Brandon, the "Wheat City," is located on the Assiniboine River in southwestern Manitoba. It is the second largest urban place in Manitoba. Although Manitoba was founded in 1870, the current site of Brandon as well as most of its hinterland were not included in the province until expansion took place in 1881. This territorial growth was closely related to the building across the Prairies of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Incorporated in 1882, Brandon was founded in May 1881 as a divisional point by the railway's Gen. Thomas Rosser.
Brandon grew rapidly, reaching a population of 15,000 by World War I. Following the initial boom, growth was slow but steady, the population total reaching 20,000 only in the late 1940s and just under 40,000 by 1996. However, recent developments have led to a projected population of 45,000–and even 50,000 by some boosters–in the next few years.
Brandon has principally acted as a service center for its agricultural hinterland. It has never had any of the advantages for manufacturing that are noted by location theorists. Many of the industries such as flour milling that were built during the early growth period were closely related to the agricultural base. This trend has continued to the present. Simplot Chemicals and Ayerst Organics have boosted the industrial sector in Brandon, and the opening of a huge pork-processing plant by Maple Leaf led to the recent boosting of Brandon's population projections.
Politically, Brandon can be characterized as a rather conservative city within a more conservative area of the province. However, in the recent past the city has acted more like Winnipeg and other Manitoba urban areas in its electoral behavior. In 1969 the New Democratic Party won the provincial riding of Brandon East and added the other city riding of Brandon West. Although later this seat reverted to the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party won both Brandon East and Brandon West when it swept back into provincial power in 1999.
The future of Brandon seems more secure than that of many of the surrounding smaller settlements, as it is likely to continue to grow in population as well as to continue to dominate its trade area of approximately 200,000 people, which it serves as a service and education center. In this context, Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College, a federal experimental farm, and an Agricultural Extension Center are valuable assets, along with various other branches of the provincial government. Brandon is trying to improve its image as a pleasant place to live and as a place in which to retire. It is also trying to attract tourists by developing a parks and recreation area along the Assiniboine River.
As the face of agriculture changes regionally, it is possible that "Wheat City" will become a misnomer and that "Pork City" might become more appropriate. For the most part, however, the face that Brandon presents to the world is likely to change more in detail than in grand sweep.
John C. Everitt Brandon University
Welsted, John, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel, eds. Brandon: Geographical Perspectives on the Wheat City. Regina: University of Regina, Canadian Plains Research Center, 1988.
Welsted, John, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel, eds. The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1997.