The Manitoba government has a new way of allocating money to mining communities and projects.
The government announced Oct. 16 they would be ending the Mining Community Reserve Fund (MCRF) and replacing it with a new fund called the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund (MMDF). Creation of the fund was promised by the Progressive Conservative (PC) party during this year’s provincial election campaign.
The Manitoba government said in a news release they are starting the fund off with $20 million, with options to add up to six per cent of provincial revenue into the fund.
The bigger change comes in how the money will be allocated, with the provincial government giving full responsibility to the the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC).
“We’re pleased the MCC has agreed to take on this important role in supporting and attracting new investment to Manitoba and the north,” said Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen in the news release.
“[The] MCC has a strong and established network that is well-positioned to work collaboratively and respond to the needs of local communities and industry.”
Under the new fund, the MCC will decide what projects to fund and report annually to the government. One-time grants will be available to groups to advance new mining opportunities.
“We recognize the challenge and the opportunity that exists when it comes to northern economic development and we are confident this fund can play a role in supporting new and exciting initiatives,” said Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the MCC.
Earlier this year, a Freedom of Information request filed by the opposition NDP showed the MCRF had over $10 million in it this summer, but no funds were distributed.
Tom Lindsey, Flin Flon’s MLA and labour critic said he didn’t want the MCC in charge of distributing funds.
“I have nothing against the MCC, but it's really the government abdicating their role to govern again,” he said.
“They've farmed this out somebody else like they find out so many other decisions.”
Lindsey also took issue with the way the fund was announced. Instead of being characterized as a change in structure, the MMDF was announced as an entirely new fund. The NDP planned to create a separate fund and keep the MCRF.
“If they would have just created this twenty million dollar economic development fund, on top of the existing community reserve fund, they would have done a good thing,” he said.
“To just shuffle the deck chairs around hasn't really solved anything and there's more questions than answers right now that the fund faces... There's all kinds of questions about this new concept that we don't have answers.”
The change in structure is part of Manitoba’s Look North strategy, which emphasized mining as a long term strategy for the region’s economic health.
The Remindercontacted the provincial ministry of growth, enterprise and trade for more details on the fund but did not respond by press time.