Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen paid a visit to Friesens Corp. on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The short visit included a tour of the One Printers Way facility, and a lunchroom discussion with a number of Friesens employees.
“I was an MP here for close to a decade and I always enjoy coming to this area. It’s a labour of love for me,” Pallister said.
“In many ways, South Central Manitoba and the people here have shown leadership in so many parts of our economic and social life. The folks here lead the country in volunteerism and charitable giving and I’m really proud to say that. No where is that more evident than when you come to communities like Altona and see what people here have done for each other.”
He added that he was impressed by the work being done at the plant, and impacted by the attitude of the staff that he met.
“Watching them work with so much enthusiasm was a wonderful thing to see. Life’s too short to not have fun with what you’re doing, and I got a sense that the staff really enjoy working at Friesens.”
Pallister said the visit was about getting in touch with one of the key business employers in South Central Manitoba, and one of the leading printing companies on the planet.
“It’s important to remind ourselves that we do have these incredible companies of excellence right here in Manitoba, that provide such great opportunities for people,” he said.
“Many of the employees here have immigrated to Canada as part of the Provincial Nominee Program and found their opportunities here. The spin-offs from companies like Friesens to the whole region are really of great benefit, providing employment and additional chances for people who would like to stay in this area and work.”
The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and who are interested in settling in a particular province.
This program has been crucial to the expansion of many Manitoba companies who want to attract skilled workers.
Recently, there has been some pressure to expand that program.
Pallister said the program has already seen some improvement, with significantly reduced waiting times.
Average waits were approaching three years with the previous administration.
“This was just not fair to those applying to come. We’re also doing a better job working with our business community across the province, in linking people who have the skills to the opportunities, so that when they come here to Canada, they can move right into a job and support themselves and their families. That’s been a good benefit.”
The Premier said that currently, Manitoba leads the country in attracting private sector capitol investment in the province.
“There are jobs for people. More perhaps than we can satisfy with our own population. So we need a program that can give people the opportunity to come from around the world, as my grandparents did. Many other Manitobans are the children or grandchildren of immigrant families themselves. The Nominee Program is a big part of making sure we can grow our economy even better for people here.”
Pallister also discussed the red tape reduction committee, which has helped businesses access services.
“We’re working on two files. One is to reduce barriers between provinces that are restricting opportunities and growth. We hurt ourselves in our country by letting these barriers remain. So I’ve been asked by the premiers to chair a task force that’s driving that issue. We’re working with the Prime Minister and his people in Ottawa to make the changes that should have been made decades ago on that front.”
The other part of the issue, he said, is the internal paper processing methods that governments use, which many have discarded in the private sector.
“The governments still are using some of these and this takes a small business person extra time and costs them money. That is money wasted because it could have been put toward better salaries and benefits for the workers, or expanding and investing back into the company,” Pallister said.
“We’re trying to keep taxes down, cut the red tape, and get these barriers out of the way that makes Canada less competitive than it needs to be to create maximum opportunities here.”