Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brian Pallister - Leader of Progressive Conservatives

Brian Pallister - Leader of Manitoba Progressive Conservatives

No one else wanted it. After years of sniping from the sidelines by various PC members through two leaders, no one else came forward to take on the mantle of leadership. Brian Pallister was the only one to declare. The demoralized and scared Progressive Conservative MLAs all scrambled to announce they wouldn't be running.

Talk about depressing.

I am not a Progressive Conservative but the slogan of Aim Higher ought to include a vital race for leadership.

At the moment, we face the prospect of a permanent governing party in the NDP. You can see a certain smugness in NDP circles that will be unchallenged for years to come. You can see this in the contribution to the Free Press from Sel Burrows, an NDP activist. He believes the NDP has a solid lock on center right and cannot be attacked by the Progressive Conservatives from the left or improve the NDP's position on other issues like crime and education.

Sel Burrows has been a tad restless on social policy from the NDP and he has sniped from the side. However, he remains an NDP loyalist and party brass know this and let him criticize because he will continue to deliver inner city ridings in elections despite any misgivings he has. Why Burrows continues to do the party bidding and be taken for granted is anyone's guess. However, if he has a fatalist view of things about others doing worse, maybe that guides his hand.

This isn't a critical piece on Sel Burrows. He is an activist and a loyalist despite his critical views of the government and has tried to help his community. However, one thing is certain: he is wrong that the NDP cannot be challenged on issues right or left and gain no success for the party that does so.

Sel Burrows says the PCs can't win on inner city issues. Well, since the ridings that befuddle the Tories on winning office are in the suburbs, it is there that they should concentrate their efforts.

In the past Hugh McFadyen and Stuart Murray have tried to campaign on tax deductions, law and order and healthcare. Much of the sound and fury focussed on crime and tax. Good issues, yes, but ones we saw time and time again not appeal to women voters.

Women voters have and will be the key to Progressive Conservatives winning office. It is likely that many women voters were looking for ideas on issues that mattered to them. They didn't find satisfaction with opposition on what they offered. And in the 2011 election, Hugh McFadyen couldn't turn the focus off of Manitoba Hydro and its possible sale. Moreover, he confused his own supporters with a less fiscally responsible policy on deficit and debt than the NDP proposed.

In polls leading to the election, the PCs seemed well positioned to turn the tide. It is shocking to see just how bad the policy platform was and how they couldn't respond to attack ads.

Anyways, I believe the NDP are vulnerable on issue of social and economic policy that the Progressive Conservatives can offer a different platform on. Many of these issues are important in particular to women, especially suburban women.

So, here is the winning formula for PCs to win:


This is an out and out disaster. The registry doesn't work, is poorly managed, there are too few spaces, not enough being built and affordability is an issue. While some make Tories might ask: why are we paying for choices made by people to place their children in care, they should be saying: We are helping families save costs, helping employers by ensuring their workers have services to increase productivity, getting skilled men and woman back in the market, providing safe and enriching care for children.

But how to get there? How does one increase daycare spaces in a timely fashion. That comes with the next policy.

Full Time Kindergarten

We will be the last province to get it at this pace. If the PCs announce in an election they are committed to full time Kindergarten, it will change the debate. You can bet women are going to turn off any talk about selling Hydro or not selling Hydro when they hear this policy.

We need it. We should have it. It will win an election.

And moreover, full time Kindergarten opens up lots of space in daycares as children migrate from half days spent in daycare to move into the classroom.

Want to make the Manitoba Teacher's Society, the school trustees and parents happy? Tell them that Kindergarten will be full time within two years of taking office.

Full Time Homecare

Parents who have kids are sometimes being sandwiched between their own parents who increasingly need help because of their own health issues. Some families are being run ragged between kids and parents in need.

Full time homecare will help families.

It is a winning policy.


I don't know how anyone can say the NDP have succeeded on this one. The worst landlord in the province is the province. The solution for the NDP is to build more Manitoba Housing. Ick.

Rent control should end and renters who need assistance should be supported. Manitoba Housing should be sold and those who are on social assistance should be able to rent anywhere. To do this, the policy should be to provide some tax assistance to developers to provide various units in blocks for those on assistance.

The outcome of this will be: More rental units in more locations around the city, less bunching up of problems in provincially run Manitoba Housing.

Provincially owned landed that the province has been sitting on as parking lots should be offered up to developers for proposals that include lots of housing. The NDP have sat on these lots for more than a decade and continue to move slow on this issue.


