Council for the Town of Morris saw progress on a few of its strategic planning items in 2023, and their work isn't done yet.

"One of the things that we've deliberately tried to do, is be very intentional in the actions we take," explained Mayor Scott Crick. "So, one of the things for us is that our strategic plan doesn't really change very much year- to-year. We're still focusing on the same things and, hopefully, seeing some of them come to fruition in each year."

One of the achievements, noted Crick, was seeing construction get started on the new daycare announced by the province one year ago. 

"That's a five-million-dollar facility that is gifted to us by the province and that will support working families in our community for generations. So, to see that happening is fantastic, and that will be opening its doors in 2024."

Additionally, through good financial stewardship over the year, the Town was able to save money over the last number of years and matched a Building Sustainable Communities grant to pay for the creation of a zero-entry in the local swimming pool.

"We saw the construction starting on that already last year and that will be open with the pool in the spring," said Crick. "So that not only for seniors, but other people who have mobility challenges will be able to enjoy our public swimming pool."

Rendering of the zero-entry at the Morris pool

While headway was made on several fronts in 2023, Crick hopes to see good progress on a few additional items in 2024.

First and foremost, will be the continued pursuit of a supportive housing or, assisted living, facility in the region. At the start of 2023, the Town, along with the R.M. of Morris and R.M. of Montcalm, jointly launched a not-for-profit organization, Red River Supportive Housing - Logement Supervisé de la Rivière Rouge Inc., to move this work forward. 
"My understanding is the land where the facility will be going will be acquired, and the committee is going to be going out with the design build plan with an RFP to get some quotations and plans for the build. So very exciting," said Crick. "As I've said previously, this is the closest in, going on 10 years of involvement in municipal politics, we are to actually making this facility happen. Deputy Mayor Chris Hamblin has been an incredible driver of this, and I think we'll see some very concrete, tangible things happening in 2024."

Second, of all, Crick says the Town will move ahead with its partners, the R.M. of Montcalm and Municipality of Emerson-Franklin, on a regional effort to establish a Mid Canada Trade Corridor in the Highway 75 area. The three municipalities formed a caucus early in 2023 to further the vision of creating industrial and commercial opportunities along the major highway, connecting to CentrePort Canada, Northern Gateway Rail, and southcentral communities into an integrated economic artery for the Manitoba.

"I know there's a meeting scheduled with the new government and two ministers in the upcoming year," noted the Mayor. "The different Councils will be actually budgeting some seed capital for this project so that we can move it from a concept and idea into something where there's actual digital assets where we get some alignment on zoning bylaws, and that we can actually start going out and marketing our region of the province as a great place for business, not just for Manitoban businesses but also international businesses as well."

Crick feels this effort will not only be good for the Town of Morris and the region, but the province as a whole. 

With other municipalities in southern Manitoba adopting a regional approach to economic development, among other things, for a few years now, we asked Crick why the Town hoped on board with this regional effort now.

"You know, it's such an interesting thing. I think that more than anything, for municipalities to work together, there has to be a very high level of trust and goodwill," he replied. "The whole conversation started, funny enough, at the Morris Stampede in 2022 and it was just announced that Emerson-Franklin was going to be entering an agreement with the province to lease land at the Border to change the configuration of how traffic comes through (in order) to build more border-centric services, which are really important for a lot of the industries that operate around there, to benefit their municipality. At the same time, we as Morris had built our industrial park that we were looking to market and, at the same time, the R.M. of Montcalm has seen some really good development just south of Letellier. Everything is just very well-aligned, and we have such a good relationship and a level of trust between the three councils. We all came into it as a partnership, understanding that this would benefit all of us."

Simmering in the background, meantime, are the Town's continued investments in industrial and residential development, including ongoing conversations with developers. 

"That will be the type of thing that, again, we'll have to plant a lot of seeds, keep watering them and you know, I would be very happy to see a couple of them start growing in 2024, but that'll likely be for the 'what's happening in 2025' interview," said Crick.