The final stop of the AMM President’s Tour was in Lorette, Manitoba. While not an incorporated municipality on its own, Lorette falls under the jurisdiction of the RM of Taché, along with the LUD of Landmark. Far from being rural, however, both Lorette and Landmark are communities poised for growth and struggling to find the funds needed to support that growth.
Mayor William Danylchuk of the RM of Taché opened the meeting by outlining the many projects needed in the area. Major upgrades to sewer and water facilities require several million dollars and Danylchuk noted “at the federal level the Prime Minister has been very open about the fact there is no new money coming out for infrastructure.”
Drainage work needs to be addressed also, said Danylchuk, and Councillor Jaques Trudeau agreed. “The farming community has really improved their drainage and the municipalities have improved theirs – but they empty into provincial drains that don’t need just minor repair, they need to be rebuilt. They are not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Bridges are another concern, as is the downloading from other orders of government – a common theme throughout the President’s Tour. “About three years ago we needed a new lagoon in Landmark,” said Councillor Robert Koop. “But our distribution system was no longer adequate, so we were stuck (footing the bill) again. We have a whole bunch of developers lined up wanting to develop land but we have to tell them no.”
“We think if the province forces things on us, they should also help us get things going.”
Landmark’s Mike Valks noted growth brings challenges. “We’re poised for growth over the next five years. We’ve seen lots of growth in Lorette and Landmark has those opportunities also. Development is key – we know if we bring in more people it helps bring success for the area and the province. Our need is infrastructure. Our growth has flatlined and our school population is declining.” Long-term planning is key, according to Lorette’s Graham Eason. “We need to look beyond the next five years but focus on the next 25 years.”
Several participants raised the need for recreational facilities to engage young people. A brand new spray park was being well used on the day we visited Lorette, but more is needed, including another ice surface to accommodate the community groups who want to run their programs. Facilities that keep kids occupied with recreation opportunities were seen as important to prevent mischief due to boredom.
Tourism is another area suffering from poor infrastructure – the access road to the St. Genevieve Historic Site lacks signage and is not wide enough to accommodate tour buses. The site provides youth employment and summer programs, also helping keep local youth occupied, noted the site’s manager, Diane Dornez-Laxdal, but she also pointed out that “There is an economic spinoff for the community that goes much beyond crime prevention,” she said.
MLA for Steinbach, Kelvin Goertzen, attended the meeting representing the PC party. He said “ultimately, it’s about respect and working together. I am glad we are doing this prior to an election but we should do this all the time. We need to be working together on issues – we are not adversaries. It is not responsible to go to a municipality and say ‘we’re going to download this to you.’ That’s not a respectful relationship.”
The NDP’s Ron Lemiex, representing the La Verendrye Riding suggested “we’re all in this together. The way to achieve things is through partnerships. We’ve just scratched the surface of the infrastructure needs out there…people feel we’re on the right track and moving forward.”
PC Candidate Larry Tetrault agreed with the need for long-term planning and better communication between all three orders of government. He also pointed out private developers should come to the table also and be ready to play a role when it comes to infrastructure replacement.
Tetrault also noted the benefits of recreation opportunities. “I had eight children and they were always at the rink. I never had any calls from the RCMP. They were busy and we need these facilities.”
Jacques Trudeau asked both party representatives for the area – Tetrault and Lemieux – what their strategy would be to help municipalities accomplish their goals, and how the parties can be held accountable.
Tetrault said the provincial and federal government have more money than municipalities, and “they need to help us solve our problems.” Lemieux suggested MLAs are already very responsive. “We wouldn’t be in politics if we didn’t want to make a difference,” he said.
Mayor Danylchuk noted previous partnerships had indeed made a difference. “It is no secret that Lorette was under a boil water advisory for some time,” he said. “That has been put to rest with help from the provincial and federal government. It is a good example of joining together with the other levels of government to achieve our goals.”
However, achieving goals is becoming more difficult. As RM of Taché CAO Dan Poersch explains, the municipality is “basically in maintenance mode – trying to keep what we have alive. Our ability to invest or upgrade is very limited.”