MHCA acknowledges it is located on Treaty One land and the homeland of the Metis Nation

Making Winnipeg Metro a regional powerhouse

Panel sets out potential, problems to getting things done in Capital Region

An array of regional development specialists discussed a variety of views on how to turn Manitoba’s Capital Region into a powerhouse through common vision and collaboration this week at the Winnipeg Realtors’ 2020 Forecast Breakfast.

The panelists all agreed that the region needs all the 18 municipalities to work together on a common goal – economic growth by coordinating priorities and investment, but views varied on how to accomplish that.

Reno Augellone, senior associate with Avison Young, said maybe the region needed a central governance body, along the lines of the European Union, where elected officials set regional goals and plans. His use of the word ‘amalgamation’ hit a worrisome note for others.

Winnipeg Metropolitan Region Executive Director Colleen Sklar said too often amalgamation is pulled out as a fix, but it has not produced the desired result in other jurisdictions.

Good collaboration and planning break down barriers, Sklar said. There are nine planning districts all employing different permitting processes. You can’t have 18 communities competing for finite investment dollars for infrastructure, including water and waste facilities, she said.

MHCA President Chris Lorenc stressed creating another government structure must be looked upon as a last resort.

Collaboration through identification of the regional wins that are available through cooperating on setting priorities and pooling resources is the better way, Sklar noted.

Regional economic growth through sustainable and high-value return on investments will improve the futures for all municipalities, the panel heard.

Lorenc said the municipalities need to function efficiently, cooperate and grow as a region so investors see the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region as a place of opportunity. It must be recognized by all levels of government – with the province playing a critical role – that regional economic growth will produce the government revenues necessary for funding quality social services, such as health and education, and ultimately the quality of life we all desire.

One of the primary areas of strategic investment is a regional trade transportation network, through a transportation master plan.

Rick Marshall, design manager of BIRD Construction, said there seems to be a public perception the development community dislike regulation. In fact, developers see regulation as necessary.

The issue is the many barriers and obstructions in working within regulatory regimes, Marshall said. Often governments change regulations but don’t publicize amendments, which creates real problems for development.

Delays to permitting or service requests can be obstructions to completion of developments, he noted.

Another issue is high-speed internet service outside of Winnipeg. Headingley Deputy Mayor Jim Robson said just a couple of kilometres outside the city line, it can take all night for a homeowner to submit blueprints electronically for approval.

Government needs to step in to assist because the lack of population density doesn’t provide the business case for capital investment by telecom companies, he explained.