Archive for May, 2008

Bills damaging to all Manitobans

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

The corridors of the Manitoba legislature are getting mighty crowded these days. Normally the hallways contain one or two MLAs or civil servants moving from office to office. Not these days as dozens of Manitobans are lining up to be heard, mostly in opposition to a wide range of government bills.
A host of bills have passed second reading in the legislature and now they are at the committee stage. That means MLAs from all parties listen to presentations from the public and from organizations as to the merits and shortcomings of the various bills.
Bill 37 amends the Elections Finance Act. As The Banner goes to print about two dozen of the over 100 presenters have appeared at committee. The predominate stumbling point of Bill 37 is that it takes $500,000 of taxpayers money and doles it out to the political parties at the rate of $1.25 per vote. The NDP have fallen far behind the PCManitoba party in fund raising from their donors in the past year or so and this bill serves to bolster the NDP coffers in proportion to their votes in the last election so they will get well over half the tax dollars in this scheme. And worse yet, it will happen every year, at least until the next election if Bill 37 passes. Bill 37 also sets up a situation where MLAs won’t be able to send out advertising and letters to their constituents until it has been “approved” by the government dominated editing committee.. Yes, you read that correctly, your next information piece from your MLA will have to be approved by the government if Bill 37 passes. One would think that Manitoba was in to Russia of the 1950s.
Bill 17, the hog moratorium bill, has yet to come to committee. It may be heard on Monday. If and when it comes to committee, there will be over 300 people awaiting to speak. At the time of this writing, over 300 people have signed up, mostly in opposition to a bill that basically forbids building hog barns just about anywhere in Manitoba east of Portage La Prairie.
That’s scary enough for Manitoba’s agriculture industry and the economy, but even worse Dauphin MLA and minister of Conservation Stan Struthers has said in the legislature that the government plans to move “sector by sector, case by case” on restricting agricultural development.
The fear among farmers is who is next?. The government already has the power to shut down any sector of agriculture in spite of the strong rules in place with planning boards and the Clean Environment Commission rules. All that and common sense, has been over ridden in this bill and agriculture is in real trouble in Manitoba. Even crop growers and forage growers are being threatened as more and more rules are being imposed.
Bill 38 is the one the NDP government really wants to get through. According the Wednesday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, the NDP offered to delay Bill 37 and Bill 17 in order to get Bill 38 through. The reason Bill 38 is their priority is that it means the NDP don’t have to balance the budget in the future. Bill 38 means they will be able to take all the profits from Crown Corporations, plunk them into the operating budget and carry on spending like drunken sailors. (my apologies to the sailors). No longer will Finance Minister Sellinger have to pretend he’s balanced the budget and that the net debt is way below the actual debt, he’ll just be able to say it’s all good as long as Hydro, MLCC, the Lotteries Commission and Autopac keep pouring dollars into the government’s books.
The reason the NDP want Bill 38 passed is that under current legislation, if the books don’t balance, the cabinet ministers are fined $20,000. By the end of this fiscal year, at the current rate of income and expense and without Bill 38 the cabinet ministers could be facing big fines. No wonder the cabinet ministers have a pained expression their faces.

13 Things Manitobans should be ashamed of…

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

1. Manitoba depends on the federal government for nearly 40 per cent of its finances.

2. Manitoba’s number of civil servants per capita is well above the Canadian average.

3. Decades of a cheap hydro policy hasn’t brought in the business boon that was expected. No wonder, the tax structure kills off any natural incentives Manitoba has

4. Manitoba has a payroll tax, yes, a payroll tax. No wonder expanding companies avoid us like the plague when payroll from $1.25 to $2.5 million is taxed at over 4 per cent.

5. Some of our rich, major business players located in Manitoba don’t actually depend much on Manitoba’s economy. Aspers’ TV and newspaper empire for example doesn’t need Manitoba. The Richardsons’ don’t depend much on Manitoba for their grain business. That lessens their interest in Manitoba falling so far short of potential.

6. The above mentioned business leaders and many of their wealthy friends think Premier Doer isn’t a bad guy, after all he tosses government money at the same projects that they donate to so he must be OK.

7. Most of Manitoba’s capital expansion is publicly funded such as the Floodway, the Manitoba Hydro building and a few health care facilities and some minor school expansions.

8. Manitoba’s farmers, especially hog farmers are an endangered species largely due to anti-farmer government policies. Shamefully, this is true in an era when world food stocks are shrinking and countries like China are clamouring for Manitoba pork and other food products.

9. That the two biggest proposed projects for Manitoba are heavily dependent on public money, namely the Winnipeg stadium and the Museum of Human Rights.

10. While rich Winnipeggers are drooling over the prospect of the above two projects and how good it will make them feel, many Manitoba communities, especially First Nations communities don’t have clean drinking water, safe and adequate housing nor adequate schools.

11. Manitoba is still a hotbed for car thefts and Winnipeg a national leader in murders.

12. In spite of increased numbers of police we still have a major drug problem in Manitoba

13. That the best we can up with for a premier is Gary Doer. While it’s not considered polite to get personal in politics, it needs to be said that this man’s policies and politics are as shallow as soup on a saucer. Whenever he’s cornered into something resembling a debate, he resorts to shouting and questionable statements. To keep the unions, along with the balance of his core vote happy, and to appease the business elite, he simply tosses out more money. With such a shallow approach, it’s no wonder Manitoba has fallen so far short of its potential. With the lack of leadership and vision that this man demonstrates, Manitoba will never reach it’s potential.

Manitoba – Canada’s Gateway to Global Trade

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Manitoba – Canada’s Gateway to Global Trade
By Chris Lorenc, B.A., LL.B.,
President, Manitoba Heavy Construction Association

Editor’ note: Following are excerpts from a speech by Mr. Lorenc given on May 4, 2008 to the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce AGM.

May I extend a sincere congratulations to your Chair, President and all of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, for having raised as an objective the notion of Manitoba reaching a “have province” status. It is a pleasure on behalf of the Mayor’s Trade Council (MTC) which I had the privilege of Chairing to present a quick synopsis of its report. Members of the Council included respected individuals you all know: Dave Angus, President, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce; Jim Carr, President & CEO, Business Council of Manitoba; Stuart Duncan, President, Destination Winnipeg; Jim Eldridge, Former Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Relations and Cabinet Secretary; Kerry Hawkins, Retired CEO, Cargill Limited; Eugene Kostyra, Former, Chair Economic Development Committee of Cabinet, Province of Manitoba; Maureen Prendeville, President, Prendeville Industries; and Greg Dandewich, Economic Development Officer, Destination Winnipeg.
The MTC was unanimous in its recommendations. It concluded that changing dynamics of global trade, spurred by explosive growth in the Asia Pacific Rim countries, present a unique opportunity for Winnipeg to become “Canada’s Centre for Global Trade,” given its transportation infrastructure assets, growing trade and geographic location.
These changing trade dynamics are causing geographic realignment and reprioritization of trade routes to respond to economic growth. Within these changing dynamics, western Canada and Winnipeg Manitoba, at its eastern terminus, can capture new economic activities associated with trade and resulting value added activity.
Let me extend that report’s conclusions, by stating that.. Trade and Transportation as economic enablers, and the re-positioning of Winnipeg, the Capital Region and the Province of Manitoba collectively as “Canada’s Global Gateway to Trade” an aspiration which supports the Manitoba Chambers “province” objective.
If we play our cards right, the answer includes: economic growth, free trade zones, inland ports, new value added activity, jobs, careers, and establishing Winnipeg, the capital region and Manitoba as “Canada’s Gateway to Global Trade.”
It is important to reflect upon the fact that the economies of Winnipeg and Manitoba are driven by trade activity. As a result we have developed some inherent advantages quite apart from our central location in Canada and North America:
China trade very important
A great deal of discussion related to trade, focuses on the Asia Pacific Rim countries but in particular, China.
Why China? The rapid economic growth of China is reshaping global trade flows, and the opportunities and challenges facing all trading nations, including Canada. Consider some of the following facts:
- There is no exaggerating China’s hunger for commodities. China accounts for about 1/5th of the world’s population, yet it gobbles up more than half of the world’s pork, half of its cement, a third of its steel and over a quarter of its aluminum.
- It is spending 35 times as much on imports of soybeans and crude oil as it did in 1999, and 23 times as much importing copper – indeed, China has swallowed over 80% of the increase in the world’s copper supply since 2000.
- Chinese demand for raw materials of all sorts is growing so fast and creating such a bonanza for farmers, miners and oilmen that phrases such as “bull market” or “cyclical expansion” do not seem to do it justice. Instead, bankers have coined a new word: – Supercycle.’
- What is more, China is getting ever hungrier. Although consumption of gasoline is falling in America, the oil price is setting new records, because demand from China and other developing economies is still on the rise. The International Energy Agency expects China’s imports of oil to triple by 2030.
- China’s population growth increases by 35 million annually – that’s Canada’s entire population. The demand for resources, commodities, foods, energy – to name but a few, will not diminish, it can only grow.
- Between 1995 and 2005, Canada’s exports to China more than doubled from $3.5 billion to $7.1 billion. During the same period, Canada’s imports from China grew by almost 550%, from $4.6 billion to $29.5 billion.
- Statistics Canada announced in early April 2008 that China accounted for 1/5th of Canada’s growth in exports in 2007 and is now Canada’s 3rd largest trading partner surpassing Japan and trailing the U.K. in 2nd, and United States in 1st place.
- China’s dramatic growth is expected to continue. Experts predict that China will become the largest economy by GDP surpassing the United States within the next 30 years followed then by the US and India economies.
We cannot ignore these global realities. Canada is geographically positioned to prosper as the international trade crossroads.
China’s container traffic to and from the West Coast of North America is projected to triple in the next 20 years – that trade has to be facilitated in ports. We must act as a nation.
It is in the above context that the Manitoba International Gateway Strategy (MIGS) and the Mayor’s Trade Council (MTC) Report are significant to Manitoba’s future economic growth opportunities.
Manitoba International Gateway Strategy (MIGS)
The Manitoba International Gateway Strategy (MIGS) was conceived in order to develop a strategy to maximize the various gateway initiatives within a coordinated fashion. The component parts of MIGS have been identified with specific goals set out.
- The MIGS Vision is a sustainable transportation and distribution gateway of choice for North American mid-continent global commerce and international travel
- The Inland Port/Container Port goal is to ensure that Winnipeg’s transportation and logistics capabilities evolve into a world class multimodal inland port of choice for secure and efficient global trade and travel
- The Global Air Traffic Development goal is enhanced international air traffic volumes and related value-added activity through Winnipeg, building on our advantageous location in relation to emerging polar air and other routes, and the key asset of the WJAR Airport
- The Mid-Continent Trade and Transportation Corridor goal is to promote economic growth by facilitating efficient trade with the U.S. and Mexico through improved transportation, distribution, and border processing systems
- The Churchill Gateway Development goal is to enhance and diversify international trade through unique northern rail and seaport assets.
Western Canada’s and Manitoba’s economic prosperity and security are linked to sustained investment in a seamless multi-modal transportation system in western Canada tied to global trade growth, positioning our province to be the eastern hub of the Western Canada Transportation System, the northern hub of the mid-continent trade corridor, and primary port of entry for the Polar Route linking us through Churchill to Russia and Eurasia. This vision is not the product of wishful thinking, but on what would, not could, happen if the public and private sector leaders in our community, with our emerging entrepreneurs and future leaders all collectively worked towards establishing Manitoba as Canada’s Gateway to Global Trade.’ This is very much about what we can and must do; it is about standing up and together expressing what we as residents in Manitoba believe is required not just for our provincial interests, but as well for Canada’s. This vision is about provincial, regional and national economic growth. It is about expanding our economic exchange with a broader international community. This vision is about nation building.
Imagine Manitoba with a robust economy, promoting and legitimately repositioning itself as the gateway to global trade.
Imagine Manitoba being seen by others across Canada as the province in which to relocate, where career opportunities are real and satisfying, where development of commerce respects the principles of sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Imagine unprecedented collaboration and sharing of vision and purpose by political leaders regardless of individual ideology, from all three levels of government working together with the private sector and community to accomplish the same objectives.
Imagine our High School, College and University students enthused to apply what they have learned into practice, eager to discuss with excitement, staying in Winnipeg, the capital region and Manitoba instead of moving elsewhere in search of opportunity.
Imagine companies wishing to expand in and locate to our Capital Region and Province because of access to educated new work force entrants in a dynamic and growing economy.
The opportunities presented through enhanced trade and economic growth is well documented. Whether we seize the moment and become the gateway to global trade is in our collective hands.
Respectfully, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce must be seen as one of its primary champions.
Will our legacy be Manitoba – Canada’s Gateway to Global Trade?’ It’s up to all of us!

