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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Mayor in search of major success

@CityBrandon No news for you this time around, but we’ve still got to announce routes and schedule for up to 40 more aircraft!

— WestJet tweet Monday afternoon

It’s not as if yesterday’s announcement that Brandon was passed over for air service was a complete surprise. The company had been subtly sending messages to that effect for some time now — that we haven’t missed the flight, but we also won’t be the first to board.

But for a civic adminstration that has had so much bad news lately, this amounted to almost the third strike — more like strike 2.5 — in terms of major projects that have whistled past the plate.

If it wasn’t for the fact that WestJet has been very positive in its corporate communications — and the fact the company made it clear it had solid plans for the roll out of the first routes of its new Encore airline — we’d be ready to call Mayor Shari Decter Hirst out on strikes.

But for now — at least until we see what happens with the airline’s next couple of route and destination announcements in the next few months — Decter Hirst can breathe a little easier.

In fact, she’s breathing the moist warm air in Cuba — she’s on a mini-vacation between council meetings — as news came yesterday morning that WestJet has confirmed that Nanaimo, B.C., and Fort St. John, B.C. will be the first two communities to receive non-stop daily service from its new regional airline, WestJet Encore.

The new service will begin June 24 and will be operated by WestJet Encore’s fleet of Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft.

Additional announcements about other destinations are expected throughout the year.

From Penticton, B.C., to Medicine Hat, Alta., and Brandon, small and mid-sized communities across Canada have been lobbying WestJet to consider them for service.

And if we are indeed going to get service, the sooner the better for the underwhelming SDH regime.

It would be a huge win for her — and an even richer victory for Brandon and Westman.

It would eliminate the two-hour-plus drive — sometimes in dangerous winter weather to an airport with ridiculous fees and expensive parking. And if you have an early flight — or if you get in late — you’re likely going to spend a couple of hundred dollars at the hotel at the airport.

Having regular air service through the upgraded McGill Field — known as YBR in airport lingo — would keep money in Westman and also help make Brandon a destination centre.

We are a growing region that is anxiously waiting the chance to be able to take a taxi or get dropped off at the city’s airport and fly directly to Calgary or Toronto (the latter likely via Thunder Bay). And it would also help Decter Hirst and her largely hand-picked administration show that they can actually pull off at least one of their big projects.

This after the city was passed over for a casino last year by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in favour of a location on what is essentially a partially paved goat-trail — known to flood in the spring and near a desert.

Yes a real desert. All just 30 minutes east of a major regional retail service hub called Brandon.

Whatever SDH and her new partners the Tribal Councils Investment Group did, it failed to sell the smartest business case for a casino to the AMC.

And then, there was the city’s failed attempt to secure the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

Despite the fact it was clear all along that our pool wasn’t technically suitable, the bid committee was struck and it pushed our flawed proposal right into the deep end.

But then it’s tough to be the one who’s going to stop something that began with a political promise made by Decter Hirst during the 2010 mayoral election.

And while the casino wasn’t mentioned during the campaign, it was clear the mayor was definitely supportive of that type of economic driver.

Which we are as well.

And while we’re also generally in support of the mayor and her closest advisers, they only have half a swing left to our mind.

And you’ll note we haven’t even mentioned the fact it was discovered recently that thousands of Brandon homes have lead in their drinking water from old pipes. While this is a problem the mayor inherited from some do-nothing previous councils, the sky-is-falling rollout of the news was definitely an error.

So we hope to hear — maybe by next year? — the steady whir of the Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane.

It will be music to our ears and a sweet, sweet sound for Decter Hirst et al.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 12, 2013

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@CityBrandon No news for you this time around, but we’ve still got to announce routes and schedule for up to 40 more aircraft!

— WestJet tweet Monday afternoon

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@CityBrandon No news for you this time around, but we’ve still got to announce routes and schedule for up to 40 more aircraft!

— WestJet tweet Monday afternoon

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