Manitoba premier promises economic development plan, new cabinet committee

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government is setting up a new cabinet committee and provincial office to focus on economic development, and is looking to retool a key tax break for property development.

The measures are part of an economic development plan released by Premier Brian Pallister, who delivered his annual state of the province speech Thursday to business leaders in Winnipeg.

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"We believe that the alignment that has to happen for us to grow is important," Pallister told the crowd of roughly 1,200.

"Aligning stakeholders with governments, communities, institutions and organizations so we ensure that we're pulling ... in the same direction is critical to the success of this plan."

The cabinet committee, made up of eight Tories, is supposed to ensure government departments are working together on common economic goals.

A new Economic Development Office will co-ordinate with agencies outside of government. Pallister said the province may cede some of its work to business and tourism agencies.

"It means repurposing the provincial government's role so it doesn't duplicate what's being done very effectively by others," Pallister said after his speech.

The government will also change its Tax Increment Financing program, which offers incentives for new property development. The province will also create a new innovation program to help small- and medium-seized businesses develop products and get them to market.

The plan was the result of a year-long consultation led by two business leaders, and details of each initiative will emerge in the coming weeks and months.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew, who attended the speech, said he expected more specifics from a government that has been in power for more than two years now.

"I think the premier left a lot to be desired on the part of Manitobans who are struggling with the cost of living (or) who have heard that their jobs may be disappearing," he said.

"There was no action announced there."

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