2018 will never go down in history as one of the best years in Thompson, but now that we have reached the last editorial of the year (there will be no papers Dec. 26, Dec. 28 or Jan. 2), we can safely say that it ended up not being quite as bad as many had feared it would be when it began 51 weeks or so ago, or even further back, when it was confirmed that this would really be the year when Vale Manitoba Operations shut down its smelter and refinery forever.
The year began about as terribly as it could, with the Interior Inn burning down Jan. 1 and the public finding out at the next day’s council meeting that Vale would be reducing the amount of money it pays in lieu of property taxes by 20 per cent in 2018 and by 50 per cent from 2017 levels for the ensuing three years. Efforts to obtain money from the province’s Mining Community Reserve Fund to offset this revenue loss have so far proved fruitless and there have been other business closures in Thompson over the course of the year. For people who don’t have cars, not having transit service for more than six weeks now has been a blow, especially since there is no indication yet when or if that service will return or how much it will cost if it does.
On the bright side, job losses as a result of Vale’s transition to a mining and milling operation only have not been as bad as had been expected, with the company recently rescinding the last 24 layoffs that had been scheduled to take place at the end of this month. And although Greyhound stopped running buses from Thompson to Winnipeg on Halloween, along with all their other Western Canadian routes, numerous replacements have sprung up so that, at least for now, people have a choice of a couple of different companies running night buses and another one in the day
Thompson’s new mayor, Colleen Smook, who was elected over former council colleagues Ron Matechuk and Penny Byer in the Oct. 24 municipal election, has been talking lately about changing the narrative around Thompson from one of doom and gloom and economic disaster to one that emphasizes the positives we have, like the fact that, though we are only a community of 13,000 people, there are about 40,000 more in the surrounding region who come here to shop and play hockey, watch movies, etc. She’s right because, although there have been more than enough challenges lately, it doesn’t seem likely that Thompson is going to wither away and die since mining isn’t the only industry or employer in town. Local people and organizations are rising to the challenge. It might be a bit much to suggest that 2019 will be one of Thompson’s greatest years ever, but if this year is any guide, there’s a pretty good chance it could be a better one than people might be tempted to predict.
Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!