Manitoba holds a unique position in our federal system. Our central geographic location has historically made us a gateway for travel and trade between eastern and western provinces. Our diverse population, including a large French-speaking population and one of the largest per capita Aboriginal populations, has given us a special role in recent years as a broker between the provinces and a leader in shaping progressive national policies on health care and Aboriginal issues.
Manitoba will continue to play an important role in strengthening the Canadian federation and in facilitating national approaches to key issues like clean energy initiatives, economic development, health and social policy, Aboriginal policy, and education and skills training. In recent years, Manitoba has established itself as a leader in addressing climate change and was recently ranked number one amongst regional governments internationally for our approach to greenhouse gas reduction. Provincial assets like hydro are helping Canada meet its Kyoto targets. This is just one example of how Manitoba has established a non-partisan, cooperative approach to federal-provincial relations and has forged strong relationships with other provinces and a good working relationship with our federal counterparts.
Our strategy for moving issues forward is three-fold: we set clear priorities; we base our frameworks on precedent where possible; and we work with our partners at every level, including NGOs, business leaders, municipal and city governments and our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts.
1.) Setting Clear Priorities
Working together across jurisdictions requires clarity and persistence. It is vital to provide a concise, determined message on what our province's needs are and how they can be met. Using this approach, we created successful partnerships with the federal government for northern hydro training programs, the expansion of immigration, the Red River Floodway expansion and the National Disease Lab, to name just a few. We have successfully created such federal-provincial partnerships as the Manitoba Rural Infrastructure Fund (MRIF) and the Canada-Manitoba Economic Partnership Agreement.
Brandon's Keystone Centre is a great example of what can be achieved through partnership. As the first project approved under MRIF, the upgraded Keystone Centre will be a multi-functional facility with an Agricultural Centre of Excellence. It will not only meet the social, recreational and economic development needs of Brandon, but will be a sought-after host for major events in Manitoba and Western Canada. We began working with the Keystone Centre management and board as soon as we took office, and we are already seeing the benefits of our investments. For example, the Scott Tournament of Hearts in 2002 showcased the incredible potential of the centre and the city's capacity to host a world class event.
2.) Building on Our Achievements
Once we have established our priorities, we design funding frameworks based on precedent. By doing this, we are able to strengthen our position regarding the viability of a project and the benefit to our partners in working with us. Moreover, using precedent allows us to build on other achievements. The best agreements establish common objectives and accountability structures, while encouraging flexible implementation to meet local needs. The new national daycare arrangement, called Moving Forward on Early Learning and Child Care, is an example of this type of this philosophy at work. Manitoba has funded an additional 3,500 spaces in recent years; however, there remains a need for child care in rural areas. With this new agreement, Manitoba has just announced an additional $1.6 million in annual support for up to 669 licensed child-care spaces in Brandon and across rural Manitoba.
3.) Working with Partners at Every Level
a.) Building Manitoba: Communities, Businesses and Local Leaders
Creating positive working relationships with local leaders and communities is also a vital part of our approach. Our government strives to work cooperatively with other levels of government, with business, labour and community leaders and with the non-profit sector. We recognize the expertise and insight that others have to offer and we value the role they play in our society. For example, as part of our effort to bring the National Disease Lab to Manitoba, we worked with a coalition of business and municipal leaders. By working together, we sent a strong message that we were coordinated and fully prepared to be Canada's centre of bio research.
The expansion of the ethanol plant in Minnedosa is tremendous example of what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors come together with a can-do attitude. Without the participation of the Minnedosa community, Husky Oil, the municipality, and the federal and provincial governments, this project would not have been possible. Today we have a deal that will bring $145 million in capital investment to Minnedosa in the next eighteen months and will pump $80 million annually into the rural economy.
