Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rural 'Toba gets an 'A'

Things have sure changed in Brandon

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It was generally a good report card for rural Manitoba and one of the highlights of the 2011 census is Brandon.

Brandon increased by 4,500 people, 11 per cent more than in 2006. (Winnipeg grew by five per cent.) It's extremely good considering western Manitoba keeps losing population to the large oil patches in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The reason for Brandon's growth is the Maple Leaf Foods hog plant, which is doing what it was supposed to do. It promised to grow Brandon's population. What no one knew is it would become an immigration machine. That happened when Maple Leaf cut salaries.

The Wheat City population used to be almost exclusively WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) with barely an ethnic restaurant (unless you count Kelsey's Irish pub!) Today, there's East Indian restaurant Chilly Chutney, three Japanese sushi bars, a Chinese food store called Living Delight and a Colombian food store called Karla's International Foods.

Immigrants have arrived from China, Colombia, El Salvador, Nigeria, Ukraine, Mexico and the isle of Mauritius.

Meanwhile, Neepawa saw its population increase by 10 per cent thanks to the Filipino invasion of workers for its Hylife Foods hog plant. The population could easily jump 20 per cent next census.

MOSASAUR CITY: Morden can officially become a city now. The Pembina Valley community has grown a whopping 19 per cent since 2006. That amounts to 1,300 new people, for a population of 7,812.

The threshold to become a city is 7,500 in Manitoba. (In Saskatchewan, it's 5,000.) Morden Mayor Ken Wiebe is being coy on whether council will seek city status. His wife, Linda, wants it to remain a town, she told the Free Press recently, so there could be friction in the household. Think of the Wiser's whiskey ads, Ken! (Clap... clap... clap.)

Meanwhile, 14 kilometres down the road, the City of Winkler's population jumped by more than 1,500 people, or 17 per cent, to 10,670. Throw in the RM of Stanley, which fills the gap between the two communities, with 8,356 people (up 31 per cent) and that part of the Pembina Valley represents almost 30,000 people.

All those communities are growing thanks to aggressive use of the provincial nominee program to land immigrants.

NEVER WILL? IT WILL: Surprise, surprise, Niverville continues to be the fastest growing community in Manitoba.

It grew by 44 per cent from 2006.

Steinbach you know about, but Niverville? It's midway between Winnipeg and Steinbach.

The growth is from Winnipeggers looking for a smaller community to live in.

"We're just 21 minutes from St. Vital Centre," said Mayor Greg Fehr. "Another thing we attribute it to is, unlike bedroom communities, we have a diversity of housing ranging from entry level to $700,000 homes."

LEAPING FROG FOLLIES: Kudos to St-Pierre-Jolys. Its population increased more than 30 per cent to 1,100.

Yes, the increase is only 260 people. But St-Pierre's population had been on the decline for over a decade previously.

St-Pierre Mayor Denis Fillion attributed the comeback to a major marketing campaign in Winnipeg. He said about 60 per cent of the increase is from young families returning to the area.

The bad news is St. Malo lost 10 per cent of its population.

THE CAPITAL REGION: The capital region outpaced Winnipeg in growth again, recording a 7.4 per cent increase for the entire area.

Headingley led all capital region municipalities with 18 per cent growth. West St. Paul and Taché both experienced strong rates of 13 per cent.

East St. Paul and Stonewall appear to have plateaued a bit at just under four per cent. (East St. Paul grew 14 per cent between 2001-06.)

The largest rural municipality in the capital region, Springfield, grew over eight per cent and has just over 14,000 residents. By comparison, the City of Selkirk has 9,834 people.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2012 B2

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