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Manitoba's top business leaders will help chart bold new economic strategy for province, Pallister vows

Premier Brian Pallister has promised Manitobans a bold new economic growth strategy that a team of top business leaders will develop over the next six months.

Pallister told the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce at his annual state of the province address Thursday he'll soon unveil a Team Manitoba investment partnership "harnessing the province's natural and human strengths."

The premier said former chamber CEO Dave Angus and entrepreneur Barb Gamey will establish a board that will report to him within the first six months of 2018.

“We’ve got ... to have a more focused, more clearly prioritized and more clearly partner-oriented economic strategy for the province of Manitoba,” Pallister said afterwards. He said he wants the focus to be on sectors that will produce the best job growth.

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WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Premier Brian Pallister walks on stage to deliver his ‘State of the Province’ at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the RBC Convention Centre Thursday.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Premier Brian Pallister walks on stage to deliver his ‘State of the Province’ at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the RBC Convention Centre Thursday.

Premier Brian Pallister has promised Manitobans a bold new economic growth strategy that a team of top business leaders will develop over the next six months.

Pallister told the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce at his annual state of the province address Thursday he'll soon unveil a Team Manitoba investment partnership "harnessing the province's natural and human strengths."

The premier said former chamber CEO Dave Angus and entrepreneur Barb Gamey will establish a board that will report to him within the first six months of 2018. 

"We’ve got ... to have a more focused, more clearly prioritized and more clearly partner-oriented economic strategy for the province of Manitoba," Pallister said afterwards. He said he wants the focus to be on sectors that will produce the best job growth. 

"What we’re after is better results, better outcomes. We think we can do better," he said.

Consulting firm Deloitte recommended the Tories develop such a strategy, Pallister said, adding that the company's report will be made public in the next few weeks.

"That report identifies a multitude of problems with the current state of the province's economic development efforts," he said. "We knew when we formed government there was no provincial economic development strategy — it's time to change that. We are going to do just that."

Deloitte cited a lack of clearly defined goals and objectives in how the province funds outside partners in economic development, Pallister told the chamber. There is significant overlap with a lack of co-ordination of objectives, he said, and limited co-ordination within government.

"There isn't a lot of focus."

Making his first major speech since he broke his arm and suffered other injuries on a remote wilderness hike in New Mexico last month, Pallister sat on a chair on stage as he delivered his speech. "First time they've lowered a podium for me," quipped the premier, whose height is 2.03 metres (six feet, eight inches).

He later told reporters that his recovery had suffered "a little bit of a setback."

"I had a little fall," he said, without elaborating where and when that occurred.

Pallister has reduced his public appearances and cut down on his hours of work since his return from the U.S. trip.

"I work now a normal work week instead of double that. So I feel like a real slacker because I’m only putting in 40 hours a week."

Pallister insisted media are wrong when they accuse his government of being austere. He's leading an economic recovery and reducing the deficit by getting control of spending, he said. 

A deficit, he said, "steals hope and joy away from people."

Pallister declared Manitoba has had Canada's worst health care system, but said it's a "modern myth" that his government is cutting health care spending. It's up by $500 million, he said.

"Can we do better? You're damned right," he told a crowd of 1,200.

Pallister said Manitobans can expect to spend 150,000 fewer hours this year waiting in emergency rooms. "Let's hear it for (Health Minister) Kelvin Goertzen," he said to applause.

The Progressive Conservative government has made it a priority to build relationships with Indigenous people, he said. "We've reached out to every single Indigenous community, to every chief, to every council," he said.

The NDP made no treaty settlements in the party's last three years in power, while his government has settled more than 50,000 acres, Pallister said.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he was disappointed that the premier did not provide more detail about his economic development plan.

"There really wasn't much substance delivered today," he said.

Kinew said he would have liked to have heard more about the government's plans to address looming job losses in the North as well as technology changes that will affect such industries as agriculture, transportation and manufacturing.

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Loren Remillard said he would have liked to have heard more details about a government strategy to grow the economy.

However, he was pleased that a group tasked with developing an economic development strategy had a firm deadline of six months in which to report back to government. "We look forward to continuing to work with the government to help flesh that out," he said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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Updated on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 6:11 PM CST: Updates

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