Keeping Immigrants in Manitoba

Manitoba are to take 2,000 of the 25,000 Syrian refugees that the federal government plans to bring to Canada. Where they will live? Will there be jobs for them? Will they stay?

Manitoba’s economy rely on immigration. With the ongoing annual outflow of the young, professionals and well-heeled retirees to other provinces, without a constant annual flow of thousands of immigrants to Manitoba our population would plateau and could decline. No population growth would result in a declining economy and less federal transfers.

So, keeping the immigrants here long-term is critically important. So far, the Selinger government provides nothing in the way of solid information on how recent immigrants make out, let alone how many end up moving to other provinces. The paucity of information leaves taxpayers and general society to guess, resulting in uncertainty.

Last year, more Manitobans moved to other provinces than in any other year since 2007. The equivalent of more than the combined populations of Brandon (46,000) and Steinbach (13,500) moved to other provinces over the last decade. Manitoba’s interprovincial out-migration record since 1999 is terrible, only Quebec has a poorer record.

An inflow of over 100,000 immigrants since 1999, recently in excess of 10,000 a year, has, along with the high birth rate of our indigenous population, kept Manitoba’s population growing. Take away either growth factor: house prices fall, the economy stagnates, government’s deficits rise.

Tens of thousands of new tradespersons and professionals need to be trained and retained in the next decade if our economy is to prosper. Manitoba competes with better paying provinces that levy lower taxes while often offering warmer weather and more opportunities. Alberta’s current problems cannot be counted to continue.

Millions of people living in countries suffering with worse conditions than any Canadian has ever had to bear want to come to Canada. Yet, Manitoba is unable to attract more immigrants than we have been receiving, given federal caps, no new large industries and the attractions of other provinces. That said, we can ‘get our share’, helped by families and communities already here from earlier immigration. But, will we hold them? .

Despite government, charities and private immigration consultancies providing useful services to Immigrants, keeping them here will prove more daunting a task than attracting them. In the end, Manitoba needs to be more competitive with the other provinces. Once here and having learned the opportunities open to them across our country, they can join the out-migration.

To be competitive, new and expanding private businesses are needed. Government-supported jobs backed by deficit spending cannot meet the demand long-term. To increase the supply of private sector jobs, Manitoba’s overall tax burden should be lessened and deficits ended. If we are unable to become competitive, eventually a significant proportion of our new immigrants will join the out-migration, we will be poorer for it.

For now, we need much more information on how immigrants make out. We need to know how many of investor immigrants stay here and what their investments have yielded in jobs. World conditions means we can count on immigrants coming, but can we keep them? Manitoba’s future may rest on that question.

Other People’s Money

Premier Selinger loves to play Santa Claus. Using other people’s money, his gifts flow from political, economic and clever accounting game playing. The main objective: keep power.

When major infrastructure programs are announced, Selinger relies on current and future taxes, mass borrowing (with interest) and federal transfers. When convenient, his government uses the bills of the Province’s utility ratepayers (Manitoba Hydro, Centra Gas, Manitoba Public Insurance) to pay for projects and services better met out of tax revenues. Why? The NDP has used up all the room available for tax hikes and still delivers annual deficits.

Selinger taps revenues generated by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to fund his government’s objectives. He also buries debts for major projects of uncertain and questionable value in Crown corporations and universities. His actions are lauded by government and monopoly Crown corporations’ advertising, which flood the airwaves, print media and billboards, promoting the NDP.

With such a track record, it comes as no surprise that Manitoba Hydro’s gas distribution subsidiary, Centra Gas, purchased the operations of Swan Valley Gas Corporation (SVGC) in 2014. In merging the operations into Centra’s overall business, there were three winners out of the transaction and one loser. The winners were the former customers of SVGC, the seller (SaskEnergy, a Saskatchewan Crown corporation), and, of course, Manitoba’s NDP. The unequivocal loser is Centra’s ratepayers.

Swan River gas customers gained by being absorbed into Centra’s overall operation. Rates plunged by almost 30% for residences and up to 20% for commercial operations. And, about $170,000 held by SVGC towards meeting future natural gas bills were rebated to its former customers. SaskEnergy gained by dumping a long uneconomical Manitoba operation while retaining the profitable Saskatchewan pipeline supplying Centra’s new service area. The NDP wins as well. The MLA for Swan River, Ron Kostyshyn, can trumpet the lowering of area natural gas bills in the upcoming election campaign.

The Public Utilities Board approved the transaction, rolling over without an oral hearing. The paper-based review provided less than a deserved thorough and fully transparent process. PUB slashed bills, rebated $170,000 to SVGC’s former customers, and bailed out SaskEnergy. All by passing on the future losses for servicing the area to Centra’s overall customer base.

To arrive at its highly questionable decision, PUB allowed Hydro-Centra to employ an economic test for the proposed transaction that was different than the one normally used for gas expansion proposals. If the normal test had been made, either the transaction would not have been approved, SaskEnergy would have agreed to take a loss, or the NDP government would have had to cover the projected future losses of Centra’s operating in the new service area.

And, if the test that was used to approve the transaction was applied to proposals to further expand gas distribution in Manitoba, other areas of Manitoba could have gas. While the initial plan when Centra was bought by Hydro was to expand the gas network, now, doing so would, be contrary to Hydro’s plans, reducing future electricity load growth and lowering the need for its costly expansion.

In short, the NDP-directed Hydro has used other people’s money Centra’s customers, to benefit a small number of natural gas users in a constituency represented by a NDP MLA.