Gra­ham Lane

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - GRA­HAM LANE Lane leads Man­i­toba For­ward

Two years ahead of the next Man­i­toba pro­vin­cial elec­tion, Brian Pal­lis­ter’s PC govern­ment has a healthy lead in the polls over both the pro­vin­cial NDP and Lib­eral par­ties.

Pal­lis­ter’s large lead comes from two sources — ru­ral con­stituen­cies and a lack of se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion in Win­nipeg. De­spite com­ing off a dev­as­tat­ing tour in govern­ment un­der NDP’S Greg Selinger, the NDP still re­mains com­pet­i­tive in Win­nipeg. The Lib­er­als are polling higher than they are likely to get in the next elec­tion, as the party seeks to drain off votes from the NDP rather than cul­ti­vate the fis­cal con­ser­va­tive vote.

Dougald Lamont, the re­cently minted Lib­eral Party leader, won the St. Boni­face con­stituency — the seat was held for two decades by for­mer NDP Pre­mier Greg Selinger. This brought the Lib­eral’s seat count in the leg­is­la­ture to four — just enough for party sta­tus. His­tor­i­cally, for well over a half a cen­tury with one ex­cep­tion — when Sharon Carstairs brought up the Lib­er­als to op­po­si­tion sta­tus in 1988 — Man­i­toba’s Lib­eral party have their best re­sults in polls ahead of pro­vin­cial elec­tions. Since 1988, they have never come close to win­ning govern­ment. Lamont is no Sharon Carstairs: she cam­paigned against the PCS as well as the NDP, un­der­stand­ing that tax­pay­ers pre­fer hav­ing more money in their pock­ets in­stead of in the hands of a spend­thrift pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

In July, Lamont staked out his per­spec­tive on spend­ing and tax­a­tion. Shock­ingly, he sug­gested that a Lib­eral pro­vin­cial govern­ment would not be averse to even higher taxes and more pro­vin­cial deficits. Ba­si­cally, Lamont is chas­ing the NDP vote, ig­nor­ing fis­cal con­ser­va­tives — vot­ers that pre­fer lower taxes and an end to pro­vin­cial deficits.

With the NDP strug­gling to hold on to the union and In­dige­nous vote, Lamont’s left­ward drift left leaves the path open for an­other com­fort­able win for Pal­lis­ter’s PCS in 2020. With the cam­paign field as it is now, any voter who would ap­pre­ci­ate a govern­ment that “can count,” one that at least talks about cut­ting the string of govern­ment deficits that be­gan with the NDP, will vote PC. Un­for­tu­nately, a Pal­lis­ter govern­ment, re-elected in 2020, would be a dis­as­ter for sane fis­cally-con­ser­va­tive vot­ers. It would pave the way for a re­turn of the NDP in 2024, and that would mean that an op­por­tu­nity to trans­form and right the good ship Man­i­toba would have been lost.

Pal­lis­ter, an in­ef­fec­tive mi­cro-man­ager, is an old­style my-way-or-the-high­way con­ser­va­tive. He thinks Man­i­toba’s eco­nomic woes can be solved by grad­ual nickel-and-dime style aus­ter­ity and mi­nor salary re­straint. He leaves the mas­sive bu­reau­cracy mostly at peace while chop­ping pro­duc­tiv­ity-en­hanc­ing road and in­fra­struc­ture projects. Des­per­ately needed big pic­ture re­form is not hap­pen­ing — so the low-per­form­ing, ex­pen­sive mo­nop­oly sys­tems in health care, ed­u­ca­tion, wel­fare and jus­tice creak along undis­turbed.

With the NDP head­ing to­wards the per­ilous iden­tity pol­i­tics swamp, and the pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als con­cen­trat­ing on the wrong tar­get, what sen­si­ble fis­cally con­ser­va­tive folks (who are so­cial lib­er­als) need is a new party. A party that is not afraid to up the ante — em­brac­ing real pub­lic sec­tor re­form, cre­at­ing ex­cel­lent high per­form­ing pub­lic ser­vices, em­brac­ing fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity to tackle the NDP’S deficit and debt mess, and re­duc­ing taxes to cre­ate a stronger, more vi­brant and com­pet­i­tive pri­vate sec­tor.

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