The Government of Manitoba has approved one of its Municipal Service Delivery Program grants to be used for a regional planning district evaluation, exploring the formalization of the PTH 75 Caucus.

Formed earlier this year, the Caucus includes the Town of Morris and R.M. Montcalm joining Emerson-Franklin's effort to further the vision of creating industrial and commercial opportunities along the major highway, forming a mid-Canada trade corridor starting at the Emerson-Pembina Port of Entry and connecting to CentrePort Canada, Northern Gateway Rail, and southcentral communities into an integrated economic artery for the Manitoba.

"This is a real positive note from the Government that they see our initiatives as being valid, so it's very exciting as we move forward," said Dave Carlson, Reeve for the Municipality of Emerson-Franklin. "It's going to pay for a cost-benefit analysis and evaluate the forming of a regional planning district."

As the only highway in Manitoba that is part of the International Mid-Canada Trade Corridor, the Caucus believes Highway 75 plays a pivotal role in advancing economic development and capturing increasing growth associated with truck and rail traffic through the Emerson–Pembina Port of Entry (POE). 

"A critical component of this concept is to take advantage of road-based and rail-based trade through the Emerson-Pembina POE," explained the Caucus in a document supplied to PembinaValleyOnline. "The POE is well-positioned to access a market draw of over 100 million people, having excellent access to an international trade network including Interstate-29/PTH75 and several major railways such as Burlington Northern, CN, and Santa Fe Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, and various handling carrier lines.

"The advantage of PTH75 is its central location at the entrance of Canada and Manitoba, and the availability of affordable land, infrastructure capacity, and a growing international trade market. Having major transportation links and access to nearby communities, the Canadian portion of the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor via PTH75 can be leveraged to establish multimodal, mixed-use development hubs and in doing so, grow our rural communities."

This past summer, a Memorandum of Understanding was also signed by the three municipalities and other trade-related partners like Centreport Canada, Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, Manitoba Trucking Association and the former PC government, all prepared to champion a regional approach to economic development.

"One of the interesting parts about this whole project," added Morris Mayor Scott Crick, "is that it's very uncommon, at least I think for most of us, we seem to have municipalities work together on something like this without the expectation of personal gain. It's not that any of the partners wouldn't want this entire enterprise to be successful, but it was built on a very high level of trust that what is good for Emerson (Franklin) is good for Morris, what is good for Montcalm is good for Morris and Emerson (Franklin), and what is good for Morris is good for Montcalm and Emerson (Franklin). I think there's a recognition that, as an area in the province with that great highway, we're really underperforming in terms of some of the development opportunities we can have, especially as a lot of industry is looking to move to different parts of the province."

With a new provincial government in power, the Caucus is re-engaging at the provincial level. 

"We're very optimistic with what we've been hearing from government with regards to economic development, and it seems that there's a lot of rural focus which is really exciting," added Carlson. "This definitely builds on the CentrePort vision that (former Premier) Gary Doer had years ago in making Manitoba a real trade hub for the country and being the northern tip of the mid-continent trade corridor for North America."

Crick noted, the feeling is that this effort would bring additional benefits to the region beyond economic development.

"Including how good it would be for climate resiliency; how it could reduce greenhouse gases if this is used to its best advantage, good, coordinated infrastructure planning across the area and components of truth and reconciliation as well, by partnering with First Nations as well as the Metis Federation."


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