At the time of writing this we are already on our way back to an open economy. Let’s make it truly open.
While Ottawa is miring in self doubt and fear about the future, in Manitoba let’s face the future head-on and see where bold action can take us. Begin with open-eyed planning for the possibility that there could be a resurgence of the virus in late fall and be prepared this time to respond swiftly and with all the needed resources at hand.
Then we must act powerfully to move our economy forward.
Start by taking stock of where our products are most in demand and where we have friends and contacts. I think China would very much welcome overtures of friendship from the Province of Manitoba.
Indeed, Henan Province in China has sent us an indication of their interest by reaching out to us to offer a donation of PPE, which we should be very thrilled to accept, given that the private auxiliary health community cannot get its hands on mandated PPE. The contact came to us from Richard Walker, former Agent General in Hong Kong for the Province of Manitoba, and opens the door to a relationship with a market of 94 million people. Henan needs service industry support – we have plenty of expertise in the sector. Our special sister city relationship with Chengdu in the Province of Sichuan should also be encouraged. What will it take to get China to accept canola from Richardson’s again. Can friends of both help recreate broken relationships?
What about India? Canada has lost momentum at the national level there, but that doesn’t stop Manitoba from stepping into the gap. India will still need our pulses, but more, our metals, paper and paperboard, aircraft, machinery and so on. Why not use our local community to help Manitoba make up with India? We have several firms and many individuals with excellent connections there.
We are told that this could be a cooler than normal summer around the world. How will that impact the desirability and saleability of our crops? Canola is a cool weather crop – what could be more ideal for Manitoba? Saskatchewan is already trying to horn in our Japanese trade for canola. Let’s get back in there and compete!
I just came back from Vietnam, a country of 95.5 million people. Like Henan, China, it has an undeveloped service sector. In the case of Vietnam, there is a gigantic market for educational services and the insurance business is growing by 300 percent a year! What an opportunity for two services that are so well developed in Manitoba.
Yes, there are still residues of the former NDP government policies affecting this government’s attempts to reopen resource markets. So far, the status quo has not only maintained but accelerated the pace of slowdown in the mining industry, forestry, fishing, and northern tourism, with some small but notable exceptions. The Wildlife Management Area on Hudson Bay around Churchill has finally been forced to add an additional permit or two to allow some fair competition there. But fishing has all but stopped even though one of the first things Premier Pallister did was to mandate that the free market system prevail. Nevertheless, since that time, officials have been actively discouraging fishers from their work and buying up fishing permits. The mining sector is still under assault. What had appeared to be good news in Thompson has been reversed with the firing of the Vale president who had been forging ahead with such optimism. Mining permits are still being withheld on technicalities and are still of short duration. The industry continues to stagnate and even slow.
Even so, I remain optimistic that our government can seize the day and not just slowly reopen our economy but use this opportunity to take a giant leap forward. We are going to need all our enterprise and energy to pay for COVID-19. We must all heartily endorse efforts to do whatever it takes.