by Graham Lane,
Published in the Winnipeg Sun, May 18, 2018
To become premier of a province, it helps to have a tired-out and incompetent sitting government and an opposition political party that thinks you could lead them to election victory.
To be the leader of any political party, you need active supporters, followers and the ‘ear’ of the media. You’ve won a leadership competition involving others identified with your party. While you need a polished resume and contacts with senior backroom party members, you don’t need extensive experience in either the public or private realm, nor do you need to hold impressive educational or policy credentials.
But, if you won the leadership of a party which ends up taking government, particularly with a majority government, you, regardless of your abilities, get to select a cabinet and begin navigating through the ups and downs of the economy and events. Your ability to name election colleagues to cabinet, and to change your appointments during the term of ‘your’ government, represents significant power. This power keeps your cabinet mates in line; to oppose a leader’s policies risks removal from cabinet, if not from the government.
Manitoba PC caucus members expected to improve Manitoba’s economy and help its citizens and residents ahead of their taking power in April 2016. The majority of the electorate were ready for a change in government, with the 17-year old NDP government, then-led by Greg Selinger, exhausted and needing time out of office to rejuvenate ahead of trying again to gain power.
Who would have expected that only two years into its first mandate the PCs would be staggering and under pressure from a disorganized NDP? It all ties back to the PCs stubborn leader, Brian Pallister, whose dysfunctional and egocentric top-down “all about him” management style has bottlenecked and paralyzed desperately needed real reform.
He is still blowing opportunity after opportunity to renew Hydro towards holding down long term rates.
Despite public sector costs being far above the Canadian average (call it Manitoba Last), his easy default has been to seek ever more revenue. Witness outrageous $500 traffic fines, for example, and his politically toxic carbon dioxide tax. Yes, there has been some restraint and a few good moves, but mainly we see insignificant and unsophisticated ‘Yes Minister’ type freezes and cuts.
Fortunately for him, his colleagues in the PC caucus are unwilling to ‘take him on’, so far,. Why risk the perks and power that come from being in the Cabinet: all-expense paid trips, public attention, and a good salary (unfortunately for most of them), and a guaranteed pension. There are penalties for not towing the Pallister line. Witness the guillotining of Steven Fletcher, the principled policy savvy traditional conservative who was executed for observing that real conservatives everywhere oppose carbon dioxide taxes.
With an NDP-style disdain of hard-working taxpayers, Pallister decreed that if his government achieves a balanced budget within a two-mandate PC government (a pathetically low bar), his toothless balanced budget law, which now reduces his cabinet ministers’ salaries, would restore the cuts to them.
We now have a Manitoba Last leader, with neither an aggressive nor a serious plan forward. His government is NDP-lite, with a ‘made in Manitoba’ carbon tax.
Its time to pursue changing Manitoba Last to Manitoba First.