Throughout much of Canada’s history, Manitoba has played a key role in the development of our nation. It has been the gateway to unlimited opportunities and new beginnings for generations of pioneers. The rich prairie soil has nurtured a proud heritage of many people, united in building a strong, culturally diverse society.
Often referred to as the ‘Keystone Province”, Manitoba is located near the geographical centre of North America. Winnipeg, the capital city, is often called “The Gateway to the West”, and because of its central location in Canada, has become one of the most important cities in the country. Many national and international companies having established their offices there.
Manitoba is a fairly level province with slopes interspersed among rolling hills that reach a height of 2,700 feet. Its total area is 251,000 square miles, almost twice the size of the UK. It encompasses a land surface area of 212,000 square miles, with the rest being water contained in the many thousands of lakes. The majority of the lakes are located in the northern part of the province. From north to south, Manitoba measures 761 miles, with the more populated area of the south being 280 miles wide. Even though Manitoba is so large, it only has a population of 1.2 million people, over half of whom live in Winnipeg. The rest of the population is mainly spread over the southern part of the province, where agriculture Is the predominant industry. Northern Manitoba has some mining towns, First Nations Reserves, and Inuit communities, but other than these is mainly uninhabited. Manitoba’s population is a fascinating blend of people from many ethnic backgrounds, including English, Scottish, Icelandic, Ukrainian, Swedish, Danish, German, Dutch, Polish, and many more. All these people are proud of their backgrounds regularly celebrating their heritage in festivals through the province, portraying their customs and cuisines of more than fifty cultures. Winnipeg is known for its multiculturalism.
Manitoba’s climate is characterized by warm, sunny summers, and cold but bright winters. Noon temperatures in July and August average 25 degrees Celsius, and daytime temperatures in the winter normally stay below the freezing point. The high number of sunny days is typical of the Canadian Prairies, including Southern Manitoba which experiences around 2350 hours of sunshine annually. More than half of the annual precipitation (averaging 504 mm per year) occurs during summer, often in short and heavy showers, and usually overnight. The average annual cumulative snowfall is between 42 and 50 inches.
The main agricultural area is triangular, and runs along the American border to the south, and 230 miles north along the Saskatchewan border to the west, and then diagonally back to the southeast corner of the province. The northern part of the province is made up of very rugged terrain, enormous pine forests, lakes and rivers, many of which can be reached only by float plane. Agriculture has been one of the most important sources of livelihood in Manitoba since the days of the first pioneers.
Wheat continues to be a most important Manitoba crop, accounting for up to 30% of crop production value, followed by barley and canola (rape). Other major crops are oats, rye, peas, soy beans, and corn, with the province dominating Canadian production of flax seed, sunflowers, and buckwheat. Despite the dominance of grain production, Manitoba agriculture is more diversified than the other prairie provinces, with special crops, horticulture, and livestock, making a significant contribution to total province income. The major grain and oil seed crops are grown throughout the province, while most of the special crops are concentrated in the area bounded by the Red River Valley, Portage La Prairie, Brandon, and the American border. However, even though grain farms predominate, the agricultural industry also has a large livestock nucleus. Beef cattle are mainly raised in the western part of the province and Interlake regions, while most dairy farms are concentrated in the area south of Winnipeg. This area also accommodates many intensive hog and poultry units. The overall average farm size is now 1,000 acres per farm, with the total provincial farmed area being just under 19,000,000 acres.
The majority of land in western Canada is identified by the ‘legal description’ comprising of 3 sets of numbers – Section, Township, and Range, e.g. 28-13-123 and being either east (E) or west (W) of the principal meridian, which is located just to the west of Winnipeg.
The farmland is set out in square sections 1 mile by 1 mile (640 acres) and can be further subdivided into quarter sections (160 acres). A block of 36 sections makes up a township, with six townships creating a municipality, each of which is administered by a group of councillors.
Manitoba’s outdoors provides wonderful recreation for young and old on holidays, long weekends, and vacations, with nearly everyone out and enjoying the beauties of nature. The many lakes are the biggest attraction, and depending on the season, people camp, swim, fish, sail, canoe, or hunt, on or around them. Hockey, curling, skating, skiing, tobogganing, and snowmobiling are favourite activities in the winter. Vast acreages of National and Provincial Parks offer additional amenities and recreation facilities. Canadians generally enjoy outdoor events and are very sports oriented.
The province has a health care system, funded by the provincial government, and everyone can apply for a medical number on arrival for permanent residency in the province, and is entitled to services from doctors, and specialists, with a percentage of pharma care costs refunded by the government. Dental and optical treatments are not included. The majority of small towns have well-equipped modern hospitals, with any major or special treatment available in Brandon or Winnipeg.
Cost of living is generally considered to be quite reasonable in Manitoba.
Many food prices are periodically reduced when the various supermarkets offer ‘specials’, thereby providing good savings. It pays to shop around. Many Canadians regularly ‘eat out’ in the wide range of restaurants, at almost half the cost of British restaurants.
Motor vehicles are quite a lot cheaper, with no annual road fund license. Full insurance on a domestic family car would be around $1,400 per annum. Most electrical items are also less expensive. Gas costs $.99 per litre, and electricity is around $7.82 cents/Kwh.
To fully comprehend and appreciate the expanse and beauty of the province of Manitoba requires a personal visit.