By Teresa Falk
Media outlets recently reported that Manitoba continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada. Statistics Canada reported that Manitoba’s unemployment rate was 5.3 per cent in May, up slightly from 5.2 per cent the month prior. Meanwhile, the national rate is 7.4 per cent, the lowest level in more than two years.
With low unemployment, the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg, the building of a new Blue Bomber football stadium at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the expansion of the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International airport, the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at the Forks in downtown Winnipeg, and other downtown revitalization projects, things appear to be all roses in Manitoba. But look again. All this prosperity is taking place inside the Perimeter highway. Outside is a different story.
Manitoba farmers are facing one of the wettest springs on record. Both the grain and livestock industries are affected. According to recent media reports, provincial government officials are predicting a record number of unseeded acres in the province this year due to excess moisture. The southwestern corner of Manitoba is dealing with the brunt of the moisture this year. Flooding from rivers and several major rain storms this spring has swamped the area where farmers usually grow a significant amount of wheat and canola.
Meanwhile, the livestock industry has also been hit hard especially in the Interlake region where flooded pastures have forced ranchers to move their cattle herds to drier land either in other parts of Manitoba or in other provinces. There are concerns of a lack of feed for animals throughout the province. The Interlake has suffered through four years of flooded pastures and ruined crops, and many farmers are struggling to hold on. All this may result in a lot of unemployed farmers this year.
And when farmers suffer, rural communities also suffer. There are fewer dollars to spend in the local community and in bigger urban centres. What many Manitobans don’t understand is that Manitoba’s entire economy will be impacted. Recent media reports estimate that flooded fields will mean a $1 billion hit to the province’s economy. Everything from new machinery sales to charity donations will be affected. Take a drive beyond the Perimeter highway, which encircles Winnipeg, and you’ll discover the soggy reality.