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Pallister’s first year, just a passing grade?

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06Jan

By: Graham Lane
Published: Winnipeg Sun, January 6, 2017

Brian Pallister is now closing in on a year at the helm. Has his government been a real
improvement over the economically clueless NDP government that ruled for seventeen long
years?

NDP finance critic James Allum had the gall to pronounce “Pallister government is disappointing
… evidence of an austerity agenda … shedding good jobs and making life harder for Manitoba
families”. Talk about the pot calling the kettle burnt: Allum and his Selinger colleagues left
Pallister with a mess – deficits, debts, high taxes, and above all the Hydro boondoggle.

As for Pallister, a more judicial view rates his performance no higher than a C-. Much promised
and said, little done or accomplished. Opportunities have been lost (Hydro in particular), many
others remain to be discovered and seized to move Manitoba to a better place.

A recent poll suggested that the PCs won mostly because the electorate had enough of the
Dippers. It also reported that 50% of those polled viewed Mr. Pallister favorably. Not surprising
given what we suffered through from the old regime.

That said, during the campaign, our now Premier said nothing about massive Hydro rate hikes
nor boosting MPI premiums, nor a brand new carbon tax. He did say he would cut the PST,
eliminate waste, and halt Hydro’s new transmission line for a proper independent review of the
utility’s $25 billion expansion.

After the election, no review, no halt for Hydro – on went the building while the export market
deteriorated further. Pallister wasted five months on a costly American consultant before
realizing that critics were right, the expansion is a disaster for ratepayers. He then
unnecessarily disrupted his farm base by allowing Hydro to plow through the Red River Valley
when an eastern detour was still available.

While he promised no new or increased taxes without a referendum, he allowed the City to
enact an anti-development ‘impact tax’ and skim money off its water utility. While the NDP has
been properly raked for its blunders, our new conservative government remains clueless so far
on breaking with its abysmal tax and spend legacy. Pallister’s wincingly off-base refusal to sign
off on Trudeau’s grandiose but likely forlorn climate change adventures unless even higher
federal health transfers are forthcoming was especially troubling.

David Descoteaux, writing in CPA magazine, a journal for professional accountants, questions
the validity of putting a price on carbon dioxide, Canada accounts for only 1.6% of the world’s
GHG emissions compared with the US and China with 13.9% and 24.5% shares respectively.

He observed that Canadians already pay “a lot of taxes”, gas taxes represent 35% of the pump
price. For a party that promised to relieve our tax load so far we see a government seeking new
and increased levies on Manitobans, as the deficit they promised to eliminate grows.

Pallister has joined the New West Partnership and recognized that the public sector’s ballooned
personnel complement and compensation levels contribute to the deficit. He should concentrate
on these issues, and call an inquiry into the Hydro debacle (Mayor Bowman wants an inquiry
into Winnipeg’s new police headquarters; Pallister would be more than justified in examining a
debacle 50 times or more than it.) Absent true results, Pallister’s stumblingly performance debut
bodes poorly.

Graham Lane heads Manitoba Forward (manitibaforward.ca).

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