Right in the centre - Vision and planning should yield success


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The die is cast. Municipal and School board election candidate lists are now finalized and the election date is Oct. 26. But there are exceptions, as a large number of councils and boards only got enough candidates to fill the seats and not enough to trigger a contest. That tells a couple of stories or more.

Obviously, voters are satisfied with past performance in many cases and sitting or incumbent councillors, mayors and trustees have done a good job. Or it could mean that there isn’t enough interest in being elected. Perhaps the job doesn’t pay enough. Perhaps the job isn’t worth the hassle and, unfortunately, elected officials are hassled. They shouldn’t be, unless there is a real issue, but sometimes voters will “go off” on an official when it really isn’t justified.

I served twice as Mayor of Neepawa and it might be helpful to revisit those terms to give today’s councillors and trustees some insight into how important it is to “play a part” in a project.

In my first term as mayor back 20 years ago I tried my hardest to get the CNR property for the Town of Neepawa. It was finally purchased in my second term 10 years ago and now that piece of land is filling up with apartment blocks, houses, a fire hall and a police station. It took a long time. Like many other projects, it came to fruition because of the little pieces being done by many people. My part was small, but it was a good project, it just took too long. Like a lot of delayed projects, this project’s costs went way up.

In my first term as mayor I had a small part to play in establishing tele-health for western Manitoba. I chaired the Manitba Smart Network and out of that grew the tele-health program we have in Manitoba. Both my wife and I have seen the benefits as at least eight trips to Winnipeg have been avoided due to our specialists being able to communicate with us by phone or conference video call.

I played another big part in the upgrading of Neepawa’s Yellowhead Centre with the new lights, boards, insulation and score clock. Still a long way to go, but it was a major improvement.

I relate all these stories to illustrate that mayors, councillors and trustees all play a part in equipping their communities to survive and thrive. It’s a lot of work. Communities definitely need to grow and they need good leadership. It has to start locally or it won’t happen at all.

The question that begs an answer is why do so many communities grow and so many fade away? Sometimes it’s location. Without a large surrounding area to service, it’s difficult to be a service centre. Every community that has thrived has had good location, an area to serve, and most of all, a plan. If you don’t have a plan, then failure is on the horizon. Sometimes the plan has to be adjusted but “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

And that brings us back to mayors, councillors and trustees. They need a vision. Vision leads to a plan and a plan leads to success. The leading example of vision, planning and success in Manitoba can be found in Winkler and Steinbach. If someone wants a blueprint for success, look at these two towns, lots to learn from their experience.

Oh yes, it takes a lot of money – corporate, private, and government. Check out any success story, in any town and you will find that the money had to come from somewhere and in a timely fashion. Many good ideas have withered in the scorching heat of not having enough money to start, or more dangerously, not enough money to finish. Many will remember how promising it sounded when beef plants were so badly needed in Manitoba. They never amounted to a successful effort. A lot of money and manpower was expended in the process.

So, it all comes back to local elections. If every official digs in and helps from their spot, the vision will be a success. If not there will be failures. The prairie landscape is dotted with success stories, but it is littered with the failures, especially leadership failures.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.