Friday, April 8, 2022

Original Published 17:40 Apr 06, 2022

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A union that represents more than 30,000 Manitoba workers says recent closures of major employers in Portage la Prairie will have significant and ongoing negative impacts on that city’s economy and its people, and the union is now calling on the province to invest more into the city and the region to offset those impacts.

“These job losses hurt families, damage the local economy and force future generations out of their community,” Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) President Kyle Ross said in a media release.

The comments from Ross come after MGEU released the findings of a new study on Tuesday that they said analyzes the economic impacts of closures of large employers in Portage la Prairie, a city of about 13,000 residents located in Manitoba’s Central Plains region.

There have been a series of announcements from the province recently about major employers leaving the city and the region, as the Manitoba Developmental Centre will close in 2024, while Red River College Polytechnic’s Stevenson Campus and the Agassiz Youth Centre will both close later this year.

In the report MGEU outlined what they said will be the overall impacts of the closures, stating that 456 working families will be impacted province-wide and that 349 of impacted workers live and work in Portage la Prairie and contribute a combined $26.7 million annually to the economy.

MGEU said the jobs being cut also generate an additional 60 spinoff jobs in the community.

The union is also claiming the province has made other cuts in the area recently that are having negative effects on the community’s economy and its residents.

“Other recent reductions to provincial services in the region include cuts at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, Compass Residential Program, and the Crown Lands Property Agency – Real Estate Division,” MGEU added in their media release.

“We are calling on the provincial government to recommit to investing in the region.”

Portage Mayor Irvine Ferris said he believes in the accuracy of the MGEU report, and he called the data “devastating” for Portage la Prairie.

“Our city has a population of just over 13,000, so this has a profound impact for a city our size, and there have been several economic blows delivered to the city by the province lately,” Ferris said on Wednesday. “It really is quite devastating.”

He also called the recently announced closure of the Agassiz Youth Centre, which the province said is closing due to declining incarceration rates a “major blow” to the city and the region.

“Agassiz has been a staple employer in our community for more than 100 years, and this closure will have significant economic and social impacts on our city, and throughout our region,” Ferris said.

And while Ferris said he believes the city will feel the economic impacts of the closures, he said he is also worried about the “human costs” in the community.

“We see how these decisions have real impacts on people and on their families,” he said. “I have spoken to many who are now wondering what they are going to do for work, and even some families where this has affected the employment of the husband and the wife in the home.

“A lot of families are going to have some really tough choices to make now, so this is a real shock to the community and to a lot of families for sure.”

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to the province for a response to MGEU’s comments, but did not get a response before Wednesday’s press deadline.

This item is reprinted with permission from the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg, Manitoba