Right in the centre - Window of opportunity to complain is closing


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

As of Tuesday of this past week, nominations closed for mayor or reeve and councillors in our cities, towns and municipalities. Candidates had until Wednesday to change their mind and could withdraw, but only if there were enough candidates to fill each seat. In other words, if a council has six members and only six filed papers, a candidate can’t withdraw.

So with the passing of the deadline on Tuesday, a window of opportunity to voice complaints closed. Coffee shops across Manitoba are full of people with opinions, but there are few who actually step up. The fact that many seats are not even contested and that tons of seats are acclaimed shows either satisfaction or apathy. There are many situations where people are quite happy with the performance of their council members. However, there are many situations where people are very unhappy with a council, a councillor, mayor or reeve and there is no resistance raised to their re-election. If a community isn’t truly happy with their elected officials, it’s pretty sad really, if all they can do is complain.

Rural Manitoba is changing and has been changing for years. The number of farms has been declining for decades.

The 2011 Census of Agriculture counted 15,877 census farms in Manitoba, a 16.7 per cent decrease since 2006. This compares to a 10.3 per cent decrease at the national level. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces agricultural products intended for sale.

Many of those farms in that figure are very small and some are huge operations.

Just as an example, the RM of Rosedale peaked in population in 1941 at 3,781 people. It dipped to 1,658 in 2006 and came back up a bit in 2016, to 1,672. The increase from 2006 to 2016 can likely be attributed to an influx of people into Rosedale living on smaller acreages where the farmsteads were once part of a larger farm.

Some Manitoba towns have grown, some have disappeared. Whether they have grown or whether they have disappeared has depended on only two things, outside forces and internal management. The outside forces, such as declining numbers of machinery or car dealers, can’t be influenced a lot except to say that local loyalty needs to be enhanced. It’s no secret that a person can buy a car, truck or tractor anywhere they like. If they don’t buy local, the question needs to be asked, “Why?” Is it price, selection or a preference for a different dealer experience? That’s something local people get to decide, but there are always consequences with a choice.

The internal management is almost totally up to the local voters and councils. They have the say in determining how a community rolls. If a major employer comes to town, that is good, but how the growth is handled is a big question. If major employer leaves, how is that transition handled?

If we look at history, an example from Neepawa’s history shows that from the 1940s to 1960s, the salt plant was a major employer. The plant closed and the buildings and land were turned over to the Town. The Town then turned it all over to the Neepawa Centennial Project Inc, a community corporation that turned the salt warehouse into the Yellowhead Centre Hall, the mill building into the the lobby and dressing rooms. The arena was then added on. Forty-six years later, the result is the Yellowhead Centre and in contrast to many communities, it only carries about $100,000 in debt, as a result of recent upgrades to the arena.

Running a community is always a matter of balancing internal and external forces.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.