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Northern Manitoba is rich in resources: forests, wildlife, hydroelectricity, fishing, mining, and growing tourism and trade industries. The region's potential is limitless. Representing over 80% of the province's total area, the North is key to Manitoba's future.
Manitoba's five northern MLAs introduced the Northern Development Strategy (NDS), as a long term plan to improve social, educational and economic opportunities in Northern Manitoba.
It was recognized that the North's vast resources create wealth for the entire province, but more was needed to ensure Northerners are fully involved and fully benefit from increased economic development. The region's potential will only be achieved with the guidance of northern Manitobans.
As a result, the NDS set out to address challenges hampering the full human and economic potential of the North including issues such as health, transportation, and education. The Strategy is designed to achieve:
The Manitoba Government committed to working with residents, different levels of governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to better address the priorities of Northern people and design and deliver provincial services. Thanks to the input of Northerners, Northern MLAs identified five priority areas for government to work toward:
The Strategy involves the dedication to work in partnership with northern residents in all stages of development, including greater decision making responsibilities. Under the NDS, the Province overhauled the 1974 Northern Affairs Act and created the stand alone Northern Affairs Act, giving ANA communities many of the same planning powers other Manitoba communities already had. In 2000, the province launched the East Side Planning Initiative, now known as the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) to bring together local communities, First Nations, industry and environmental organizations to develop a broad area plan for the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Recently land use planning legislation was passed which grants the option to East Side First Nations to obtain legal protection of their traditional lands.
Additionally, in the last 4 years, Manitoba has set aside nearly 410,000 acres of land to meet its Treaty Land Entitlement agreement obligations.
Transportation infrastructure is vital to enhance the quality of life in northern communities, especially as it relates to delivering health and education services, providing access to necessary goods and supplies, and economic development.
The Provincial Government is committed to investing in roads for all Manitobans. Since the 2007 Highway Renewal Plan was launched, over $180 million has been invested on key routes in Northern Manitoba. The North has benefitted greatly from these increased investments including:
In 2011, road improvements are planned for Highway 373 near Norway House and Jenpeg, repaving over 30 kilometres of Highway 6 south of Ponton, widening the grade on Highway 10 north of Wanless, improving PR 280 near Gillam, and grading on PR 384 near Lobster Creek.
In addition there have been major improvements on a number of other Northern roads. The winter road system provides seasonal road access for 30,000 Manitobans in 23 communities, and allows for approximately 2,500 shipments of needed supplies a year. $34 million has been dedicated by the Province and federal government to winter roads over the last four years. Since 2001, 25% (over 600 km) of Manitoba’s winter road system has been moved onto land to improve safety and reduce environmental risks. The southern route in particular has had repeated failures.
Efforts to decrease the use of winter roads and air freight will help to offset the costs of living in remote communities, and improve accessibility to, and delivery of, health, education and social services. The Manitoba Government is moving forward with building a network of all-weather roads on the east side of Lake Winnipeg and has established the East Side Road Authority to manage the initiative. One road is proceeding north to Berens River and work is ongoing to build an east-west link from PR 373 to Island Lake and Northern Cree communities. Community Benefits Agreements are being reached with east side First Nations that will ensure local job training and economic opportunities. $315 million will be invested in jobs, training and economic development opportunities for local communities over the next 15 years. Manitoba has formally sought the support of the federal government for building the roads.
Preliminary studies are underway to examine the feasibility of a road from Gillam to Churchill and to Nunavut.
Under the Northern Development Strategy, the province and federal government have made significant investments in northern airports. New airport terminals have opened across the north including in Lac Brochet, Thicket Portage, Pikwitonei, God’s River and Oxford House, and runway extensions have been made at Red Sucker Lake, Brochet, Lac Brochet and York Landing. When possible, workers are locally hired.
Education is a fundamental building block to thriving communities and economic development. Strong public schools help prepare children for the future. Manitoba is moving ahead with improving graduation rates in Northern Manitoba so that students are able to succeed in reaching their goals. The provincial government has committed to:
The above new initiatives will complement much of the work already done in Northern Manitoba over the last decade. Provincial commitments to northern youth include:
Education and Training
Training goes hand in hand with economic development; it is vital for people to take advantage job opportunities. Under the Northern Development Strategy, the Manitoba Government has increased student financial support, enhanced funding for distance education programs, and established new educational facilities in the North.
Quality affordable housing positively impacts the health of people, their communities and helps to reduce poverty. Unfortunately many northern communities have a significant housing shortage and local residents bear the consequences of overcrowding of older homes and the northern climate. The Manitoba Government is seeking to rejuvenate and create new affordable housing options in Northern Manitoba through new funding and community and government partnerships. Revitalization efforts also create new job opportunities for local people.
The Northern Development Strategy is designed to improve the delivery of health programs and services to northern residents including new or improved capital projects, healthy living and child-family programs, more health care professionals, and health services closer to home.
Along with these improvements there have been a number of major health capital projects in the North. This includes:
Northern Manitoba is rich with abundant resources. The provincial government is moving ahead with partnerships with First Nations, business and communities that ensure Northern residents benefit from economic development activities.
Manitoba, Canada and the Hudson Bay Railway Company committed $68 million in public and private-sector support for improvements to the Hudson Bay rail line and the Port of Churchill. The Province is working with its partners to develop the Arctic Gateway transportation corridor. The Port is strategically positioned as an efficient shipping hub to many Arctic communities and world markets by offering shorter shipping distances to many parts of Europe, Russia, and Asia.
Mining is an important sector of the Manitoba economy and a large employer in the North. PricewaterhouseCoopers recognizes the province as having the 2nd most competitive mining tax regime in Canada. Support to this industry over the last 10 years includes: