By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman
NEEPAWA, Man. — Over the centuries, many things have changed in Manitoba, but throughout our history, one thing hasn’t — the importance of transportation. How we move has changed, but the fundamental importance of transportation to Manitoba and her people hasn’t.
This has been the case right from the beginning, as the First Nations people used the province’s trails and river networks to create trade networks between tribes. Starting in 1611, Europeans began arriving in what is now known as Hudson Bay and northern Manitoba. They were in search of the Northwest Passage, a new trade route to China. While they might not have found a direct route to China, they did find a vast trade network in the enormous Hudson Bay watershed, which is fed by all of the rivers in Manitoba and many of those in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut. This natural transportation route played an important role in the province’s development from that point on.
In 1881, construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway began and its route, linking east and west, would inevitably pass through Manitoba. The availability of efficient freight transportation, starting with the railway, has opened doors for Manitoba’s relatively thin population to seek economic fortunes outside our borders, moving both goods and people. For much of the province’s history, natural resource extraction and agriculture have been the dominant industries. Both of these require that producers are able to access markets beyond the province’s borders, something not possible, or economically viable, without strong transportation networks.
The construction of the Trans-Canada Highway began in 1950 and this opened more doors for Manitoba’s role as a transportation hub. As time has progressed and freight transportation has evolved, Manitoba has kept pace. Today, Manitoba is one of the country’s major transportation hubs.
When it comes to the trucking industry, Manitoba continues to punch above its weight. According to the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), Manitoba represents just three percent of Canada’s population, but the province’s trucking industry accounts for 5.1 percent of the Canadian industry. Both direct and indirect employment in the for-hire trucking business employs about 4.6 percent of Manitobans and contributes about $2 billion to the province’s GDP.
Everywhere you look, you can see the industry’s importance to our daily lives, even if it’s not clear at first. Trucking companies have a visible impact, providing direct employment to our friends and neighbours, but their impact stretches far below the surface, too. MTA’s figures show that for every 10 jobs created in the trucking industry, seven jobs are created in ancillary businesses, like mechanics, tire shops, suppliers and road departments. Most importantly, trucks move our goods to where they need them. In rural Manitoba, it’s pretty well impossible to find a product that has not travelled by truck at some stage of its journey.
Manitoba’s location, at the heart of the continent, will forever mean that goods headed in either direction have to pass through our borders. This week marks our annual trucking week feature and gives us a chance to celebrate this vital industry working in the background of our daily lives. This is an important strategic advantage we must continue to develop.