Great places to live: Manitoba

Portage la Prairie
In the heartland of the Central Plains, about 80 kilometres west of Winnipeg, on the Assiniboine River is the city of Portage la Prairie. The population of the city itself is about 13,000, that of the rural municipality about 7,000. The city’s name comes from the fact that it is the site of the swiftest overland link between the Assiniboine and Red River systems and Lake Manitoba 25 kilometres to the north.

Watching the weather
Average Jan. temp (daily mean): -17.3 C
Average July temp (daily mean): 19.3 C
Annual rainfall: 389.1 mm
Annual snowfall: 125.5 cm

Setting up house
Bungalow: $80,000
Standard two-storey: $100,000
Condominium: $140,000
Monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment: $550
(Source: Bob Hodgins, Century 21 Andrich Realty, Portage La Prairie)

Getting around
Taxis abound as well as a Handi-Van service for anyone 55 years of age and over. The city is accessible by two buslines (Greyhound and Grey Goose). The Trans-Canada Highway bisects the rural municipali. Winnipeg International Airport is only a 45-minute drive away.

Enjoying your life
Fort la Reine Museum and Pioneer Village covers history from 18th-century French explorer La Verendrye to the lives of area pioneers. Its railway display has the office-on-rails used by Sir William Van Horne during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Community theatre productions, dance and concerts draw audiences to the William Gleasby Centre. Portage has its own 18-hole golf course at Island Park. Other summer pursuits include baseball, tennis, horseshoe pitching and attending Portagex, the annual summer fair. The nearby Delta Marsh attracts birdwatchers. As in most prairie towns, curling is a popular winter activity; hockey fans support the Junior A Portage Terriers. 

Calling the doctor
• Portage District General Hospital has 96 acute care beds with many specialty and lab services.
• One medical clinic, one walk-in.
• 14 family physicians, eight dentists.
• Long-term care: Douglas Campbell Lodge and Lions and Prairie Manor (148 beds).

What they’re saying
“Life in Portage la Prairie: wonderful walking and biking paths through Garriock Park and around Crescent Lake, which forms an island in the middle of the city; great places to meet people, exercise and enjoy; sunrises and sunsets that take your breath away. And we’ve been the winner of the WinterLights national competition for two years!”   Yvette Cuthbert

Next page: Gimli

Gimli

About 80 kilometres north of Winnipeg on the shores of Lake Winnipeg is the dynamic rural municipality of Gimli. With a population of 5,000, Gimli is one of the province’s premier tourist resorts with 10,000 cottagers and their families visiting every summer along with 100,000 tourists a year drawn to the 482-kilometre-long freshwater lake sitting next to the flat Canadian prairie. To honour the area’s large Icelandic population, a 15-foot (4.6-metre) high Viking statue was erected in town in 1967 (Gimli means “Great Hall of Heaven” in ancient Norse mythology).

Watching the weather
Average Jan. temp (daily mean): -18.2 C
Average July temp (daily mean): 19.2 C
Annual rainfall: 407.8 mm
Annual snowfall: 148.1 cm

Setting up house
Bungalow: $100,000 to $110,000 (20 to 25 years old); $140,000 to $160,000 (new)
Standard two-storey: less than $100,000 (50-plus years old); $127,000 to $144,000 (25 to 35 years old)*
Condominium: $35,000 to $40,000 (30 years old)
Monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment: $400 to $450
* There are very few two-storey homes in Gimli, according to John Bucklaschuk of Re/Max. Gimli does have two 55 Plus Life Lease projects with rents ranging from $440 for a one-bedroom unit to $900 for a three-bedroom unit.

Getting around
There is no local bus service, but Grey Goose Bus Lines provides service in and out of town. Train and air service is available in Winnipeg.

Enjoying your life
The year’s biggest event in Gimli, Islendingadaurinn, the Icelandic festival, features an art show, film and folk festivals, dances, concerts, midway and road races. The New Icelandic Heritage Museum helps put it all in perspective. A campus of Red River College offers continuing education courses. Gimli’s Lake Winnipeg location implies aquatic activity: swimming, windsurfing and sailing. Gimli’s yacht club offers sailing lessons and races. Hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are also popular in the area. Motorsport Park, site of car and motorcycle racing, is also where an out-of-fuel Air Canada Boeing 767 bound for Edmonton once landed amid a car club’s Family Day. There are two 18-hole and one nine-hole golf courses in the area.

Calling the doctor
• Gimli Community Health Centre has 31 beds and provides the following services: emergency, chemotherapy, EMS/ambulance, palliative care, acute care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, adult day program and diagnostic imaging and lab services.
• One medical clinic.
• Six family physicians, two dentists.
• Long-term care: Betel Home Foundation (100 beds).
• The Gimli 55+ Centre offers programs that support seniors in maintaining their independence in the community.

What they’re saying
“Simply stated, Gimli is paradise! It’s quiet and peaceful. We’re located on a beautiful ocean-like lake with clean air, clean water – and it’s safe. We have six golf courses within a 30-minute drive, yet we’re only an hour away from Winnipeg for concerts and major sports events.” Kristine Sigurdson