Those are but a few areas that the PCs could and should propose a change in social policy that will win them female and suburban votes.

There are other areas they can use to hurt the NDP where they need to be hurt: Infrastructure. It is safe to say the NDP know they are vulnerable on this and yet they contribute huge amounts to urban sprawl with their own development of Waverley West all the while not helping to fix the high traffic they create with it.

They should be hammered on this issue.

What we have seen so far from the PCs is a wasted opportunity. A non-vital leadership race ends in a whimper. Zero profile gained for the new leader. No policy or organizational discussion. Awful.

This doesn't need to be the end of the story. However, unless we wish to get what Sel Burrow's and other NDPers are thinking: a permanent NDP majority; the Tories have to think and act differently.

The beauty of this is that much of it can still remain with stated PC principles.


PLP said...

Very good post John. You raise some very applicable points.

The View from Seven said...

It is often when an administration appears to be unbeatable that it is at the greatest risk.

During a long L.A.-Sydney flight in October 2006, I remember reading an Australian newspaper article suggesting that the Liberal-National coalition government seemed to be permanent, complete with a cartoon showing then-PM John Howard driving a steamroller over his opponents. Within 14 months, his "permanent" government was out of office, with Howard himself having lost his Sydney constituency.

Other governments have also seemed invincible, but turned out to be anything but. As Paul Martin prepared to take office in 2003, a Liberal government seemed sure to remain in office until the decade's end.

As Camille Theriault, long considered a man destined to be premier, took over in New Brunswick in the late '90s, few thought his career would be cut short by a 33-year old former student politician named Bernard Lord.

And then there was George Bush Sr., who seemed a sure bet for re-election as the Gulf War ended in 1991, only to lose to an obscure Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton in 1992.

The best medium-range predictor of whether or not a government will get re-elected is its age. People get bored with old governments the same way they get tired of old clothing styles, old TV shows and old fads. Once the "it's time for a change" mindset sets in, it's extremely difficult to reverse. By late 2015, the NDP administration will be the second-longest serving government in Manitoba history.

Another good predictor is organizational strength. The NDP clearly had the upper hand in the 2011 election, gaining control of the agenda early in the campaign and leaving the PCs on the defensive. Their ongoing sense of discipline will help them in 2015, but they will still be weakened by the absence of Michael Balagus as campaign director.

Pallister's hopes of becoming premier will be tied to whether or not he can make the PCs the more organized and disciplined of the two parties. If he succeeds, he could be premier in 2015-16. If he fails, the NDP could win an exceptionally rare fifth term.

In short, though some (including one Tory I know) have written off Pallister for the next election, as an independent myself I'm not so sure it would be wise to do that.

A brief word on the leadership race: I received comments in response to one of my previous posts on this same subject that suggested that finances are a major concern for prospective leadership candidates, both in terms of the actual cost of running and in foregone private sector income. Though I doubt we'll see much change here in Canada, this would seem to make a case for a party caucus electing its own leader as is done in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

The Analyst said...

McFadyen pledges to pave back lanes and not cut services were viewed as a betrayal by conservative Tories. There's no way Pallister would get away with provincial daycare and remain party leader for long.

John Dobbin said...

Seven: The polls at around 2006 had the Liberals trailing and this continued right up to the election. Howard came under tremendous pressure for the war, the environment and for arrogance.

They were headed for a fall to be sure.

Paul Martin calling an enquiry into sponsorship was the body blow that kept on delivering. A lot of things hurt the Liberals but the anger over this led to an impending defeat.

The issues of toll roads was so strong and so red hot in the campaign in New Brunswick that the PCs finally had gotten an issue with legs. They thumped the Liberals as a result and propelled Lord into office.

George Bush senior had a recession at hand, massive military cuts and his own party mad as hell at tax increases. They threw Bush under the bus.

Major issues can push out long serving governments to be certain. However, we can see long term governing parties like the former federal Liberals, former Ontario PCs and now, Alberta PCs.

Might the NDP be one of those long term governing parties?

Tory insiders writing off the new Tory leader without putting up an alternative? Let me state the ass kicking should be self administered for such griping.

I agree caucus should elect the leader. The federal Liberals would save a ton of money and might actually produce a leader supported in a meaningful way.

John Dobbin said...

Analyst: Daycare might take some political capital. Kindergarten wouldn't. And the NDP would be on the defensive.