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Manitoba Tory leader’s promise of 2 million people by 2030 an ambitious goal: academics

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Manitoba Tory leader’s promise of 2 million people by 2030 an ambitious goal: academics
Manitoba Tory leader’s promise of 2 million people by 2030 an ambitious goal: academics – Sep 19, 2023

Roads, sewers, hospitals, emergency and social services and active transportation networks will need serious overhauls if Manitoba is to grow to two million people by 2030, experts and academics say.

Progressive Conservative Leader Heather Stefanson’s election promise to grow the province by more than 500,000 residents if her party forms government after the Oct. 3 provincial election is an ambitious goal, Jino Distasio says.

“There isn’t a piece of infrastructure that wouldn’t need to be improved significantly,” said Distasio, a professor of urban studies at the University of Winnipeg.

On the campaign trail Stefanson, the Tory leader vying to reclaim her seat at the helm of the provincial government, has promised various tax cuts to make Manitoba an attractive place to live.

Distasio said there are economic benefits to having a large population but maintains there needs to be adequate infrastructure to support it.

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“So when (people) do get here, they want to be here.”

The province posted record growth in 2022, welcoming 40,000 people into the province to bring the population to 1.431 million.

However, a university professor points to the number many forget about.

Lori Wilkinson, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Manitoba, says 33,000 people left Manitoba last year, leaving a net gain of just 7,000 people.

“It’s not that people are coming and then immediately leaving, it’s they’re coming, some are staying,” she told Global News.

Residents are leaving for job opportunities, family reunification and educational opportunities, as well as because unemployment rates in other provinces are lower and people find they’re doing work in Manitoba that is below their educational skill set.

Wilkinson said if Stefanson wants to get to two million by 2030, the province will have to establish a system that would be more helpful in providing services, like language services, to immigrants and improve social services like public transportation.

“Those are the social services that the province could invest in that would encourage more people to stay, because there’s reasons that people stay in Manitoba, too,” she said, pointing to a low cost of living.

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“If we increased services to the people who are already living here, we wouldn’t lose so many people.”

Michael Barrett, chair of the political action committee at the Manitoba Real Estate Association, said if the province is to grow its population, there needs to be a focus on the stock and availability of housing.

Barrett said the New Democrats’ latest election promise to remove the PST on the construction of new rental units is a step in the right direction.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said.

Distasio said the “bread and butter” pieces of a city that are tied to growth are also the most costly to build. Aging infrastructure more centrally located is also going to have unprecedented pressure put on it.

“So for people that think of the interruptions to traffic right now from the road repairs happening this year, that would pale in comparison,” he said.

Wilkinson also argues the growth rate seen last year will not and cannot be sustained, as last year the largest portion of newcomers were from Ukraine, making Stefanson’s goal a pipe dream.

“It’s just not going to happen.”

— with files from Katherine Dornian

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