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MLA Report - Aug. 31, 2021

PCs ignoring northern business needs
danielle adams column headshot

Throughout the pandemic, Manitoba small businesses have been hit hard. Between a massive loss in revenue from closures and the added expenses of COVID safety measures, many small business owners have been forced to close their doors for good.

The Progressive Conservative government’s response to this crisis was wholly inadequate. Their Bridge Grant Program was overcomplicated, insufficient, and left far too many business owners out in the cold. Recent program changes are still far too little and leave out far too many. It is extremely unfair to punish business owners who have been doing what they must to stay strong during this pandemic. 

My NDP colleagues and I have received many calls from Manitobans working in industries that were not supported by the PC government, who have been struggling to make ends meet. Small businesses are the backbone of our provincial economy and the key to our recovery – our NDP team is committed to calling on this government to do more.

In Thompson and the rest of Northern Manitoba, the losses suffered during the pandemic have been compounded by years of inaction by the PCs on northern economic development. The Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF) was established to provide loans and guarantees to northern economic enterprises. Instead of using this fund to grow businesses in northern communities, the PC government froze provincial CEDF funding for business loans.

In 2017, the PC government placed the CEDF’s Business Loans program under review and refused to approve any new business loans. That same year, Northern Manitoba’s main urban centres of Thompson, The Pas, Flin Flon and Churchill saw significant economic challenges. These challenges have only been exacerbated by a lack of access to business supports, both before and during the pandemic. 

In 2019, after two years of frozen funding, the PC government announced another months-long review of CEDF’s loan program. Today, the reviews are done, but the funding freeze continues. Freezing the CEDF program has been terrible for business in Thompson and the surrounding region. Many businesses were forced to lay people off, couldn’t open, or couldn’t expand as planned because of the freeze. 

This is all part of the trend of this PC government ignoring Manitoba’s northern communities and businesses since taking office. When hundreds of mining jobs were eliminated in Thompson and Flin Flon the Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade dismissed it as “business as usual.” When the Churchill rail line was washed out for more than a year, the PCs did nothing to help local businesses and families. Overall, the PC government has repeatedly failed to invest in the future of Northern Manitoba.

Northern communities have faced disproportionate economic impacts during the pandemic. But instead of providing help when it’s most needed, the PCs are focused on their own internal conflict and leadership race. The PC government needs to step up now to compensate for their neglect of the North for the past five years. 

Please contact my office anytime at Danielle.adams@yourmanitoba.ca or 204-677-2744.