By: Graham Lane
The next Manitoba election campaign has started with the vanquished NDP beginning to rebuild while setting it sights on regaining power in 2020. Too many will advise our new Premier to move cautiously and slowly away from the NDP’s often disastrous policy paths. The incrementalists believe that if the new government avoids big decisions they will keep voters in their tent for the next election.
But, the NDP has left Manitoba a fiscal basket case and bold action is required to return good governance and prosperity to our province. We need Premier Brian Pallister and his new cabinet to embrace and make bold policy decisions.
Manitoba is a mess. Wait times for health care are higher than ever. Rather than ending hallway medicine, as they promised to do 17 years ago, the NDP made it worse. We don’t need another study to tell us health care is broken. We need smart policies to fix the problems, although successful internationally-validated reforms applied to Manitoba may directly challenge the views of the central bureaucracies.
Manitoba’s education system is also a mess. Education rankings continually put Manitoba’s students at the bottom of the pack. We have seen steady growth of education administrative overhead and a steady decline in education outcomes. This must change.
Our First Nation population, on reserve and inside our towns and cities, too often still live in third-world conditions. This too must change. The right answers are not the NDP’s standard “spend more money” approaches, nor the refrain that “this is the federal government’s problem”. Manitoba cannot ignore the state of any of our communities. We need new and innovative solutions that provide first nation youth opportunity and hope. Incremental changes around the edges of current policies won’t cut it anymore.
The NDP put Manitoba’s fiscal future at risk with massive uneconomic Hydro projects. The projections upon which the projects were based were “rose coloured” to begin with, and have completely been overturned by wild spending and a rapidly changing energy market. We need a bold new strategy for Hydro that will not result in soaring electricity rates and borrowings — which is where the NDP’s Hydro plan heads. And, while our civil servants and other unionized public sector staffs are important and skilled, we cannot afford to bow to union bosses by providing excessive compensation and lax working terms.
The province’s fiscal cupboard is bare. The increases in taxes and fees have only been eclipsed by the rise in government spending and debt. Investors need to look to Manitoba as a welcoming place to start and expand businesses. We cannot wait until the eve of the next election to reverse perverse NDP economic policies that are driving business and jobs away. We need bold policies from the Pallister government. He would best begin by uncovering and publishing just how deep into the glue the NDP has put us.
Some have watched the British comedy series “Yes Minister.” In many episodes the senior civil servant, Sir Humphrey, only had to tell his minister that his idea was a bold policy to ensure that it would never see the light of day. We need our very welcome new premier to ignore every Sir Humphrey and take a few sound risks.
We need our new premier to be bold.
— Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (www.manitobaforward.ca).