Looming Provincial Election Requires Voter Attention

by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce

Feeling “election-ed out”? It’s understandable. The 78-day campaign that preceded last month’s federal election was the longest in more than 140 years (in fact, longer than the 2008 and 2011 contests combined).

But before you shift out of election mode, there’s another pivotal campaign on the horizon that demands your attention.

The 41st Manitoba general election to determine the Premier of the province is scheduled to take place on April 19, 2016. That leaves 167 days to hear from candidates on their vision for our province. Looking ahead to the provincial election campaign, The Chamber wants emphasis to be placed on boosting Manitoba’s economy.
“We think the number one priority going into the next election is the economy,” said Dave Angus. “What tone is the next election going to have from all parties? Is it one that’s going to be supportive of business growth? The business focus is on growing industry sectors, innovation, and competitiveness. Are they prepared to put pieces in place to facilitate that and put a priority on job creation?”

On November 17 at our next membership luncheon, Angus sat down in conversation with Conservative provincial candidate Brian Pallister following his own keynote address.

Leading up to the meeting, while remarking on the subject of priorities during the upcoming provincial election, Pallister said, “Manitoba is committed to improving quality of life through furthering the economic, labour market and social inclusion of all Manitobans and growing an innovative economy that benefits all Manitobans by advancing the Province as a thriving place to live, learn, work and invest.”

Pallister added, “We are focused on creating a competitive business climate, based on innovation, developing a skilled labour pool, and red-tape reduction.”

In addition to focusing on the economy, Angus said there are a number of issues facing this provincial government related to mounting debt and the concern is that this will lead to tax increases.
The Chamber addressed the debt issue following the release of the provincial government’s April 2015 budget. At that time, The Chamber’s Executive Vice President Loren Remillard shared concerns that Premier Greg Selinger’s budget decisions pointed to a belief that balancing the books automatically comes at the expense of quality government programs and services.

“Program efficiency and effectiveness are not guaranteed because you spend more,” said Remillard, in an op-ed printed in the Winnipeg Free Press on May 1, 2015. “But on the other hand, innovation and the introduction of lean principles has shown you can produce better outcomes with the same or fewer dollars.”
Another important topic for the candidates is our aboriginal community.

“Aboriginal issues are both our biggest issue and our biggest opportunity all at the same time,” said Angus. “It’s the responsibility of all of us, including the aboriginal community, to define a positive future with an emphasis on education, economic opportunity, and dealing with poverty.”

The Winnipeg Chamber has been active in raising aboriginal issues in our province, writing about Shoal Lake 40 First Nation in the Winnipeg Free Press and co-hosting a sold-out event with the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce to discuss urban reserves.
“From the business perspective, in many ways our future will be defined by our ability to be able to engage aboriginal people and youth in the economy.”

When asked, provincial candidate Brian Pallister offered his party’s commitment to addressing aboriginal issues, specifically recognizing urban reserves as an important economic development opportunity for First Nations.

“We are supportive of the development of urban reserves,” said Pallister. “In particular with Kapyong Barracks, given the opportunity it represents in the province’s capital, we look forward to all parties finding resolution as soon as possible.”

Manitoba stepped up in last month’s federal election—voter turnout was up in every one of our province’s ridings. Results indicate that 68.81% of eligible Manitobans voted last month, slightly above the national average and the highest voter turnout in our province since 1993.

The Chamber is calling on Manitobans to continue that upward trend.

Between now and Election Day, there are a number of opportunities to hear directly from those who want your vote. We have invited both the leader of the opposition and current premier to speak directly to you—Chamber members—and the broader business community at upcoming events.

In less than month later, Premier Greg Selinger will deliver the annual State of the Province Address on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

“Our role as a chamber is to give political leaders a platform in order to articulate where they want to take the province,” said Angus. “Particularly a platform in front of the business community, so they can create a sense of confidence within the business community that we’re headed to a good place… We think these upcoming opportunities make for the perfect timing for them to send a strong message to business that they are committed to a competitive environment here in Winnipeg. One in which businesses can grow and thrive.”

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