Centres and Corridors, Major Redevelopment Site and New Communities. Yet, according to City’s Our Winnipeg report card, most of the growth is still going to the periphery.
Is this concerning to the Mayor? If so, what is his plan to create the conditions where investors are successful in developing dense projects in Transformative Areas. Other cities are moving towards tools such as minimum densities and maximum parking ratio in areas targeted for higher density. Yet the City of Winnipeg, outside of the Downtown, in its regulation and practice, still employs maximum densities and minimum parking ratios (ie. exactly opposite to many cities). Is there a commitment to bringing Winnipeg more in line with other major Canadian cites?
Two years ago, many were shocked by the results of Brexit, as the United Kingdom narrowly chose to leave the European Union. Since the June 2016 vote, work has been underway for the UK to become the first country to leave the EU.
The United Kingdom's current minority government situation adds an additional layer of complication to negotiations. Industry groups we met also raised the important point that other government functions need to continue. As examples, the UK is looking at education reforms and a new industrial strategy was launched in late 2017. However, with Brexit taking up so much time and energy, there are concerns that some of these other priorities could slip through the cracks.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May made a large Brexit speech last week, but the real test will be at the March 22-23 European Council meetings. Attended by the heads of state (or government) for EU countries, these council meetings will focus heavily on Brexit. The UK hopes it will be able to secure agreement on a transition period of around two years at those meetings, providing certainty for business.
Regardless of Brexit, we will continue to have trade between our two countries. The UK is Canada’s third largest export destination and there was a clear hope expressed to build on CETA. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce will continue to monitor EU-UK negotiations, looking to support our members' needs to grow international trade.
The Winnipeg Chamber: The City is embarking on a mandatory review of the OurWinnipeg 25-year plan, seeking public input on a range of items. From your perspective, what can the city do to promote a planned, livable city for the next twenty five years?
Mayor Bowman: This is a very opportune time to be taking a critical look at OurWinnipeg. Why? Because Winnipeg today finds itself in a strong and steady cycle of population growth. On average, population growth over the next 25 years in Winnipeg is estimated to increase by 8,200 people per year.
What this means is Winnipeg is expected to add the equivalent population of the City of Morden, each year, for the next 25 years. We need to be planning for this growth!
WC: As Mayor, you have helped ramp up infrastructure spending in Winnipeg. Right now there is $182 million ask to senior levels of government for more money to fix our roads over the next six years. Where do things stand?
MB: Millions of dollars in federal funding is currently sitting idle in a bank account when it could be used to fix many of our regional roads. The province simply has to endorse and submit to the federal government. Council’s unanimous proposal to access this funding, and regional road renewal across our city can be further bolstered. The federal budget has just been released, and Manitoba’s provincial budget is being released in early March. So, I remain hopeful that in this context we will see progress on this request.
Addressing our city’s infrastructure needs, and fixing our roads in particular, remain top priorities for many, many Winnipeggers. There remains a tremendous opportunity right now for federal, provincial, and city governments to work together and partner in rehabilitating Winnipeg’s regional roads, and there’s an opportunity to do it at no additional incremental cost to Winnipeg and Manitoba taxpayers!
WC: NAFTA is a front burner issue for a lot of local businesses. How do you see your office playing a role in those discussions - and in promoting Winnipeg businesses globally?
MB: Winnipeg has always been a trading city, and open and free trade remains critically important for Winnipeg and Manitoba. Notwithstanding today’s trade rhetoric, I do believe cities and businesses, on both sides of the border, remain keenly interested in maintaining strong trade relationships. Canada remains the largest single export market for the U.S and vice versa. Nearly nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada, and almost two million Canadian jobs are related to Canadian exports to the United States.
So, it is more important than ever to be advocating against protectionist policies. And we have seen over the last year that Mayors and local officials can have an important role to play in advocating for free trade. The recent Bombardier-Boeing dispute underscored how local governments can play an important role in national issues, and how we can help build and strengthen partnerships between businesses and government stakeholders in Winnipeg and the United States.
We’ve also seen how Winnipeg’s participation in the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO), as a grassroots organization focused on the competitiveness of the North American supply chain, workforce, and energy independence, underscores the importance work at the local level can have on increasing competitiveness and opening up trade opportunities.
At the end of the day, no two nations depend more on each other for their mutual prosperity and security than Canada and the United States. We represent one of the closest trading relationships between any two nations in the world. We have worked together as friends, allies, and partners on many different levels, and I remain committed to promoting that interdependence nationally and internationally.
WC: Over your term as Mayor you have successfully brought down the business tax in each successive budget. However, Winnipeg remains the only city with a business tax in Canada. What are the next steps in reducing taxes for small businesses, the job creators of our economy?
MB: Yes, I have remained committed to reducing Winnipeg’s business tax, and have done so each year since being elected. I’m not planning to deviate from that trajectory!
You are correct that small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. They assume an incredible amount of risk, they work hard, they’re significant employers, and at the same time are very active volunteers and sponsors of many different community events and initiatives. They power our economy, and they empower our communities!
WC: What has been your biggest accomplishment since taking over as Winnipeg’s 43rd Mayor in October 2014?
MB: I feel we’ve really returned a sense of pride to our city. Actually, pride in our city has always been there. What I’ve tried to do is better reflect the level of pride many Winnipeggers already feel about our city, and I’ve tried to raise these feelings to the surface for all to see. We are an incredible city!
We are ethnically and economically diverse, we’re growing, we’re rebuilding after years of infrastructure neglect, and we’re building in a better and smarter way. There’s a lot to be proud of in Winnipeg, and I will continue promote this pride!
WC: What do you still want to accomplish this term?
MB: There is still more work to do to on an efficiency front as well as improving certain processes at the city. We know the permitting system remains one of the processes businesses are frustrated with even though we have made some improvements. And I know many taxpayers feel we can be more efficient with the money they send our way.
As well, I think we can work at better orienting city services around residents and ratepayers rather than around the process itself. We have to do a better job of putting residents and ratepayers first.
WC: What do you look forward to sharing with the Chamber’s membership at the State of the City?
MB: This is a great opportunity to provide an annual status report on the city. It’s also one of the best opportunities and to engage with business leaders who want to make our city an ever better place to do business, and I look forward to underscoring how Winnipeg continues to grow, and that we need to be planning and building today to support this growth.
WC: One last question, how far do the Jets go this year?
MB: I’m not normally superstitious, but I’m not taking any chances on this one! So, I’ll reserve comment!