Westman residents say economic growth is the top area of concern in rural areas.
A new survey conducted by Probe Research Inc. asked 400 rural residents what they considered to be the most important issue or concern facing their communities.
Twenty-nine per cent of respondents said the economy is the greatest concern. The issue was particularly pronounced in areas north of the Trans-Canada Highway.
"I don’t think those places are seeing quite the degree of economic activity that maybe you’re seeing in Brandon, or … in places like Virden or Melita," said Curtis Brown, senior research associate with Probe Research.
In the Parkland region, 37 per cent of respondents marked economic growth as the No. 1 concern, as did 31 per cent in the region between the Trans-Canada Highway and Riding Mountain National Park.
Meanwhile, in communities south of the Trans-Canada, only 17 per cent were concerned with the economy.
"You’re getting into the area where there’s oil, it’s less of an issue," Brown said. "Whether or not there’s jobs, whether or not there’s economic growth, is not an issue, because obviously there is."
Health care is another major concern in rural areas at 15 per cent.
"I think it’s largely the fact that a lot of these communities struggle to hang on to their doctors, struggle to hang on to nurses, struggle to keep their emergency rooms open or to have ambulance service and all those sorts of things," Brown said.
Other concerns in rural Manitoba were education (six per cent) and infrastructure (seven per cent).
"(Infrastructure) was more of an issue south of the Trans-Canada," Brown said. "That has to do with the activity in the oil patch and the flooding … just the amount of pressure being put on some of the roads."
Also on the list of important issues: affordable housing (five per cent), taxes (four per cent) and crime (five per cent).
With some small towns struggling to stay alive, residents are concerned about people leaving Manitoba (five per cent) and small town survival (five per cent).
"In some of these smaller communities, people are going to work over the border in Saskatchewan, or going to Alberta," Brown said.