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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Manitoba's economic equality garners interest from big U.S. company: premier

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says one of the biggest companies in the United States is looking at investing in the province because of its economic equality.

Selinger made the comments earlier this month at the provincial NDP convention, which included a fundraising speech that was closed to the media.

The Canadian Press has obtained a recording of the speech in which Selinger outlined his trade mission to Atlanta in January.

Selinger said he talked with an official from a consumer research company with a $14-billion annual budget.

The premier did not name the company, but said the official was not interested in discussing Manitoba's tax rates or utility costs.

He said the official, instead, was eyeing Manitoba because of its social and economic harmony.

"He said, 'You know, I've looked at your province' and he said, 'I saw one of the lowest rates of inequality in North America,'" Selinger told the fundraising dinner crowd during a six-minute speech.

"He says, 'You know, when I took a look at your province, I saw a story of economic progress. I saw a growing population and I saw a province where everybody seems to be being lifted up by the way you approach, the way you govern'.

"And he said, 'That's the kind of province I'm thinking about investing in.' This was from a guy in a major corporation in the United States — one of the biggest."

Selinger spent other portions of his speech defending his government's record and promoting its agenda of improved skills training and increased spending on infrastructure.

The convention was the first since the NDP government raised the provincial sales tax last July — a move that has resulted in a drop in opinion polls for the party that has been in power for 14 years.

Selinger told the fundraiser that criticism is to be expected and said his public speech to the convention a day earlier was aimed partly to boost the troops.

"When I talked to the delegates, really my objective was to fire them up because ... there's been a little bit of criticism of some of the things we've done. And that's OK. We live in a democracy and we want feedback on what we do."

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