Foreign investment in Manitoba

Why does it have to be resident?

Dorothy Dobbie
Issues in the News

We are a resourceful people here in Manitoba so when things go wrong the first thing we do is try to fix it ourselves using our own ingenuity and resources, but maybe it’s time to take another tack.

Peter Holle writes in this issue about his vision for a province of three million people, where relaxed regulation and more opportunity for enterprise abound. I heartily endorse this and I have a thought about how we can do this using third party resources.

In Canada today, there is only one province, Quebec, that is actively seeking immigrant investor funds and it is doing this successfully. Yes, Manitoba, too, has an immigrant investor program that works in concert with its immigrant employment section, but there is one big difference. Quebec’s program is passive. Manitoba’s is not.

What does that mean? Simply that to access the program here, you have to live in the province and operate the business you invest in. This automatically excludes all those billionaires who are only looking for a guaranteed safe haven for their kids and who are willing to pay for it.

Some will claim that being able to pay to become an immigrant isn’t “fair” or that such a policy would not encourage population growth. Fair or not, you can already pay to get in as long as you stay here – something that you can’t control anyway, since we have freedom of movement in Canada. As for population growth, investment brings jobs and jobs bring people.

Where could such funds be invested? Look north to that vast, underestimated hinterland. There are countless acres of beautiful, underpopulated land filled with forests and minerals, fish and game, arable lands for agriculture . . . all just waiting for the right idea and the right investor.

There are plenty of other ideas, too, that could benefit from additional funds. In addition to the venture capital ideas to help small business that we hear so much about, there are infrastructure opportunities. Who says all the development has to come from the taxpayer? Here are five simple ideas.

Investment idea number one: We need $200 to $300 million to build a road to Churchill. A toll system in a public private infrastructure project could help pay for the road, allowing a stronger transportation network for the movement of resources and people. The Port itself is crumbling and could use a big injection of funds as well as creative management to encourage more shipping to and from the Port once the road is in place.

Investment idea number two: Farming at The Pas is BIG business but the farmers are aging and looking for an exit plan. Immigrant investors could solve that issue. There is also plenty of rich, arable Crown land to be had if foreign investment rules were relaxed. Private investment in land drainage is also worth looking into.

Investment idea number three: The International Peace Garden is the only garden in the world that straddles an international boundary, but it lacks on-site accommodation. A hotel would be an asset. Actually, a chain of four-star or higher-rated hotels from the International Peace Garden up the 950 km of Highway No. 10 to The Pas and then over to Thompson offers wonderful tourism investment opportunities all along the way.

Investment idea number four: The railroads in Winnipeg are occupying acres of valuable land and bifurcating our city, creating have and have not areas. There are a dozen investment possibilities here from redevelopment of property to public/private infrastructure opportunities. This would also expand the tax base, improving the fortunes of the city and contributing to the rebuilding of our streets and boulevards.

Investment idea number five: There is all kinds of room for technology investment, including reliable, province-wide, cell phone access. Service is, right now, sporadic, even along southern highways. What about our own communication satellite to guarantee access from every corner of this great province?

These are just a few ideas from the top of my head. Chances are you have many more and better ideas. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

But the underlying issue is developing a regulatory immigrant investment infrastructure that will allow creative ideas to find fruition. Let us open up our minds to the wonderful options that are inherent in the beautiful province and its ingenious, creative and endlessly resourceful people who are willing to accept help when we need it and grow the provincial pie.

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