The State of CED in Manitoba: Are We on the Edge of Change?

December 20, 2018

The State of CED in Manitoba: Are We on the Edge of Change?Back in October 2018, community builders, advocates, and activists from across Manitoba joined together for the annual Manitoba Gathering of Community Builders, hosted by the Canadian CED Network at St John’s High School in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End. The theme of the Gathering this year was The Edge of Change. Plenary panelists Elder May Louise Campbell, Abdikheir Ahmed, and Uzoma Asagwara, along with moderator Molly Dunbar started our day exploring this concept.

The Gathering is a large event that brings together over 500 people from a range of sectors – focused on meaningfully strengthening our communities. Since my first time attending in 2012, I have heard many people refer to the Gathering as being like a family reunion. This is a sentiment I absolutely agree with. A diverse family, certainly, but one united with a vision that is hopeful and resolute, while tempered with understanding the interrelated crises of poverty, housing, addictions, employment, oppression, and more. After an hour of deep, critical, and crucial conversation, the panelists finished off by offering a single idea for this “family” to take with them. We heard “solidarity”, “vote”, “bolder” and while not one word: “We the people, we find our voices, and start speaking out … use our spirit to change the world”. The panelists helped bridge movements and reminded us of the solutions and wisdom that exists in our communities, effortlessly connecting the past, the present, and the edge of change where we find ourselves.

A few weeks later, I found myself at the State of the Province address with CCEDNet Regional Director Sarah Leeson-Klym. The State of the Province is also an important community event, hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and attended by over 1000 community and business leaders. Here, we heard from Premier Brian Pallister about his vision for Manitoba. Economic development in key industries and work were top on his agenda. He reaffirmed his assertion that the resulting GDP growth and reduction in government deficits and spending will lead to a ‘better Manitoba tomorrow’. While the speech was certainly positive in tone, it felt distinctly different than the community vision I saw at the Gathering that works directly on some of the key economic and social challenges we see on the streets of Winnipeg and across Manitoba communities.

On November 28, members of the Canadian CED Network – dedicated community developers, advocates, and activists – came together to democratically decide the policy mandate of our Network. For me, the policy mandate emerges as a bridge between these two worlds – community members on the edge of change at the Gathering and a provincial government prioritizing economic development and work. Our Network’s policy mandate makes no bones about the challenges our province faces, while asserting proactive and innovative ideas for economic and social development that are sustainable and inclusive, all while resisting the idea that reduced government spending in key areas will lead to prosperity. Despite the juxtaposition of these community events, it is clear that in Manitoba, the power of communities working in solidarity, working boldly, working to change the world, with solutions at the ready is abundant.

With multiple strategies at both the federal and provincial level being developed or implemented and the release of several recent provincial statements that give us more information about the government’s priorities (not to mention this being my first fall with CCEDNet), this is an apt time to take stock of our mandate as we face the edge of change in our governments . The following thorough (but potentially not comprehensive) analysis will focus on the state of CED within the provincial government context, although there are of course many instances where intergovernmental relationships are essential. To do this, we’ve compared our mandate against the newly shuffled Cabinet Minister Mandate Letters, the November 20th Speech from the Throne, the recently released Economic Growth Action Plan, and the December 6th State of the Province address by Premier Brian Pallister.


Foremost among the provincial government’s announcements this season has been a focus on economic development and employment. The Economic Growth Action Plan establishes regional and strategic partners to help deliver the economic development strategy. All Ministers in their mandate letters are tasked with “implementing our economic development strategy”.  At the same time, the provincial throne speech set out a course to have “more employable Manitobans … transition from welfare into the workforce”. A general summary includes the primacy of economic growth, a need for fiscal restraint, and a belief that an improved Manitoba is one where more people are working overall.

This government also maintains its interest in measuring success using a variety of barometers, including Social Return on Investment, and showing particular interest in comparison against other provinces.The focus tends to be on improvement, regardless of the measure or the focus.

We know many members find alignment and common thinking with elements of these priorities. The community understands the value of meaningful work in local enterprises with wrap-around supports as a key way of ending poverty and spurring local economic development. Certainly government systems working effectively for community members is key. Measuring our progress to know that our interventions and enterprises are working is essential. But, overall, the development strategy for Manitoba feels like ‘growth for the sake of growth’, without taking into account social equity, the pressing need to address climate change, and sustainable economic growth for all Manitobans. Economic development in Manitoba should benefit all Manitobans, including those unable to participate in the mainstream labour market, and keep future generations in mind.

The economic development plan, as well as movement toward transitioning from “welfare into the workforce”, presents an opportunity for members to forward our Community Economic Development vision, detailed in the Network’s Manitoba policy mandate. When our mandate is taken together, it offers a cohesive vision of community-led, inclusive, and sustainable economic development that aligns with government priorities. It commits deeply to prosperity for all, taking care of all community members, valuing social equity and environmental sustainability, as well as community leadership and ownership. The sections following offer a deeper analysis of some thematic areas that are a key part of our Network’s holistic mandate.

With a throne speech, economic development strategy, and new mandate letters under our belts, indeed Manitoba is on ‘the edge of change’. How we stimulate economic growth to benefit all Manitobans, now and in the future, presents a key question for community developers, advocates, and the government itself. I believe the government will have an easier time measuring success and achieving positive outcomes in our province through enacting the community agenda found in the Canadian CED Network’s policy mandate, and in the ideas and vision of the community assembled at the Gathering.

Click on the links below to find more information about key Canadian CED Network member priorities. Watch in 2019 for a new annual report designed to more clearly articulate our Network’s vision for a Manitoba where there is inclusive, sustainable, and equitable prosperity for all. In the meantime, visit our Manitoba Policy Page to find all our current policy resolutions. Find the Provincial Throne Speech in full here. The Ministerial Ma