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We Need To Talk About Manitoba’s Economy

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This week, Manitoba Forward hosted #YoungAmbitionMB with some of the most ambitious, bright young professionals in Manitoba. The response was phenomenal: we had an incredible turn-out because our best and brightest love Manitoba and want to make lay their roots in the community. But the hard reality is, it has become increasingly difficult to justify staying in Manitoba when superior economic opportunities exist virtually everywhere else in Canada.

There have been reports from Statistics Canada and other public policy groups about Manitoba’s economic performance, and none of it has been good. But that hasn’t stopped the NDP from putting a positive spin on the numbers and the media from reporting these distortions.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported today that we’re being hailed as a “rising star” in Canadian job creation. Nobody is “hailing us” as “the new rising star,” unless it’s in Greg Selinger’s last-stand command bunker on Broadway.

All Statistics Canada said was that we had the highest year-over-year growth rate for jobs in Canada, in a single window of comparison. But when you’re growing from a lower threshold, “more growth” only means you’re catching up to the others a little faster. And in an era of $50 barrels of oil and plummeting commodity prices, all that’s happening is commodity provinces are slowing down to our pace. This is not cause for celebration.

First, look at the regional results over the period McNeil mentions: from March 2013 to March 2014, Manitoba created 19,200 jobs. But over the same period, even with the oilpatch under siege and oil prices collapsing, Alberta created 43,500 jobs. So, how are we a “rising star” in that reality, exactly?

Further, the annual trend might have worked out for us for that one block of time. But McNeil didn’t mention the fact that the current trend isn’t in our favour. Last month, Saskatchewan’s increasingly diversified economy produced 7,000 new jobs in a month window where we created only 6,100. Saskatchewan produced hundreds more jobs, even though they have less than 90% of our population.

Finally, we can’t be a “regional rising star” in job creation if our jobs still suck compared to jobs elsewhere in the region.

They’re still bad.

The average Manitoba job still pays:

–          only 89% as much as a Saskatchewan job,

–          only 75% as much as an Alberta job, and

–          only 96% as much as a British Columbia job.


So please, everyone, let’s tell the truth about Manitoba’s economy, instead of making it seem like it’s bigger than it really is.

Things could be worse, it’s true. But things could also be much, much better.

Dave Shorr

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