Province snubs Brandon again


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So this is how it feels to be invisible. Or taken for granted. Or just plain ignored.

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So this is how it feels to be invisible. Or taken for granted. Or just plain ignored.

Last Friday, the Manitoba government announced that “Portage Place Shopping Centre in Winnipeg will be redeveloped to make room for a $500-million diverse three-part campus that connects a comprehensive health-care centre, affordable and family housing, a full-scale grocery store, neighbourhood services and urban green spaces, according to a plan presented today by True North Real Estate Development.”

The release states that “The Manitoba government will support this transformation by making a long-term commitment to a massive health campus, providing wellness and community services tailored to the neighbourhood and urban population … A major component of the health campus will be a more than $300-million urban centre for health excellence providing clinical as well as educational and research space delivered by Shared Health and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.”

Premier Heather Stefanson is quoted as saying: “This is a defining moment for Winnipeg and for Manitobans … With this re-imagined space we will connect communities by creating an urban ecosystem that serves and connects communities with supportive programs reaching everyone in Winnipeg.”

That’s great news for Winnipeg. What about Brandon?

Imagine the transformative change that would happen in our troubled core area if the Stefanson government was willing to make a similar investment in our city. Just imagine a revitalized downtown with linked facilities “providing everything from physical fitness, child care and community drop-ins, to arts and culture opportunities,” as per the press release.

If it’s obvious to us, it should be obvious to our three government MLAs. And it should be just as obvious to Stefanson.

That might come across as thin-skinned envy, but there’s more.

Last Thursday, the province announced it is providing a $5-million subsidy in order to induce WestJet to begin direct flights to Atlanta. “I am thrilled to welcome this new direct flight by WestJet connecting two major North American cities, which is poised to boost economic growth and create jobs on both sides of the border,” Stefanson is quoted as saying in the news release.

She adds that “establishing a Winnipeg-to-Atlanta route is a tremendous opportunity not only for Manitoba businesses to expand their reach and explore new international markets, but for travellers to expand their horizons and explore new cultures and experiences.”

The Canadian Press reports that the $5-million subsidy comes from a fund the province established last year when WestJet launched its direct flights to Los Angeles. The money will be paid from the fund to WestJet if certain targets, such as passenger volumes, are not met.

Thanks to the subsidy being provided by the province, it is reported that the initial one-way fare to Atlanta will be $219, including all taxes and fees. Compare that to Brandon’s situation, where our only passenger flight option is to Calgary via a slower WestJet propeller-driven aircraft, and the lowest one-way fare for a flight today is $425.07.

You can basically fly twice to Atlanta from Winnipeg for the cost of a single, slower flight from Brandon to Calgary.

When Stefanson and her government were negotiating with True North on the Portage Place project, did it not occur to them that Brandon would benefit from a similar downtown investment?

When they were negotiating with WestJet for the Los Angeles and Atlanta links, did it not occur to them to include Brandon in the discussion, and our need for an east-bound connection?

Did they not consider that improved east-west passenger air service in Brandon could “boost economic growth and create jobs” in Westman, help attract doctors to the area and assist our businesses to “expand their reach and explore new international markets”?

Brandonites’ tax dollars are being used to fund the Portage Place project and the $5-million WestJet subsidy, but how do we benefit from it? Are we expected to yet again accept that what’s good for Winnipeg is good for Brandon?

The provincial election is less than five months away, and Stefanson’s Progressive Conservative Party is in jeopardy of losing two of its three Brandon seats. If her government continues to forget about Brandon, she should not be surprised if Brandonites forget about her party’s candidates.

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