Back­bench Man­i­toba MLA to in­tro­duce bill that would chop seats

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

A back­bencher in Man­i­toba’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment says there are too many politi­cians in the leg­is­la­ture, and is hop­ing to chop eight of the province’s 57 seats.

Steven Fletcher, a for­mer fed­eral cabi­net min­is­ter who has al­ready shown a will­ing­ness to be at odds with his own gov­ern­ing party, is plan­ning to in­tro­duce a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill Mon­day that he says would re­duce the size of gov­ern­ment and save the public a lot of money.

Pri­vate mem­ber’s bills usu­ally fail to get enough sup­port to be­come law, but Fletcher said Sun­day he hopes to at least start a public dis­cus­sion about the size of gov­ern­ment in Man­i­toba.

“There are places even in my (area) where you could trip over and land in three provin­cial rid­ings,’’ said Fletcher, who rep­re­sents the Assini­boia con­stituency in west Win­nipeg.

Win­nipeg alone has 31 leg­is­la­ture seats. The same area is served by 15 mem­bers of city coun­cil and eight fed­eral mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

On a per-capita ba­sis, Man­i­toba has fewer provin­cial politi­cians than prov­inces such as Nova Sco­tia and Saskatchewan, but much more than big-pop­u­la­tion prov­inces such as On­tario and Que­bec.

Fletcher said cut­ting the num­ber of leg­is­la­ture seats would mean fewer politi­cian salaries, along with fewer ex­penses such as travel and sup­port staff. The 44-year-old said the change would not be a big bur­den for him­self and his leg­is­la­ture col­leagues.

“Rep­re­sent­ing a provin­cial rid­ing is nowhere near as oner­ous as a fed­eral rid­ing,’’ said Fletcher, who was a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from 2004 to 2015, when he lost to Lib­eral Doug Ey­olf­son.

Fletcher would not say Sun­day whether he has any sup­port within the Tory cau­cus for his bill. He has been some­thing of a lone wolf in cau­cus

since be­ing elected last year, and has had to look to other par­ties on oc­ca­sion to get his bills in­tro­duced in the leg­is­la­ture.

Ear­lier this month, Fletcher went against his party’s line and crit­i­cized a gov­ern­ment bill that would cre­ate a new Crown agency to pro­mote en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter ap­peared dis­pleased with the dis­sen­sion but said any dis­ci­pline would be dealt with be­hind closed cau­cus doors.

A po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst said Pal­lis­ter, who has a solid ma­jor­ity with 40 of the 57 leg­is­la­ture seats, could do well to let Fletcher wan­der a lit­tle from toe­ing the party line.

“If I was Brian Pal­lis­ter, I’d tol­er­ate a lit­tle bit of dis­sent to con­trib­ute to an im­age of him­self as a leader who ac­cepts that there can be in­ter­nal dis­agree­ments within a party,’’ said Paul Thomas, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba.

CP PHOTO

Con­ser­va­tive MP Steven Fletcher is shown in a file photo. Fletcher, a back­bencher in Man­i­toba’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, says there are too many politi­cians in the leg­is­la­ture, and is hop­ing to chop eight of the province’s 57 seats.

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