Forbidding school closures a facade

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Forbidding school closures a facade
By Ken Waddell
Manitoba’s Education Minister Peter Bjornson blew off a few fireworks this past week by announcing schools wouldn’t be allowed to close.
Like a lot of fireworks and government press releases, there’s bit of flame, a lot of noise and some lingering smoke.
Nice effects but not very long lasting.
A closer look at the minister’s pronouncement shows that schools will still close if parents and the community decide that’s what’s best, if there’s consolidation of schools and if there’s no community based activity that can be added into the facility. Community based meaning a day care or a seniors program.
No politician wants to get caught closing schools, or hospitals for that matter, but with a shrinking population, it sometimes is inevitable.
Bjornson knows that but he’s drawn his little line in the sand, had his little temper tantrum against the big mean school boards and delayed some closures for a while. When the schools close, Bjornson will be able to shrug and say “I tried.” Actually Bjornson and his crew are very trying.
Another silly thing he said was no student should be on a bus for more than an hour. Taken literally that might mean he would open a high school in Langruth or Amaranth or Eddystone, but I’m sure that’s not what he meant. Many children are on a bus for more than an hour, it’s a fact of life in rural Manitoba.
If Bjornson wants to save some money then he should have city students on a bus for a little longer. Instead of expanding some schools or even building a new one maybe some city students could (horror of horrors) take a bus to school.
At first blush it looked like Bjornson was coming to the rescue of a few rural schools. Apparently he has much longer list of school closures in Winnipeg staring him in the face. Given that funding is short for schools and given that nobody wants to pay more taxes, some school divisions are faced with school closures. Many schools in Winnipeg (and some of them were pretty nice buildings too) have already closed.
Don’t expect any of the schools scheduled to close to actually survive. But then it’s not about having schools survive, it’s about having Bjornson survive. If schools close in rural Manitoba, the NDP don’t need to care. They aren’t likely to ever win those seats anyway. But if they close more schools in Winnipeg, if they show they actually aren’t managing the government very well, it could sway some voters and some seats in Winnipeg.
The plain truth is that as long as the NDP have five northern seats and nearly 30 Winnipeg seats, they will always be in government. That’s where the basis of this school announcement lies. It’s all about maintaining a facade of credibility. There’s not much behind the facade, but if you keep people from looking long enough, you may get through a few elections unscathed.
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