If only Manitoba’s NDP government put as much effort into creating and retaining jobs in rural Manitoba as it did in securing a foreign maker of cheap “assembly required” furniture, places like Westman would be in far better shape.
While two successive NDP premiers schemed like wartime generals to secure the Swedish king of allen keys, oddly named furniture and sticky meatballs, some of the simpler business files were simply left to wither and either die or move on.
The latest casualty of the NDP’s misplaced sense of duty was an especially emotional one, as it was triggered by a disasterous fire last March in the small community of Angusville, east of Russell.
And we learned this week that the Glanbia Nutritionals Ingredient Technologies flaxseed plant will not be rebuilt in Manitoba.
Glanbia announced Tuesday that it will instead build a new 40,000-square-foot facility in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Sure, Glanbia president and CEO Jerry O’Dea said the company will “look to retain as many as we can through an offer of relocation to Sioux Falls,” and offer severance packages to the others.
And yes, we are talking about only 50 people put out of work. But as the plant was located in the RM of Silver Creek, which has a population between 400 and 500 people, the plant was a major economic driver, supplying good paying jobs in the area.
Residents in the region were hopeful that the company would rebuild near Angusville.
“It’s very disappointing, and it’s not going to be just the Angusville community that’s going to see the loss,” Progressive Conservative MLA Leanne Rowat told the Brandon Sun. “We have people that work at that facility from communities like Rossburn, Shoal Lake, Russell, Binscarth … the whole region is going to be hit.
Rowat (Riding Mountain) said she is “disappointed in the province.”
And so are we.
What incentives were offered by the province to Glanbia? Rowat says Silver Creek, and other groups had put forward incentives to try to encourage them to rebuild in the area.
Rowat said losing another plant is just another hit to rural Manitoba.
“We’ve lost other plants to Saskatchewan and now we’re losing this one to the United States,” she said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of work coming out of the NDP government in Winnipeg to the community and encouraging them to push for it.”
A spokesperson on behalf of Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn said they are disappointed to see Glanbia leave Manitoba, but are pleased to hear it remains committed to sourcing flaxseed from Manitoba farmers.
Pressed in question period yesterday, a clearly befuddled Kostyshyn mumbled something about meeting with the company’s president, the local plant manager and officials after the fire last March and on a few later occasions.
To no effect. Good work, sir.
As many in the capital region celebrated the arrival of IKEA yesterday, things weren’t so cheerful in Angusville.
And while we hate to see small communities get even smaller, we also question the NDP’s ability to hold onto some bigger fish.
As the Tories noted yesterday, while the premier was busy touting the arrival of a Swedish furniture company, in recent times larger Manitoba-made companies like IMRIS and Phillips & Temro Industries have pulled up stakes and relocated to other jurisdictions.
And of course, this region still smarts from the infamous James Richardson International canola crushing plant debacle that saw the celebrated company slip out of Manitoba’s hands.
Five communities, including Brandon and Portage la Prairie, were on the shortlist in 2006 to be the home for the Winnipeg-based company’s $100-million canola plant, a 70-job boon that ultimately went to Yorkton, Sask.
We hope the NDP caucus enjoys assembling their new imported IKEA furniture. But when the novelty wears off, we hope they finally try to save some rural industries that are the lifeblood of many small towns and villages.
Opposition Leader Brian Pallister yesterday repeated he Tories’ call for Manitoba to seek new trade and job opportunities by joining the New West Partnership.
Said Pallister: “I challenge the first minister to pick up a phone and reach out to our western partners. It’s time to join the New West Partnership. Manitoba is missing out on important economic opportunities.”
We couldn’t agree more.