If we are going to align economic development efforts and grow Manitoba’s economy, we need to adopt a regional approach — one that includes bold leadership, the co-ordinated delivery of services, strategic land-use planning, and a revamp of permitting and other processes to drive investment in Manitoba.
This collaboration and streamlining of processes can reduce red tape and duplication, speed up the development process and provide investors with a climate that demonstrates we are open for business.
With the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (WMR) recently tasked as a strategic partner in the province’s Economic Growth Action Plan, and as a participant in the Planning, Permitting and Zoning in Manitoba Review, creating a platform to solidify regional partnerships is strategically significant and the first step to advance a Team Manitoba approach to regional economic development.
Getting this right is important.
With the WMR driving 70 per cent of the GDP for Manitoba and serving as home to 64 per cent of the population, having a long-term vision and regional plan for where we want to go is the only way to realize our province’s full economic potential.
We can learn from other Canadian jurisdictions — Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Edmonton and most recently, Vancouver — that have all engaged in economic development activities at the regional level. Within each region, a unique model has been tailored to its respective strengths, key economic sectors and unique advantages.
In the WMR, there is still work to be done in defining our path forward, but some important steps have already been taken and transparently detailed in our report, “Securing our Future: An Action Plan for Winnipeg’s Metropolitan Region.”
This regional framework can increase efficiencies, reduce costs for municipalities and spur economic growth by sending signals to our partners in the private sector that we are organized, know what direction we are headed and know their desire to invest is understood and encouraged.
A strong example of this is the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, where planning together will generate approximately $5 billion in infrastructure efficiencies and will keep 250 quartersections of agricultural land in production over the next 30 years.
Along with regional planning, the region’s new investor-focused economic development corporation — Edmonton Global — is projected to significantly increase foreign direct investment in the Edmonton Metro Region.
Here at the WMR, local leaders, through JohnQ Public — a jointly held municipal participation corporation — are seeing the positive outcomes of working regionally as they take the first steps in shared procurement and strategic infrastructure delivery.
JohnQ Public brings a whole new set of tools to the table, and is highlighting what is possible when governments, business and industry join forces.
One of the first big projects undertaken by JohnQ Public and its partners has been the development of a detailed plan to bring cost-effective, high-speed internet infrastructure to the Metro Region, ramping up access, speeds and our competitive advantage. The world economy is increasingly driven by city-regions. Regional collaboration between Winnipeg and its growing border communities isn’t a unique situation; other regions have found ways to plan and work together effectively and we must, too.
Having a Winnipeg Metro regional plan will allow us to build on our competitive advantages: our high-quality agricultural lands, abundant clean water resources, access to low-cost renewable energy, fluid transportation networks and high quality of life for residents of Manitoba. These qualities have strategically defined us for generations as a centre of commerce, trade and settlement.
Getting on with the job of regional planning and economic development is an idea whose time has come, and we at the WMR look forward to helping provide leadership as we move things forward in Manitoba.