Written by Chris Minaker, Vice President, Policy and Engagement
Opening the window in the middle of January is usually a bad idea. But with a provincial election around the corner (according to provincial law, the provincial election must take place on or before October 3, 2023), the pre-election window is open now.
In non-election years, governments give serious consideration to new ideas and proposals in the lead up to the annual budget, which is typically released in the spring of each year for all three levels of government – civic, provincial and federal. The pre-budget window usually opens in the fall and closes in the winter so the government can prepare for spring.
In an election year however, all the political parties make extra effort to engage in advance of the election period, to make sure that their message and their campaign platform is tuned up and ready to go.
This is a great time to bring forward your ideas, to meet with Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and, if you happen to see MLAs at events or on your doorstep, to make sure they understand the realities that businesses are facing and hear your perspective on what government should focus on.
The Winnipeg Chamber is working hard to develop our provincial election playbook, which will reflect your priorities. We have been listening to Chamber members at policy meetings and events, through surveys and face-to-face conversations for quite some time. Our provincial election playbook will raise the issues you think are important and will provide ideas for what needs to happen.
For example, we heard from Chamber members that the rising cost of doing business is impacting your bottom line. Rising input costs, driven by inflation, are compounded by persistent supply chain issues, which are top of mind and require constant management. Adding to this difficulty are rising interest rates, which are raising the cost of debt financing and investment back into your business. We know that the workforce is also an issue, and that in some sectors, it is challenging to find enough people to fill job openings.
In the short-term during these challenging times, government can and should do more to support business. We are pleased to see that the government is looking at taxation and competitiveness and we encourage the governing Progressive Conservatives to consider how our tax system aligns with Manitoba’s economic development and growth objectives. We were also encouraged to see that the Manitoba government has expanded the eligibility for the Small Business Minimum Wage Adjustment Program so that businesses with 100 employees can apply.
In addition to the realities your business is facing in the short-term, we know that business people are also concerned about the health of our community and our environment. The provincial election is a great time to think long-term and express your hopes for the future.
The Chamber envisions downtown as a lively hub of commerce and activity. We want everyone to feel safe in our communities. We think that Manitoba has incredible assets which can be leveraged to create a green economy innovation hub and that we must prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Chamber sees a future where newcomers are welcomed into our community and are immediately matched with good employment, where our young people choose to stay in Manitoba because they can’t imagine living anywhere else, and that through reconciliation, Indigenous children and non-Indigenous children have reason to believe that their prospects for the future are equally bright.
If you are interested in getting involved and making your voice heard, consider attending one of our Policy 101 meetings, or take 5 minutes to respond to our surveys. While the window is open and all political parties are listening intently, the Chamber will ensure that the issues that matter to you are brought to the forefront and that through this pre-election window, we advance a clear vision for tomorrow’s prosperity.