As a result of these cooperative relationships, Manitoba is viewed as an international centre for biosciences and will soon be a major contender in the bio fuel industry. These examples illustrate the incredible benefits that are possible when we set key priorities and work together to achieve our goals. Many of our success stories have come about through the cooperative efforts of people like Minister Alcock, Brandon Mayor Dave Burgess, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, and business leaders like the Manitoba Business Council. Without these partners, many of these projects would still be just good ideas.
The memorandum of understanding between Manitoba and New Brunswick to increase interprovincial co-operation is another of our bilateral relationship-building efforts. The relationship works because we are able to look beyond our ideological differences and take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to issues of mutual concern.
As a result, we have participated in joint trade missions to Texas, Chicago and Atlanta, we have opened a Manitoba-New Brunswick office in Ottawa and we have worked together within the Council of the Federation as co-Chairs on the Internal Trade committee. Internal trade is important to Manitoba and represents more than half of our total exports. With approximately $232 billion in trade among the provinces, it is critical for Canadian business to have free access to markets across Canada in order to maintain their international competitiveness. The full re-engagement by the provinces and territories on this issue and the collaboration that has since been demonstrated has resulted in significant progress in moving forward on stalled initiatives. This is one area where the importance of cooperation between the provinces and between provinces and the federal government is self-evident. Through cooperation, we are replacing lost opportunities with a new momentum.
The relationship between Quebec and Canada is another important issue, not only for Manitoba, but for our nation as a whole. Premier Charest has worked hard to promote federalism within Quebec and to strengthen Quebec's relationship with the rest of Canada. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Council of the Federation, which has proved to be a valuable tool for cooperation between the provinces and territories. As well, he proposed a healthcare arrangement that would allow Quebec's needs to be accommodated within the broader system. Premier Lord and I actively promoted Premier Charest's position to Prime Minister Paul Martin as a reasonable compromise that could protect the integrity of the national health care system for the long term. It is essential that we support Premier Charest's vision of a future for Quebec within Canada.
b.) Addressing National Challenges: Multilateral Relationships
I am particularly proud of the multilateral relationships we have forged with other Premiers. Through venues like the Western Premiers' Conference and the Council of the Federation, we have identified several priorities important to all provinces and territories, and have made substantial progress in addressing national issues. The Council has provided invaluable opportunities to identify and implement concrete changes that will improve relations between governments and ultimately provide enhanced programs and services to Canadians. When the Council of the Federation was formed in 2003, health care reform and sustainability were identified as one of its top priorities. Less than a year later, Premiers inked a 10-year health care deal with the Prime Minister which provided critical funding to support Canadians' number one priority, and detailed a wide range of reforms that provinces and territories would all work on to improve services to citizens.
The debate over health care has dominated the national agenda for many years. By making important progress in this area, we have created space for other priorities to take centre stage. I firmly believe that we must now put the same energy into post secondary education that we have seen in health care in recent years. Every province in Canada is facing a skills shortage, and the prosperity of our nation is threatened when we fail to train our workforce for available jobs. In order to develop and grow high-tech industries in Canada, it is essential that the necessary talents are generated within our own population and labour force. As part of this focus, we need to tap into the tremendous potential of underrepresented groups within our workforce. Aboriginal peoples and new immigrants represent a substantial resource that, if provided with the right tools – including both education and training and recognition of skills acquired outside Canada – will rejuvenate Canada's economic future.
Addressing Climate Change
Climate change is another issue that must be addressed collaboratively, between the provinces and at the federal level. Manitoba was recently ranked number one amongst international regional governments by BusinessWeek magazine for making greenhouse gas reduction the centerpiece of our economic development plan and expanding our renewable power to reduce GHGs by 23 percent by 2012. In Manitoba, we are taking advantage of our natural benefits to create clean energy from sources like hydro and wind power. At the same time, Manitobans have responded enthusiastically to the call to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Our combined efforts will not only benefit our province, but will benefit Canada as a whole. Manitoba has the potential to supply enough renewable clean energy to help Canada meet its Kyoto commitments, to help Ontario in terms of clean air benefits and to bring energy security and economic prosperity to our nation as a whole. Our vision is to create a greener economy not just in Manitoba, but across Canada.
