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Mine companies not digging Manitoba: report

A report from a right-leaning think-tank that ranks jurisdictions' relative attractiveness to mining companies says Manitoba is becoming a less desirable place for the mining industry.

In its annual survey of mining companies, the Fraser Institute ranks Manitoba 21st out of 96 jurisdictions worldwide in terms of its investment environment.

Manitoba has been gradually slipping down the rankings after grabbing the coveted No. 1 position as recently as 2007.

Since then, it fell to eighth place in 2008, then ninth for two years in a row, slipping to 20th last year and 21st this time.

Manitoba now has the ninth-lowest ranking out of nine Canadian provinces and three territories. (Prince Edward Island is not ranked).

The report says uncertainty over aboriginal land claims is causing concern, along with the government's promise to set aside protected areas that have yet to be determined.

Opposition Leader Brian Pallister says the government is creating a climate that is driving jobs elsewhere.

Mines Minister Dave Chomiak says the province is working with companies to address their concerns and points out low commodity prices have affected mining operations everywhere.

Food industry's sales rise

MANITOBA'S food and drinking industry ended 2012 with more of a whimper than a bang, new Statistics Canada figures show.

The agency said Thursday December sales for the industry were up only 0.5 per cent from the previous month -- $128.2 million versus $127.5 million. That was also a 1.9 per cent improvement from a year earlier, when sales totalled $125.8 million.

December's tally boosted sales for the year to $1.5 billion, a 6.9 per cent improvement over 2011's total of $1.4 billion.

Statistics Canada said Manitoba was one of seven provinces to see sales improve from November to December. The increase here was the third smallest among the seven.

Canada's industry also posted a 0.5 per cent, month-over-month increase -- $4.48 billion versus $4.46 billion. The year-over-year gain was 4.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada said two of the industry's four sectors -- full-service restaurants and special food services (caters, food-service contractors and mobile food services) -- saw their sales increase by more than one per cent for the month. The other two -- limited-service restaurants and drinking places -- saw their sales decline slightly.

Wanted: 75,000 workers

GETTING more skilled labour was at the forefront at Manitoba's Skills Summit Thursday.

The day-and-a-half summit started Wednesday and brought employers, small-business owners and other stakeholders from different groups together to discuss strategies to add 75,000 skilled workers to the province by 2020. Participants discussed five topics that included training young people, growing Manitoba's immigration strategy and building the First Nations, Métis and Inuit labour force. The participants broke into groups and came up with broad strategies and goals, which were presented Thursday.

Premier Greg Selinger spoke at the summit about the importance of education and training for young people. He said he was happy to see different groups collaborating on these issues.

While Selinger called the 75,000 jobs goal a "reach," Bob Silver, chancellor at the University of Winnipeg, called it "a stepping stone."

"It's not only doable, it's surpassable," he said.

Doris Koop, co-ordinator at the vision-impaired resource network (VIRN) and a participant, was happy the government was moving toward the goal of getting new jobs into the province, but said the summit could have benefited from more time.

-- staff

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 B13

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