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Manitoba's economy doing 'quite well' despite oil slowdown: dean

Government spending is helping Manitoba's economy outpace those of most other Canadian provinces, says Michael Benarroch, dean of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

High government drives economic growth in Manitoba, says Asper School of Business dean

Manitoba Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross (centre) and Jobs and the Economy Minister Kevin Chief (right, blue shirt) announce increased housing subsidies on May 22, 2015. Asper School of Business dean Michael Benarroch says government spending is a major driver of economic growth in Manitoba. (The Canadian Press)

Manitoba is on track to have one of the fastest-growing economies in Canada in 2016, says Michael Benarroch, dean of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

Government spending is one of the key drivers behind that growth, he said. Manitoba has seen a 45 per cent increase in public sector spending in the last year.

"The spending that the government is doing is really infusing some energy into the economy," Benarroch said.

Manitoba has decided to run a deficit and it's up for debate whether the short-term benefits outweigh long-term consequences of that, Benarroch said, but "in the current period that's really helped stabilize the economy."

The Conference Board of Canada predicts Manitoba will have the second-fastest-growing economy in the country in 2016, and Benarroch agrees.

"We're up near the top in terms of economic growth, and we really haven't seen the up and down cycles that some of the other provinces, especially Saskatchewan and Alberta, have seen," he said.

In short, Benarroch said, Manitoba is doing "quite well."

Low dollar boosts Manitoba manufacturing

Wood, fabricated metals and machinery industries in Manitoba have seen demand slow from western provinces hit by the low price of oil, said Benarroch, but other parts of Manitoba's economy are helping offset that.

"We do have quite a diversified economy, so a few other areas such as furniture and transport and chemical in the manufacturing field are doing extremely well," he said, and the low Canadian dollar is partly to thank for that.
Low oil prices have negatively affected Manitoba's economy, but the slowdown is offset by government spending and a bump in manufacturing, says Michael Benarroch, dean of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. (Canadian Press/Larry MacDougal )

The loonie dipped below the 70 cent mark on Tuesday. The currency hit an all-time low of 61.79 cents in January 2002.

Manufacturing hasn't been leading Manitoba's economy, but it might if the loonie continues its weak track, said Benarroch.

"We're hoping with the low dollar, [manufacturing] should pick up over the course of this year," he said.

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