By Dorothy Dobbie
In 1870, when Manitoba joined Confederation, it was with a sense of hope and possibility that drew people from all over the world. The sky was the limit – no project was too big, no effort beyond us. The future was bright and shining with hope. We were possibilitarians!
In 1873, when the City of Winnipeg was incorporated, we were still fifteen years away from the completion of the railway, yet construction was already ceaseless. We simply used the rivers to bring in materials until the Countess of Dufferin, the first train locomotive, reached the city in 1877. When the final link was closed in the rail line from eastern Canada in 1881, the floodgates opened to immigration. Growth accelerated to a feverish pitch.
Towns sprang up all over the prairie and grain poured from the rich, virgin soil. Mines opened, drawing the population north. The rail link to Hudson Bay gave us access to the oceans of the world. Visionaries saw nothing but a brilliant future for this mid-Canada province; the keystone province, they called it.
This optimism and can-do attitude made amazing things happen. Our people were strong, resilient and ingenious. We made the things we couldn’t easily import – from pianos to parts for foreign-made printing presses to paper to farm machinery. We invented things to make life better for every day living. We built factories that produced candy and cookies, clothing and furniture, airplanes and rockets, boats and bridges, cement and concrete – there was nothing we couldn’t do.
Then began the slow decline, when instead of focussing on the possibilities and how we could grow enterprise and develop wealth, a few envious types began to covet the possessions of their more industrious neighbours. They proclaimed their entitlements and taught our children that those around them owed them a living. Gradually, the culture of rights and entitlements became the mantra of the day, then the decades.
This attitude even coloured how “conservative” governments operated so that even when they were in power, little was done to truly stimulate the energy and optimism that built the city and the province. Even business people were affected, some stating that “government” should do more, as if government were a thing outside the people instead of borne of its citizens.
Being a possibilitarian
The excesses of the past are coming back to haunt us. We are in trouble. Debt is eating away at our prosperity. We can no longer afford to live off our neighbours through the agency of “government”.
Now it’s time for a re-charge. We need to focus on creating wealth and prosperity. We need to become possibilitarians once again.
Let’s start by learning to dream. What can we do to open up the world of possibility? Recently, Premier Pallister did that by vowing to court Amazon to make Manitoba its second North American headquarters! Wow! How can we help?
- Say yes when asked if we can do things.
- Stop seeing bureaucratically-created rules and regulations as being insurmountable roadblocks.
- Start seeing how we can remove roadblocks and open up opportunity. We made the rules. We can unmake them.
- Learn who Jeff Bezos of Amazon really is and what moves him – then play our cards with all our might, creatively, energetically and with good humour. (There are local people who know him — use them!)
Amazon is just one potential opportunity. We will be one among many jurisdictions trying to get them, but there are so many more prospects. All we have to do is dream them, then follow up with creative energy and vigour!
Here are 10 ideas to get you started thinking out of the box:
- Reach out, reach out, reach out to advise the world that Manitoba is once again open for business! Enlist our loyal Manitoba entrepreneurial players to make this effective. (Tourism Manitoba cannot do this, nor can other bureaucrats, consultants or accounting firms.)
- Embrace the Regional Centers concept of PMCR – the Capital/Metro Region — which wants to reduce red tape, eliminate conflicts between neighbouring municipalities and co-operate to make business bigger and better.
- Revisit and revise the rules inhibiting indigenous enterprise in rural Manitoba. Help them learn to exploit their own advantages.
- Open up immigrant investment opportunities to bring in both new wealth and new ideas.
- Remove the barricades at Portage and Main to symbolize our go-ahead attitude.
- Revisit the prospect of removing the rail lines from the city and using that land to build a bigger tax base to the benefit of all.
- Heat the main thoroughfares in Winnipeg, Brandon, Selkirk, Steinbach to reduce the cost of snow removal, the freeze thaw cycle and the damage done to the streets from plow and frost heave. Use this experience to create a world knowledge centre for how to create livable winter cities.
- Reclaim our sister-city relationship with Chengdu, China and explore new trade concepts in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
- Develop the International Peace Garden Conflict Resolution Centre to take advantage of this natural asset to complement the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and all the other local peace initiatives.
- Explore new power initiatives. Can we exploit the emerging electrical vehicle charging centre market in North America? Can we sell lithium to the world that wants to build power storage batteries? Create a business environment that makes it worthwhile for resource developers to invest in Manitoba.
Got you thinking? Send us your bold ideas and we will publish them.
Remember, we are Manitoba Possibilitarians!