Behind the Jets: A Winnipeg Reborn
By Michael Sipidias, CCUF Columnist at Wilfrid Laurier University
As a hockey loving, Midwest Canadian city, the loss of Winnipeg’s major league team in 1996 felt like the city had lost an integral part of itself. Like Montreal’s loss of their Expos, Winnipeg’s NHL team moving south of the border seemed to be more of a symbolic reference to its loss of economic status than anything else.
Once a booming city at the epicentre of Canada’s breadbasket, Winnipeg had, like much of Canada, slipped economically as market forces were put aside in pursuit of other, more politically driven efforts. The creation of the Canadian Wheat Board, which essentially controls the wheat market in Canada, is a prime example of the policies that hindered innovation in Winnipeg’s markets in lieu of more stable prices.
But as the Wheat Board’s continued operation is met with evermore scrutiny, so too is the city’s economic sluggishness looking to be left in the past. And with the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets this summer, it is only apt for us to take a look at how far Winnipeg has come since its symbolic low when the Jets left back in 1996.
Formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, the approval of the Jets move from Atlanta has been a long and rigorous process for the city and was not thought of as the ideal location within North America to move the team. However, the growth of Winnipeg and its dedicated local fan base, albeit small as it is, are seen as the key reasons the Jets new Canadian owners sought to bring the city its team back. But although the team may be the same, the city it’s returning to certainly is not.
Since 1996, Winnipeg has been developing its manufacturing sector drastically with a 5.7 percent increase in job growth in 2007 alone, which has been a vital part of their growth. Another very strong indicator of their economy resurgence is the increase in major construction projects in and around the city. Several very large projects such as the Manitoba Hydro building, the Red River Floodway expansion and repairs to the Disraeli Freeway are contributing to not only job growth in Winnipeg, but the city’s increasing economic infrastructure.
Economists have speculated that the recent growth trend of Winnipeg’s economy can be attributed to a bubble effect, which eventually will pop. However, with strong population growth, a growing manufacturing base, and increasing construction within the city, this can only allow for more job growth and consequently a larger growth in GDP. The city of Winnipeg is one of the leading economic growth prospects within Canada and trails only behind oil production powerhouses like Edmonton and Calgary. With the coming of the new Winnipeg Jets, this should allow for even more positive economic growth and push Winnipeg closer to being a major player within Canada’s competitive economic market and the world’s.