PrairiesCan office opens in Brandon
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A new PrairiesCan office opened in downtown Brandon Wednesday with a goal of growing the regional economy.
The new office, located on Princess Avenue, will bring a sharper focus to southwestern Manitoba’s economic development opportunities, said Dan Vandal, the federal minister responsible for PrairiesCan, at a news conference in Brandon.
“We thank you for making us a part of your community, but this is about your neighbours and how to build prosperity that fits everybody and makes life affordable by supporting jobs we can all count on,” Vandal said. “This region is a major contributor to Manitoba’s economic success.”
PrairiesCan was launched last year after Western Economic Diversification Canada split into two agencies: Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan), serving British Columbia, and Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. PrairiesCan offers a wide suite of programs aimed at diversifying the rural economy and creating jobs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal money was dispersed through PrairiesCan to boost regional economies in the Prairies.
As the pandemic wanes, however, that will change, Vandal said.
In the short-term, the programs, such as the Tourism Relief Fund, will still be offered to businesses in the region, but in the longer term there will be consultations with communities to make sure programs and services reflect the economic and labour needs at the time.
Having a local PrairiesCan office with staff from the region will help the federal government serve local needs better, Vandal explained. The organization’s other mandate is to gather data for Ottawa to improve programs.
The PrairiesCan office demonstrates the federal government’s interest in the region’s economic plans, said Brandon Chamber of Commerce Tanya LaBuick at the conference.
The evening before the conference Vandal met with several local stakeholders to discuss the region’s economic needs.
“He seemed genuinely interested in what people had to say and seemed to very much listen with an intent full ear,” LaBuick said. “They really want to make some change and they are really looking at what are the opportunities that lie within the borders of Manitoba and recognize us the second-largest city. And see what we can use to make Manitoba grow that impacts greater Canada.”
Among the top priorities is expansion and turning Brandon into a transportation hub. Currently, many commodities shipped out of Brandon are sent to other centres, such as Winnipeg or Regina, then delivered to its destination on a secondary transport route. This puts the city at a disadvantage over time and costs, she said, so they would like to see a direct shipping plan from Brandon implemented.
In addition to the PrairiesCan office opening, Vandal announced five investments in Westman initiatives totalling $3.6 million.
Assiniboine Community College will receive $2.2 million to establish a Centre for Creative Media at the Brandon campus to support digital industries in rural Manitoba.
The college is geared toward providing strategic skills training needed immediately for the regional economy, Derrick Turner, director of advancement and external relations, told the Sun in later comments.
“The college has had related media programs for about a decade,” Turner said. “But as media and communications industries changed and included more digital, the college recognized it had to modernize to stay on top of demand. More companies were coming to us to ask about what they could change to train more students, so administration created new programs and expanded space to accommodate them.”
The other investments included $1 million for Reston-based Power HV to increase high-voltage bushing and bushing sensor production by introducing new equipment and hiring staff to increase the capacity of its manufacturing process.
The Municipality of Oakland-Wawanesa will receive $75,429 to revitalize Riverbend Park.
Fern Valley Recreation Commission/Municipality of Grasslands has been allocated $151,745 to upgrade the campground facilities at Whitewater Recreation Park in Elgin.
And to revitalize downtown Deloraine, the Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester will receive $178,875.
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