By: Graham Lane
Published: Winnipeg Sun, February 10, 2017
Premier Pallister should make up his mind on Hydro and other major files before delivering his upcoming budget.
In a pre-election interview with CBC’s Donna Carrera, Pallister revealed he had been constantly bullied when growing up due to his then bad teeth. Quite the surprise that a successful business man, athlete, musician, politician and father, now Premier, had such self-doubt and insecurities.
It seems those insecurities have manifested themselves into the new government. Watch in amazement its lack of action on important files. Insecurity and lack of direction has resulted in career civil servants referring to his government as the New NDP.
Since Franklin Roosevelt was first elected in 1933, governments talk about what they would do in their first 100 days. Not so with Mr. Pallister. His plan was to spend considerable time in Costa Rica, just like he did as the leader of the opposition. There was no 100 day plan for the government, no action plan of any consequence. The only plan was avoiding the big decisions. And, even when little things were done, they are represented as if they were monumental, when in fact they were relatively minor.
While 80% of the government’s operating budget relates to health, education, and family services, nine months after the election and yet no announcements of any significance for those departments. We still wait for the penny to drop.
What surprised almost everyone was his appointment of a cabinet with most ministers knowing virtually nothing about their portfolio. A lawyer in charge of health, a financial advisor responsible for justice, a farm specialist responsible for education and immigration, a teacher for finance, etc.. Long-standing critics, such as Myrna Driedger, a nurse that spent almost 17 years waiting to be health Minister, were purposely side-tracked. This mismatching was clearly done to ensure that Ministers would not be experts in their field, just fine for our insecure new Premier.
Our Premier was adamant about not being seen as a cost cutter, and wanted so much to be liked, that facing a crisis- Manitoba Hydro – he froze. Paralysis despite promising to halt construction and re-think the plans. More than enough information had been accumulated and provided for his new government for him to have the options well thought out. Enough to determine if the then-remaining unspent budget for Hydro’s massive expenditure would pay for themselves or not and require subsidization by ratepayers and taxpayers. Enough to call an inquiry.
Instead of doing a Net Present Value of the remaining costs, using the latest estimates on future revenue and costs and cost of capital, the Pallister Government procrastinated until it was too late. Then Hydro was roped in to complete the ill-conceived construction and extend Hydro’s borrowing level to $25 billion or more. We are left with a utility that has no value, requiring massive subsidies for decades.
Yes Mr. Pallister – you did have a choice – and you chose to do nothing. So far, this is what we have seen from the new government. Your choice as to subsidizing Hydro should be known and reflected in the coming budget.
With so much to be done in Manitoba, the Province is crying out for a political voice – for a leader who will get things done.
Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).
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