Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer called on governments to provide fair and equitable funding for the Keystone Centre, after hearing $180 million is pledged for a Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion.
“We always hope that Brandon will be treated in a fair and equal and proportionate manner to what happens in Winnipeg,” Helwer said. “It does not appear to be happening that way.”
If the federal, provincial and city governments were to offer a proportional share of the $180 million to the Keystone Centre, based on a 180,000 trading area, the facility should receive $43.2 million overall. Recently, the facility got $3.3 million for infrastructure upgrades.
“My understanding on the (Winnipeg) Convention Centre funding is that other projects were not in an appropriate stage to get this funding so they were looking to move some of the money around. You look at the projects ready to go. It’s another tool for the Keystone Centre to use when they look for funding from governments, because they can ask them to please treat us equitably.”
Government spokeswoman Naline Rampersad said that since 2000, the provincial government has put $10.6 million into the Keystone Centre, compared to $56 million into the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Based on Rampersad’s calculations of a Brandon population of 46,061 people, and a Winnipeg population base of 663,617 people the Keystone Centre received $230 per Brandonite, while the Winnipeg Convention Centre got $84 per resident.
However, Tourism Winnipeg’s website states that the provincial capital’s population is actually 753,600, while Economic Development Winnipeg’s website cites a 2011 census population of 762,759. Brandon’s economic development website states that the trading area Brandon serves has a population of 180,000. Using the economic development office figures, the Keystone Centre got $58.89 per Westman resident, while the Winnipeg Convention Centre got $73.42 per resident. That’s a difference in Winnipeg’s favour of $14.53 per resident served by the respective trading area in that 12 year period.
Helwer said businesses have to be able to put aside money for future needs, whether they are repairs to buildings and equipment and other inevitable expenditures the firm can’t avoid.
“If you are running a farm and have a combine, you know you are going to need to spend money on bearings, so you set money aside,” Helwer said. “That was something I found concerning about the financial statements at the Keystone Centre was that they were not including improvements. The (capital reserve fund) they have now is all good.”
The addition of the capital reserve fund, and the pledge to fund it through 75 per cent of the operating surplus the facility generates in a year, was a necessary step, Helwer said.
“That gives them some ammunition and some opportunities to go after some funding from governments now,” Helwer said. “Will they be successful? That remains to be seen. If they have an appropriate plan that will fulfill the needs of Brandon and western Manitoba, and it will move the centre forward in its plans, that’s the key.”