The latest version of Probe Research's annual Manitoba Business Leaders Index (MBLI) finds that local companies are in a more difficult state this year and are marginally less optimistic about the future compared to previous years. One-third now report they are worse off financially than they were at this time last year (compared to just one-quarter who reported this in early 2023), with only three in ten businesses indicating they expect an uptick in business performance in the coming year.

graph showing how businesses in Manitoba are performing compared to one year ago

graph showing how well Manitoba businesses expect to be doing one year from now

Views about current and anticipated economic conditions and their own corporate fiscal outlook are much dimmer among representatives of companies located outside of Winnipeg.

Confidence in Winnipeg’s economic future also remains relatively low, with fewer than one-half of business owners and managers province-wide indicating they are very or somewhat optimistic about the economic prospects of Manitoba’s largest city. Three years ago, fully two-thirds were optimistic about Winnipeg’s economic prospects.

Increased operating costs remains the single-biggest concern of Manitoba businesses, with this issue dwarfing all others for the second straight year. Compared to last year, businesses are now more concerned about taxation – including an increase to the carbon tax scheduled for April 1.

graph showing which issue Manitoba businesses consider to be the most important facing their companies

Other key findings from this year's survey include:

Government Performance

Fewer than one in five say the provincial government is doing at least a good job of creating a positive economic climate for business – which is in line with the ratings provided to the previous PC government during its final two years in office.

Compared to the general population, business leaders are also somewhat more muted in their enthusiasm about Premier Wab Kinew and the new provincial NDP administration. Only one in five indicate they are excited and optimistic about this government (compared to two in five among Manitoba adults), with one-half indicating they have some concerns about the provincial NDP government but are willing to give it a chance.

Business leaders continue to give the federal government worse marks than the provincial government. Businesses are slightly more likely to offer their municipal governments praise, with nearly three in ten indicating local councils are doing a good job of creating a positive business climate.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Today, only about one in ten Manitoba businesses are actively using AI to run their operations – although nearly one in ten have begun looking into how to use these applications and expect to implement them to some extent soon.

A majority of business owners are not sure how AI will affect their profitability, with two-thirds believing it will have no impact on the number of employees they hire. However, about three in ten believe AI could have a modest impact on their earnings, while one in ten believe AI will lead them to reduce their overall staff contingents.

Disclosure Statement

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Probe Research conducted a survey of 200 business owners and managers located throughout Manitoba between February 7 and March 6, 2024. Respondents were contacted via telephone and completed the survey via telephone with a live interviewer or via a secure online survey link.

The survey sample was stratified to ensure representation from small enterprises (1-9 employees), medium-sized companies (10-49 employees) and large businesses (50+ employees). Quotas were also set based on region as well as by business sector (services, manufacturing, resources). The sample does not include government departments/agencies, representatives of other public sector entities or not-for-profit organizations.

With a sample of 200 one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results are within ± 6.9 percentage points of what they would have been if all private-sector business owners/managers in Manitoba had been surveyed. The margin of error is higher within each of the survey’s population sub-groups.

About the Manitoba Business Leaders Index

The Manitoba Business Leaders Index is an annual scientific survey of senior business officials from across the province. The survey sample includes a stratified sampling of CEOs, presidents, business owners and designated senior corporate officers from small, mid-sized and large commercial establishments as defined by Statistics Canada and the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics. This business sampling includes publicly traded and private companies from all major sectors of Manitoba industry.

Business listings have been developed based upon the most authoritative and up-to-date sampling sources available including various telephone directories.