The RM of Piney has a quite a few things they will be working on throughout 2023.
One thing they are working on this year is the Southeast Regional Transportation initiative.
Martin Van Osch, C.A.O. for the RM, says the RM has secured funding from the federal government for the purchase of a vehicle.
"We have yet to purchase that vehicle or vehicles, it might be plural, but we have been able to secure the funding. And they've allowed the funding to extend right through to 2024, I believe it is.”
This will allow them time to work through the planning component.
They want to ensure that whatever the RM purchases will make sense long-term.
"There are a lot of options out there right now, from electrification of fleets to whether the vehicles are accessible or not, so there's a lot of questions,” he says. "And it seems like every time we answer one question, there's an additional two or three questions.”
The RM wants to make an informed decision, so they may take a while to move forward on that.
“The federal government granting us that longer timeline for the capital purchase certainly allows us to do the research which is necessary. We're very excited to work with Buffalo Point on this initiative.”
Monique Chenier, the Economic Development and Tourism Manager for Sunrise Corner, says something the RM hopes to get in the future is the expansion of cell service.
"That would be great for tourism, residents, emergencies... there are just so many reasons to have better cell service,” she says. “We hear installation of Fiber is coming down the highway and so we're looking forward to other options on the connectivity.”
The RM also wants to pursue sustainable development across the region in both Piney and Stuartburn, while working hard to maintain the rural quality of life.
Chenier explains she is working on a business attraction strategy which they received provincial funding for.
“I know development is a scary word for some people who don't like change,” she says. “But we want to make sure we're targeting the right kind of organizations to come set up shop in our region, as well as the health of existing businesses to grow into it and fill some of the gaps that we might have.”
The assessment they’re working through now is helping them define sectors that they're looking at developing. For example, housing, agriculture, the food and beverage industry, and forestry.
“We're looking at really building on the strengths we've already got here. Tourism is another big one, so we'll be rolling that out over the next year. That will be completed in 2023.”
She notes they want to provide various housing options.
“Whether that's rentals, senior assisted living, accommodations for tourists, or seasonal workers,” she says. “We're looking at all of those things because there is a bit of a housing shortage in our area, and there aren't a lot of options for people wanting to come out here.”
Chenier says she has seen an increase in people moving to the area, and they are working with a number of developers that are interested in housing developments.
“When I did the community profile over the past 10 years, we've had about a 10 percent increase in our overall residential numbers. Last year in particular was very busy for residential lot sales, for existing housing stock sales, and we're seeing that interest continue.”
Van Osch says a lot of people start out as seasonal residents before living in the community full-time.
“Overtime those seasonal residents come out here to retire.”
He says their population demographics show a higher population of retirees.
“And that is because of the great rural lifestyle that we are able to offer,” he says. “When residents come here, they get to experience all the wonderful things that we have to offer: the forests, the trails, the wildlife, just a simpler way to live.”
Chenier notes that as for building permits, 2022 wasn’t as strong as 2021, but it was still a good year.
“Last year was kind of insane, but 59 building permits this year with about a $3.3 million value, which is above average for us.”
She says the RM is also looking into agricultural growth.
“There’s a low cost for land out here. Some of the specialty crops that we've seen being developed in the area is just another area of focus for us,” she says. “And we've got amazing water in the RM of Piney, so that sort of food and beverage side of things is one of the things we're really looking at.”
Chenier says they have a consultant looking at recreation across the RM of Piney, as they have some grant funding for that.
They are looking at “what programs are being offered, how are they being offered, and how they are being resourced and funded,” she says. “It will let us take that big picture view of recreation and then fill in where there are any gaps.”
She says they have a big desire to continue improving recreation in the RM.
“Everything we're doing is kind of building off each other. The trails plan last year is helping to move into the recreation plan. The transit... how do we get people to festivals in other communities? So we're looking at overall just improving quality of life.”
She notes the RM would also love to have improved healthcare.
“I mean, I think everyone wants that. We find that a lot of people are having to travel to Steinbach and Winnipeg,” she says. “And we've got funding for some additional service provision out here and we'd love to be able to implement those things and get them in place for our residents.”
Van Osch says he feels blessed for the community he lives in, and he is looking forward to what 2023 will bring.
“And at the end of the day, we all feel so very fortunate to live in a really safe and beautiful area of our province.”
With files from Adi Loewen