Economic development and tourism highlight the official opposition’s strategy to advance northern Manitoba, Progressive Conservative Brian Pallister announced this week.
If elected premier in 2016, he pledged to launch Yes North, a plan he and the Progressive Conservatives developed following a two-year consultation process.
“We have been engaging people in their communities, speaking with industry and entrepreneurs, mayors and chiefs, and listening to hundreds of people who live, work and play in Manitoba’s North,” Pallister, who announced the plan in Churchill on Tuesday, Oct. 13, said in a news release. “We’ve heard of severe social and economic disparity, as well as incredible, unrealized potential for economic and community growth. Yes North will play a vital role in realizing that potential.”
Pallister indicated that a Progressive Conservative government would form partnerships designed to boost investment in tourism and aggressively market opportunities in northern communities.
“Manitoba is very much behind other provincial governments in tourism investment,” he said. “We believe strategic investment is the key to seize opportunities, and the way to explore that is by working with and listening to stakeholders.”
According to the Progressive Conservatives, Yes North would adopt a model similar to that of Economic Development Winnipeg to attract new companies, aid entrepreneurs and facilitate expansion of existing businesses to provide quality jobs and a stronger economy in the North.
Northern Manitoba currently has a 32 per cent unemployment rate, among the highest in the country, the party said.
The NDP government wasted no time slamming the opposition’s plan.
“I find it absolutely amazing that Brian Pallister can create a document that even talks about ‘Yes North,’” Steve Ashton, minister of infrastructure and transportation and MLA for Thompson, said in a statement.
“When it comes to the North, people know that the Conservatives are only talking about ‘no.’ It’s no to Hydro development, they’d shut it down. It’s no to the East Side Road Authority. They said they’d shut it down.
“They even said no to UCN. …I mean, clearly, when it comes to Brian Pallister and the Conservatives, it’s not Yes North, it’s No North.”
A provincial election is scheduled for April 19, 2016, with the latest poll suggesting the Progressive Conservatives hold a 20-point lead over the governing NDP, according to the Winnipeg Sun.