The recently-announced Clean Energy Transfer to Ontario is a tangible outcome of addressing climate change while building stronger relationships with other provinces. By increasing the amount of renewable energy flowing from Manitoba to Ontario, Manitoba is building its own economy, reducing harmful greenhouse gases and helping to secure Canada's energy supply. This arrangement with Ontario is part of our broader vision for an east-west power grid that links our nation to economic prosperity while protecting the health of our citizens and our environment.
Practical Solutions for Canada's Aboriginal Peoples
The recent First Ministers' Meeting in Kelowna British Columbia, is an excellent example of what can be achieved through consultation and partnerships. At the meeting, the Prime Minister, Premiers, and the leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations forged an agreement that sets out a comprehensive series of priorities, principles and commitments to reduce the gap in quality of life between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians within 10 years. Months of extensive consultations with local First Nations leaders, Métis leaders and Urban Aboriginal communities took place to ensure that the priorities of Aboriginal Manitobans would be included in the national discussions – an approach which mirrored the discussions taking place within the boundaries of each province and territory in the country. The support the strategy has garnered from coast to coast to coast largely stems from it not imposing solutions to problems, but rather from building solutions in partnership.
This meeting was an opportunity to make real progress on the serious challenges facing our Aboriginal communities. The concrete commitments that were made in the areas of health, housing, education, relationships and economic opportunities have moved beyond debates over process toward real progress on practical initiatives that will make a difference in people's lives. Our discussions in Kelowna set the ball in motion, and if we continue to show the same resolve that was demonstrated before the FMM, we can bring about real change.
c.) Building Relationships outside Canada
Our government has also worked hard to establish bilateral and multilateral relationships with leaders outside Canada, particularly in the US. Our relationship with our southern neighbours is of key importance, economically, culturally and on issues like the environment and security. Rather than relying on Ottawa and Washington to build Canada-US relations, we have formed our own contacts with individuals governors and have established trade relationships with individual states like Texas and Illinois. The importance of these relationships was especially evident in our efforts to advance our concerns regarding the closure of the US borders to Canadian cattle following the discovery of BSE in a single animal in Alberta. We worked closely with individual governors to build support for our producers and to recognize the substantial safeguards in place in Canada. As a result, influential US governors like Colorado's Governor Bill Owen advocated within the United States for open borders. Owen hosted an event in Colorado with Canadian leaders and cattle producers from both sides of the border to raise awareness of the safety of Canadian beef, the importance of open borders and the long-term benefit for producers throughout North America of basing decisions on science, not politics. The efforts of leaders and producers on both sides of the border greatly influenced the US government's decision to open the border to cattle under 30 months, and continue to provide impetus to the US to further open the borders to cattle over 30 months. We continue to develop these relationships for future common interests and concerns, from cross-border security to Canada-US trade relations.
By building relationships with other provinces, individual US states and with the federal government, Manitoba has played a key role in creating partnerships on issues from internal trade to health initiatives to strengthening federalism to cross-border concerns. The provinces continue to find common ground on a wide variety of issues that are of key concern to Canadians, and we have seen real progress, in healthcare, education and skills training, clean energy initiatives and internal trade. By building strong relationships today based on common, non-partisan objectives, we are ensuring that we will continue to make progress with our neighbours and with the federal government regardless of changes in Ottawa or elsewhere. Success stories like the expansion of the ethanol plant in Minnedosa and the improvements to the Keystone Centre in Brandon are owed to the cooperative efforts between communities, the private sector and all levels of government. Our approach is one of long-term stability and success, and Manitobans are already reaping the benefits.
—In June 2003, Gary Doer was re-elected to a second term as Manitoba Premier with an increased majority in the Provincial Legislature. He was first elected Premier in September 1999 after serving as Leader of the Official Opposition since 1988 and as an elected MLA since 1986.