Pot, transit and a race for the mayor's chair: Looking ahead to 2018 in Manitoba

A new year is here — one during which the next phase of the province's health-care overhaul, plans for pot and an election for the top spot at Winnipeg's city hall will be among the big stories for Manitoba.

Civic elections, health-care overhaul and cannabis legalization will be stories to watch for in 2018

A new year means many Manitobans will be celebrating at The Forks — and it also means many will be looking ahead to what's in store for the province in 2018. (CBC)

As the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, many Manitobans may have felt invigorated by the idea of heading into a bright new year — while others may simply be exhausted by the one that's just passed.

But whichever camp you fall into, a new year is here — one that will see the next phase of the health-care overhaul in Manitoba, smoke lifting around the province's pot plans and an election for the top spot at Winnipeg's city hall. 

So crack the celebratory champagne and take a look into the crystal ball at what will likely be some of the most important stories in the year ahead.

Marijuana moves to market

The plan for legalized marijuana to move onto Manitoba shelves by July 1, 2018 has started to take shape. 

The province has unveiled its "hybrid model" for sales, with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp.  in charge of supplying and tracking pot and private stores taking care of the sales. 

There's no indication yet which companies will be taking the reins on sales — requests for proposals were due earlier this month. But there have been complaints the Pallister government's plan is not conducive to mom-and-pop pot shops.  

There will be a lot to learn about how marijuana will be sold in Manitoba in the new year. (CBC)

The province intended to pick up to four proposals, and the businesses will have to cover a lot of the province.

There's also haze around how much tax the province will get from the bud business. Manitoba is the only province not signing on to a federal-provincial revenue agreement to split the marijuana tax pot at least 75/25 in the provinces' favour.

The cannabis legalization clock is ticking, though, and some of that haze will have to clear before legalization in 2018.

Winnipeg's mayoral race

The next civic elections in the province might seem like a while away, with most Manitobans heading the ballot box to elect local leaders in October 2018, but the anticipation has already started.

With less than a year to go in his first term, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman still hasn't officially thrown his hat into the ring for a second term — but if he does, history is on his side. No sitting Winnipeg mayor has lost an election since 1956.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has not announced whether he will run for another term. A civic election is coming in October 2018. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Bowman is widely expected to put his name on the ballot but it would be a different race than his 2014 campaign, coming in as the establishment candidate rather than the upstart he was when elected.

But so far, Bowman has little competition next year if he chooses to run. 

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty is the only councillor who has shown interest in testing the mayoral election waters.

Health-care overhaul moves into Phase 2

One of the most-watched developments of 2017 will keep going next year: the province's major overhaul of the health-care system.

Phase 2 of the changes will start rolling out in the spring and continue over the summer. 

What's in store? 

The expanded Grace Hospital emergency department is scheduled to open. Seven Oaks' emergency room is slated to convert into an urgent care centre and Concordia's ER will close entirely, although the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority recently said a timeline for those changes hasn't yet been set.

Inpatient surgical services will also be moving away from Seven Oaks. 

Phase 2 of the province's health-care overhaul will start rolling out in the spring and continue throughout the summer. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Intensive care unit services are shifting to the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface and Grace Hospitals. 

Mental health services will also move from Grace and Seven Oaks to Victoria Hospital, the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface.

Transportation changes

There will be changes to how Winnipeggers get around the city in 2018 — whether they drive, pay for a ride service or hop on the bus.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft will be able to compete with taxis in Winnipeg as of March 1.

Along with the new services, the city will also issue 60 new taxi licences in March and another 60 at the end of the year.

The new taxi licences are necessary in part because there is no guarantee when ride-hailing services will be ready to start operating in the city, Mayor Brian Bowman said earlier this month. 

As ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are set to become part of Winnipeg's transportation market this spring, there will also be more taxis heading out onto the streets. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, for those who drive or bus, cuts to Winnipeg Transit service initially suggested in the 2018 city budget are now off the table. But the budget did include an increase in on-street parking fees and a substantial transit fare hike. 

The city's preliminary budget for 2018 called for transit service to be cut back on 22 bus routes. While that sugestion was scrapped, the city will aim to bring in more revenue by hiking the cost of a bus ride by 25 cents and the cost of on-street parking by $1.50 per hour.

Top talent at Winnipeg New Music Festival

With all the pressures a new year can bring, a lot of people will look to unwind by taking in world-class talent at the 2018 Winnipeg New Music Festival.

One of the most prolific and influential figures in contemporary classical music will be the headline performer this year at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's annual celebration of contemporary music.

Composer and pianist Philip Glass will perform his Complete Piano Etudes with pianists Jenny Lin, Vicky Chow, Jonas Sen and Madeline Hildebrand. 

Composer and pianist Philip Glass will headline the 2018 Winnipeg New Music Festival. (Wikimedia Commons)

The New York-based JACK Quartet will give the premiere performance of his Eighth String Quartet, a co-commission of the festival and Carnegie Hall.

The festival runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, and will be the last for the WSO's longtime musical director, Alexander Mickelthwate, who will step down at the end of the 2017-18 season.

With files from Bartley Kives and Sean Kavanagh