I was very pleased to read the article in the Saturday, Feb. 2, issue that reported on the Brandon and Fringe Area Growth Strategy.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and city council are to be congratulated on taking the initiative to examine the growth possibilities and the challenges facing our fast growing city and to involve the RM of Cornwallis in the process.
I recall that Brandon was considered to be a “postage stamp” city in 1969 when I was first elected as the NDP MLA for Brandon East. (The boundaries were 17th Street East on the east, Braecrest Drive in the north, 34th Street in the west and Richmond Avenue in the south.) I made only one promise during the campaign and that was that if elected, I would work to have the boundaries expanded to a more realistic level.
Because the eastern boundary was 17th Street East, industries such as Simplot and the Manitoba Hydro plant paid no taxes to the city. With the southern boundary being Richmond Avenue, there were hundreds of households without adequate access to city water and sewer facilities posing a potential health threat.
Our newly elected Schreyer government, in which I was a cabinet minister, introduced legislation to expand our boundaries early in its mandate. This move was not based on any ideology and I found it strange that the entire Conservative Opposition including Ed McGill, the newly elected MLA for Brandon West, voted against our initiative.
After the bill passed, our government then quickly proceeded to appoint Dr. Lloyd Dulmage, the president of Brandon University, as a commissioner to receive submissions from the public and to research detailed expansion possibilities. Within a short time, Dr. Dulmage presented the government with an expanded boundaries proposal, which was adopted as submitted in 1971 and which basically exists today.
In addition, Dr. Dulmage recommended the implementation of the ward system, which our government also accepted.
Fortunately at the time the federal government had a generous program to assist in regional economic expansion and responded positively to our request to provide Brandon with financial aid to develop badly needed sewer and water systems south of Richmond and in the North Hill area.
Because of the boundary expansion, the city was able to significantly increase its tax revenues and in turn begin to substantially improve services in the community. And of course the city continues to benefit as large companies such as Maple Leaf Foods locate here in the enlarged industrial park.
Of all of the many projects I was involved in as the MLA for Brandon East for 30 years, I consider this to probably be the most significant. I extend my best wishes to our mayor and council as well as the reeve of Cornwallis in their endeavours to optimize the city’s growth potential in the years ahead.