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Water management, northern development cited in throne speech

Churchill’s role will grow as province pursues initiative to boost northern prosperity, speech says

New research to track phosphorus flow from flood-prone areas will be one component of a comprehensive surface water management strategy coming for Manitoba, the speech from the throne stated November 19.

New research looking at the role of wetland conservation and restoration, and risks to watercourses from toxic algae is also promised.

“Our government recognizes the importance that scientific evidence must play in guiding actions to save Lake Winnipeg,” stated the speech read by Chief Justice Richard Scott at the opening of the second session of the 40th legislature last week.

“The record flooding of last year focused our attention on the importance of surface water management,” it says.

The $1-billion flood of 2011 is cited at the beginning of the speech promising a “balanced, moderate and forward-looking” government approach as the province tries to deal with mounting costs in areas such as health care.

“Now is not the time for a dramatic expansion of the public sector, nor for reckless cuts to key services,” the speech stated.

“Rather it is a time to protect core services while making targeted, strategic investments to support opportunities and economic growth.

Churchill

One such investment will be in what’s being dubbed as a “new northern prosperity initiative” promising a more prominent future role for Churchill and its deep-water port as the province moves to create jobs and build northern infrastructure.

Awaiting a report from the provincial-federal Task Force on the Future of Churchill before the end of the year the province is expecting it will identify “significant commercial and partnership opportunities to diversify traffic through the Port of Churchill,” the speech said.

“Churchill’s Arctic deep-water port positions it as the hub of a strategic Arctic Gateway that will contribute to sustainable prosperity both in northern Manitoba and Nunavut,” it said.

Road construction on Lake Winnipeg’s east side, including four new bridges to be completed this winter also figure in the government’s development plans.

Bridge replacements and repairs also figure prominently in the speech, with announcements that followed later in the week of plans to replace or do major repairs to a dozen bridges throughout the province including three bridges over the Souris River damaged by 2011 flooding.

With many of Manitoba’s highways and bridges now 50 years or older, the province remains committed to renewing the system, noting it has already done work on over 7,400 km of roads and highways and nearly 200 bridges as part of its 10-year, $4-billion commitment to transportation infrastructure.

“Our investments in the core highway network are bearing fruit and Manitobans are driving on renewed roads in all corners of the province,” the speech said.

Health care

A five-year sustainability plan to provide core health-care services is also coming. Under the plan there will be funding for new frontline positions including nurse practitioners, dietitians, nurses and physician assistants for those medical practices which will agree to take in more patients.

There will also be more QuickCare clinics, ACCESS Centres, and mobile clinics opened to provide access to care closer to home and the government is promising to step up efforts to train more family doctors by boosting the number of medical residencies.

All 16 rural chemotherapy centres across the province are slated to become full CancerCare Manitoba hubs.

Labour

The government also wants to help tradespersons pursue their education earlier, by facilitating more apprenticeship programming for high schools. It will also be consulting with rural communities about ways to help more rural-based journeypersons start their own businesses.

Other promises from the speech include more support for municipal composting programs, including a city-wide curb-side program in Brandon and ongoing support for the government’s five-year plan to build 1,500 new, affordable and social housing units.

“In the year ahead, we will introduce new tools to help lower-income families achieve their goal of home ownership and to support the development of housing co-ops,” it said. “We will also give municipalities innovative new tools to help them create opportunities for affordable housing.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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