Q and A with Susan Thompson

We caught up with Susan Thompson, former Mayor of Winnipeg and a founding partner of the Partnership of the Manitoba Capital Region (now the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region). Back in 1998, Thompson recognized the power of collaboration and the importance of creating effective partnerships.

We asked her about her vision and her views and how they’ve evolved over time and what she is currently up to. Here’s what she had to say:

Colleen Sklar: In 1998 when you and a small group of Mayors and Reeves came together and created The Mayors and Reeves of the Capital Region now the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region, you recognized the need for collaboration, is it still important today and does it make us more competitive when we collaborate?

Susan Thompson: From the time that I first became Mayor of Winnipeg, in 1992, I understood the importance of collaboration…especially with our Capital Region. In the big picture of things, Winnipeg and Manitoba are pretty small fish with lots of competition…lots. So whatever I could do to help to contribute to us being a co-ordinated, productive, competitive entity was very important to me. Historically there had been an unproductive relationship for a whole bunch of parochial and political reasons. Some factions just wanted to keep us divided. I saw no purpose in that position. From my perspective, there is no Winnipeg without Manitoba and there is no Manitoba without Winnipeg…so…Let’s make it work!

A functional, progressive, visionary Capital Region is VERY important to the future of our Province, 68% of our province’s population lives in the Capital Region and 70% of the GDP is generated here…need I say more?

The Capital Region has huge opportunities in the Pulses industries, the electric vehicles industries, Hydro, fresh potable water, the space industries, northern defence and shipping industries, and eco-tourism…in my opinion…to name a few. The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region needs to be an entity of leadership, efficiency and productivity if we are to be competitive in the future.

CS: Do you have some specific examples of where collaboration led to success during the early days of the Mayors and Reeves of the Capital Region?

ST: During my two terms, I feel the relationship improved. It was a terrible relationship when I entered public office in 1992. At times it was, in fact, downright hostile and rude. I had no history or background with the municipalities and, as in all relationships, everybody contributed to the “troubles”. It took time and perseverance to build new relationships, trust and respect. The reality was that I really thought that the municipalities were quite amazing.

We accomplished much with our joint efforts, be it for: the International Winter Cities Conference; the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor; the World Junior Hockey Championship; the 1999 Pan American Games and of course the epic initiative, help and co-operation/co-ordination between the municipalities during the 1997 Flood of the Century.

The Mayors and Reeves of the Capital Region taught me so much. Their knowledge, experience, dedication and hard work are huge assets for our province. “One with the Strength of Many” is a good framework in which to build this relationship.

CS: Can you tell us a bit about what you are up to now that you are back in Winnipeg?

A. Currently, I am enjoying being in private life…writing a second book; helping raise money for the world-class Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery; doing speaking engagements on leadership; mentoring and coaching people. The Inuit Art Centre will be an architectural landmark with over 40,000 square feet dedicated to Indigenous art and culture connected to the WAG on all levels. It will contain the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art with over 13,000 carvings, prints, drawings, textiles, ceramics, film, and new media work displayed together for the first time. It will be a world-class attraction and will serve Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada very well.