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Manitoba business council picks winner

Don Leitch is the new president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba.

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Don Leitch is the new president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba. (KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

A FORMER high-ranking provincial civil servant has returned home to Manitoba to head up one of the province's leading business groups.

Don Leitch, who from 1988 to 1999 was clerk of the executive council and the top civil servant in the former Gary Filmon government, is the new president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba. His hiring is effective immediately.

Leitch moved back to Manitoba from Victoria, where he had been operating his own consulting firm for a number of years after serving a four-year stint as a deputy minister in the British Columbia government.

From 2006 to 2013, he also served as chairman of the securities task force for the Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation.

Leitch succeeds Jim Carr, who had been the BCM's president and CEO since it was formed in 1998 to provide a business-leadership voice to the public policy discussion in Manitoba. Carr resigned in February to run as the Liberal candidate in the Winnipeg South Centre riding in next year's federal election, sparking an extensive search for a successor.

BCM chairman Murray Taylor said Tuesday Leitch was selected from a long list of candidates.

"I would say there was extensive interest from people both currently in Manitoba and people who left (the province) and were thinking of coming back," Taylor said. "But Don brings to this role a tremendous amount of experience working in Manitoba. He also has experience working in other provinces, and that can he helpful... as well."

Born, raised and educated in Winnipeg -- he has a master's degree in natural resources management and a bachelor of science degree from the University of Manitoba -- Leitch is also familiar with the issues that are important to Manitoba. Taylor added.

Although he's been away from the province for the last 13 years, Leitch said he and his wife, Betty, kept close ties to the community and always intended to return.

"I was just waiting for the right opportunity and this was the right opportunity," he said. "Jim Carr used to describe this as the best job in the province, and I agree it is the best job in the province."

As the public face and the leading voice for the 75-member BCM, which is made up of the CEOs of the province's largest companies, Leitch will have regular dealings with government officials on a variety of issues, including health, education, immigration and economic growth.

"One of my strengths is that I know government and understand government and know how it works," he said. "And I understand the challenges governments face."

Leitch will also be working with other local business groups, including the Winnipeg and Manitoba chambers of commerce.

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president and CEO Chuck Davidson said chamber officials were waiting to see who would be taking Carr's place.

"That's a prime, high-profile position and big shoes to fill, no question. But someone with the background and experience Don has, I'm sure he'll do well... " Davidson said. "He will have a good understanding of policy development."

"We look forward to working with him," added Loren Remillard, vice-president of policy and public affairs for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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