Tomorrow afternoon, a small group of people will convene in a room and discuss current affairs.
It will be an interesting assembly. On one side, there will be an expert in political reporting, two editors and a newspaper publisher; across the table will be a political staffer or two — furiously pecking away on BlackBerry’s like raccoons trying to crack an egg at a river’s edge — a veteran backbench MLA and the 21st premier of the Province of Manitoba, Greg Selinger.
The event is called an editorial board and we here at the Brandon Sun are well overdue for that kind of semi-intimate one-on-one with the man who controls the province’s purse strings, decides what programs are delivered here and decides on how best to use the talents of his elected officials in the area.
Editorial boards are a longstanding tradition between top elected officials and the mainstream media. Mostly the print media, as we have the most resources and physical space to present what was discussed in great detail in both straight news reporting and later in analytical editorials and columns.
So what questions can he be expected to be asked tomorrow from us? Well, we’re going to mainly stick with our mission statement — our raison d’être — and keep it all hyper local. We’ll then branch out to Westman issues, and if time, maybe hit some provincial issues (no, not the Jets — but certainly deficits and an ever-burgeoning debt which shows no sign of being brought to heel).
But our bet is we’ll spend most of our time talking about a few issues raised by Brandon City Council in its recent budget negotiations.
To be blunt: We want to know what the province thinks about the Wheat City.
Are we acting more like The Second City improvisational comedy troupe rather than the province’s second city?
When the budget for Renaissance Brandon was first brought to the province years ago to devise a matching funds formula, legend has it that former premier Gary Doer said the $250,000 must be a mistake — surely we wanted $2.5 million.
But now the city has cut $50,000 from that quarter million — simultaneously rejecting $50,000 in matching funds from Selinger — for downtown renewal.
And while some surveys and polls don’t always show sprucing up our old core is at the top of everyone’s priorities we believe that if it were done people would take pride in a rejuvenated traditional heart of the city. Just look at the Exchange District in Winnipeg largely courtesy of the properly funded CentreVenture Development Corp. (something akin to Ren Brandon).
But apart from the Ren Brandon debate, we’ll be asking the premier if he has any concerns over the governance of the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival, which receives provincial support through several Crown corporation sponsorships.
Also, has the premier done anything to help us woo WestJet here? About one year ago Selinger told the Sun: “It would be awesome to have a regional service out here. The community is definitely a growing community and a regional service would make a huge difference.”
But has he had any actual contact with any company officials since then?
Also, we’ll likely chat about the timeline — it’s not an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when’ to our mind — for funding for Westman’s regional meeting place and major economic generator, the Keystone Centre.
And finally, as we learned from a MNP commissioned survey last week at a Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon, business leaders overwhelmingly want the city’s aging, crumbling and just plain silly infrastructure to be addressed. And soon.
“We still have issues with 18th (Street) going from two to three to four, back to two to three lanes,” chamber president Nate Andrews said. “If we can start to get that sorted out, our main artery, I think it’s going to take our community a long ways.”
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst again explained the Daly Overpass is a provincial responsibility, but Selinger is “very aware of how important it is” for the city.
We’re going to make sure that’s indeed the case.