Three Editorials today; 1: Brian Pallister through the eyes of a small “c” conservative…by Geoff Brookes


©Geoff Brookes

I describe myself as a “small ‘c’ conservative” – someone who tends to have conservative views and vote conservative. I have a strong belief in the importance of individual freedom, and in a smaller state (in terms of bureaucracy and government interference). But I also strongly believe in our health care and education systems in Canada. These virtues of our Canadian society are indeed “sacred cows” that must be protected. It is important to note that these matters are under Provincial jurisdiction in our political system, so a provincial election is actually more important than a federal election, for these issues.

Pallister scary

I’ve voted for the provincial Conservative party at times in the past, but I have also voted for the Liberals and the NDP at times, provincially. I tend to vote for the party that I think has the right platform and people for the Province of Manitoba, in any particular election. I’ll take this moment to mention that I became a member of the provincial Conservative party sometime in the last 6 months because a friend of a friend was running for the Conservative party nomination in my riding. She didn’t get the nomination, which spares me a dilemma.

Actually, my perspective is that this particular provincial election is a dilemma. I have voted in the past for Teresa Oswald as our MLA in our riding, because I thought she was the best representative, and because I thought that the Doer government exemplified “good government”.

I am not a fan of Greg Selinger as Premier – for the same reasons that I was a fan of Gary Doer. Doer tried to run a middle of the spectrum government, with modest tax cuts, and reasonable government spending (in my opinion). Doer had a limited number of campaign promises for each election, and he kept them. I feel that Selinger has not learned this important art from his former boss. Some will say that Selinger has shown a lack of communication skills. This may be true, but I also think that he lacks a focused agenda, allowing too many “priorities” to creep into his plans, with the result that some important things get sacrificed along the way. His decision to raise the sales tax to 8%, without warning or adequate consultation, would be an example of this lack of focus as a politician. And yes, despite his statements to the contrary in the preceding election campaign.

So, I have my own misgivings about Selinger. I would have preferred a younger leader to have taken over the NDP leadership, like Teresa Oswald. Nevertheless, for my part, I appreciate Selinger’s fundamental openness. I would even call it honesty, despite his reversal on the sales tax issue. He may wander from one exigency to another on policy matters, but at least he admits that he is wandering, in an odd kind of way.

I’m not sure that I can say the same about my feelings about the leader of the Manitoba Conservative party, Brian Pallister.

If you haven’t read the articles yet, you should read the original CBC article:

And you should read Dan Lett’s article in the Winnipeg Free Press:

To recap, there were three separate statements by Pallister that were untrue:

1. Telling Dan Lett in late July 2015, originally off the record, but later confirmed on the record in an end of year interview, that he was at a family wedding during early July 2015 (during the severe flooding), when in fact he was vacationing in Costa Rica at that time.

2. In December, 2015, telling the WFP the same thing, in an end of year interview, formally on the record.

3. Recently saying that the last time he had been out of the country was a short visit, 1 year ago,  in Pembina, North Dakota, when in fact he had vacationed in Costa Rica for several weeks, on 2 separate occasions, more recently than that.

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The pattern is that Mr. Pallister doesn’t seem to want to admit that he spends time in Costa Rica – which was the point of the CBC article – to the point of repeatedly denying it.

As Dan Lett mentions, he is probably entitled to take his vacations there if he wants to, and there aren’t any formal prohibitions against this for a leader of the opposition.

So why not simply tell the truth?

Mr. Pallister is claiming that he forgot, and got the details wrong.

As the CBC points out, Mr. Pallister has spent 240 days in Costa Rica in roughly the past 4 years, since he most recently became an MLA in Manitoba.

I don’t know about you, but if I loved a vacation home to the point that I spent an average of 60 days a year there for the past 4 years – about 1 in 5 of all of his days for the past 4 years, according to the CBC – I don’t think I would forget that I spent 2 separate multi-week vacations there in the past year.

So I’m left with only 2 choices in this matter – either he truly forgot – which borders on a memory disorder – or he has chosen to lie about it on 3 separate occasions. In my view, neither of these possibilities is something that I want to see in my next Premier of Manitoba.

From a public policy perspective, I feel that he has not adequately disclosed where his proposed spending cuts will occur. I have read that the conservative party has said that there will be targeted cuts in infrastructure spending . My problem is that, although some efficiencies can be made in spending, I don’t think that the level of cuts can be achieved in efficiencies alone. I am in favour of small government, but someone who wants to be premier – and who has previous experience as the Minister of Finance in Manitoba – should be telling us where the cuts will be made.

P scary 3

As I mentioned, I don’t agree with the statement that “there are no sacred cows”. I have read recent comments by Pallister that he wouldn’t rule out targeted privatization of health care. The example that he gave was relatively innocuous, but he opened the door publicly on that issue, by saying the words out loud. If you raise the issue, you must be more specific in your plans, or you leave us with the uneasy feeling that you’re leaving the door wide open.

I don’t feel like I can vote for the Liberals in this election. They don’t appear to be ready to govern.

That leaves me with the “devil you know”, as my lesser of three evils. Despite my misgivings, I am voting for the NDP, because I trust them best to lead and govern Manitoba.

At least if Greg Selinger went to Mars for a vacation, I think he would say so, when asked about it. I guess that’s the minimum that I expect from my Premier.

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