This week it was announced that the WestJet announcement will be pushed back to February.
No casino. No Canada Games. No TV station.
As Brandon continues to hear "no," "sorry" and "we don’t think so," many businesses and organizations continue to say "yes," "sure" and "sounds great" to Winnipeg. Winnipeg is getting so much, they’re having to say "Sorry we’re not interested," as was the case with the Canada Games.
I feel ever since the TV station left, we have lost our mojo. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not just a TV station that makes a city, but ask Winnipegers if getting the Jets made a difference when they came back to Winnipeg. Mojo is a feeling. Mojo is our swagger. Brandon has lost its swagger, and if WestJet happens to pass us by, we will continue to dream the big dream with hopes of someday batting at or above our weight.
But maybe that’s it. Dare I say — maybe we can’t. Maybe we are just a big town. And if so, where is our place?
Should we just concede ourselves as a "suburb of Winnipeg" that just so happens to be 200 km away?
And if we concede this, what can we do about it?
I have an idea. If we truly are just a distant suburb of Winnipeg, why don’t we make it official? How?
I have a novel idea that will link the two cities (and include Portage) put Manitoba on the map, and at the same time, create a high profile project for Manitoba Hydro that could be the envy of North America.
What is it?
A 200 km high-speed rail service between the Brandon airport and Richardson Airport in Winnipeg.
Metro transit in Minneapolis has a "high speed" rail line (80 mph) that connects Minneapolis to St. Cloud Minnesota, which is almost 60 miles away. I know we can take VIA Rail passenger service from Rivers into Winnipeg, but that trip takes a solid two hours. According to Wikipedia, as of 2012 the maximum commercial speed for a train powered by electricity is 300 km/h. China, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UK all have trains, run electrically, that go at speeds of 300 km/h. The Shanghai maglev train reaches speeds of 431 km/h or 268 mph.
If we created the Shanghai line in southern Manitoba, to stretch from Brandon to Winnipeg, a trip into the provincial capital would take less than 30 minutes.
Imagine the impact that might have on both cities — and Portage.
Where do you think people would rather live, Winnipeg or Brandon?
A 30-minute commute is a game changer.
But the beauty of the high-speed rail service is the best of both worlds. And should WestJet decide Brandon is not the place for a regional airline to take off, we really need to seriously look at a formal proposal to Manitoba Hydro to make this happen. Not to mention the environmental impact. High-speed trains consume electricity. On the Eurostar, which is in France, emissions from travelling by train from London to Paris are 90 per cent lower than by flying. Studies show, hydro-electricity aside, even using power from coal or oil is much more fuel-efficient per passenger per km than the average car!
Now before everyone pushes the panic button on an exodus of Brandon dollars and manpower shooting down the highway on a high-speed train, remember that Winnipeg is almost a quarter-million population compared to our 50,000. Businesses marketing properly would see exposure to a market almost 10 times the size of Brandon’s.
Remember what the Steinbach auto dealers did in the ’80s?
Small-town does not equal small-market business.
A major-market approach could put our city on a playing field with our neighbours in Winnipeg. The Wheat Kings are a draw at MTS Centre. If a trip to the game was less than an hour, even if 500 hockey fans a month made the trip, that is more butts in seats at Westman Place. I know personally of dozens of people who love to make the trip each spring to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. Imagine how many MORE might just come for the day, sending attendance numbers into the stratosphere. And the list goes on and on.
What is available to Brandon is available to Winnipeg and visa/versa. And we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. There are many events and activities we could grow exponentially with a bigger population on our doorstep. Not to mention how easy it would be to catch a flight out of Winnipeg for anyone in Westman wanting to jump on the train in Brandon, be at the airport in 30 minutes and off you go. It really has far more advantages than disadvantages.
Cost is certainly one factor, but again, keep in mind we live in Manitoba, the home of hydro-electric power.
What a great legacy project not just for the politician who decides to build this train, but for the Crown corporation itself, who may see a North American market they can expand their business into.
In the end, it may geography that is the enemy, not our neighbours down the road. We’re too close to attract services they already have, but too far for people in our city to use them regularly or see any immediate benefit. Let’s link the two cities, and take the distance from two hours to 30 minutes.
Could we not join forces to become a provincial superpower, and envy of all of Canada, possibly North America? If it ever did come to pass, I would like to lay claim to the idea, and only ask to get the first ride. I’ve always wanted to play conductor.
JOKE THIS WEEK
A man and a woman, who have never met before, find themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a transcontinental train. Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, the two are tired and fall asleep quickly — he in the upper bunk and she in the lower. At 1 a.m., he leans over and gently wakes the woman saying, "Ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet to get me a second blanket? I'm awfully cold."
"I have a better idea," she replies. "Just for tonight, let's pretend that we're married."
"Wow! That's a great idea!!" he exclaims.
"Good," she replies. "Get your own damn blanket!"
After a moment of silence, he farted.
LeeAnne Vandenbosch St. Pierre