“Not With a Bold, But a Whimper” by David Angus, President and CEO, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce

Oct 3, 2011 | Chamber News

Dave Angus

The political operatives who dictate the election strategies for the parties are obviously playing it by the book this fall. In a close election, the strategy is to keep your head down, focus on the weaknesses of your opponent, keep campaign pledges modest and sprinkle the public’s hard-earned money across targeted ridings. We are left with platforms void of leadership, inspiration and growth.

What is missing is the need for bold moves and policy platforms that will grow our economic pie to generate the tax revenues to properly invest in priorities. It’s easy to spend money, especially when it’s not your own, to garner support. Real leaders, however, know that greater priority must be placed on policies and initiatives that will lead to growth. I truly believe the public is starved for leadership that is defined by a vision well articulated in an election campaign. A debate of alternate visions that represent an exciting future might just inspire our youth and give people reason to go to the polls.

The Manitoba Bold campaign dared to ask the question “What is your bold idea for Manitoba?” We were overwhelmed with the response receiving more than 30 pages of bold ideas from passionate Manitobans committed to seeing their province become a leader in areas in which we have an advantage; a province that finds its place in the world and in the process creates jobs and opportunities for Manitobans. We were left inspired by ideas that were worthy of discussion and consideration through an election campaign. But instead, we’re getting the same old same old.

Here are some planks in what could have been a bold platform.

Make Manitoba Canada’s greenest province and an international leader in clean energy and clean technology.

There is a loud chorus of champions calling for this vision to be a reality. Policies to support this vision include a complete re-invention of Manitoba Hydro to go from a dam builder to an energy company; a publicly owned organization that would leverage its size to become an international player in alternative energy, attracting investment, supporting new enterprise around new energy technologies, attracting manufacturers of energy products and investing in energy projects around the world. This would take a complete review and overhaul of the legislation defining the utility.

Make Manitoba Canada’s creative capital where art and technology connect.

According to Richard Florida, prosperity will come to those regions that build environments that attract and retain creative people. The number and quality of creative minds in this province is a real strength that must be leveraged. Establish a creative district in the West Exchange that will be designated a TIF zone to attract investment in living and working space for creative talent. Incorporate creative planning principles to image projects, much like we did for Esplanade Riel, to ensure we are building beautiful communities in Manitoba.

Make Manitoba a world leader in transportation.

The community has come together behind the importance for CentrePort Canada and the opportunity it creates to attract investment and jobs. Getting to the next level will require a series of investments in critical infrastructure such as the Pembina/Emerson border crossing, flood-proofing Highway 75 with bypasses around Headingley and St. Norbert. Create a new revenue model dedicated to municipal infrastructure investment. Make a modest increase in the gas tax dedicated to “congestion fixing” projects. Allow municipalities through referenda to determine the need for a city sales tax.

Make Manitoba Canada’s start-up province and entrepreneurial hotbed.

With a bold objective of doubling the number of head offices and growing the number of companies by 50 per cent over the next 10 years, we would elevate this province to Canada’s fastest growing economy. The establishment of a robust seed fund called Start-up Manitoba, and a new $100 million public/private venture fund to replace the defunct Crocus fund would go a long way toward accomplishing our objectives. Manitoba Bold also recommends more extensive entrepreneurship curriculum at the high school and post secondary levels.

Make Manitoba Canada’s most competitive province.

We can have all the lofty goals we want, but if do not provide a competitive tax framework we will be unable to attract the jobs we need. Increasing the basic personal exemption to $14,000 would take thousands off the tax rolls, while elevating and indexing our tax brackets equivalent to Saskatchewan would eliminate our greatest barrier to growth.

Make Manitoba Canada’s international province.

A greater priority and investment in tourism, economic development, and trade, along with continued support for projects like Centrallia, will help in creating more awareness about Manitoba and attract people, investment, and business. Manitoba Bold proposes to take the Yes Winnipeg initiative, a private-sector-led business growth initiative, to different regions across the province. We also recommend joining the New West Partnership and making it better through initiating collaboration across Western Canada on areas like energy and transportation.

This is really just a snapshot of the 70-plus recommendations we made through the campaign, all of which came to us as the result of asking a simple question: “What’s your bold idea for Manitoba?” I think it’s time to ask that question of our politicians. 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2011

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