Pallister promises 2020 vision - Right in the centre


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

On Monday of this week, Premier Brian Pallister annonced an election for Sept. 10. The date had been long predicted. The Pallister-Progressive Conservative platform was predictable as well. Dubbed “a 2020 vision”, the election platform clearly lays out what a re-elected PC government plans to do. In fact, they have done quite a bit of it already.

Pallister promises an increased healthcare investment, building new schools, creating even more jobs, a made-in-Manitoba green plan-not an NDP/Liberal rising carbon tax-and a rollback of taxes by $2,020 over the next four years.

As usual, Pallister’s way with words comes through loud and clear: 2020 has many meanings. Obviously, it refers to next year and to the next decade which may well be as transforming as the 1920s were, a decade where technology and attitudes took a major shift. 20/20 is what you want to hear when you visit the optometrist, as it refers to perfect, or at least very good vision. We also often hear that hindsight is 20/20, that in looking back, we can see perfectly. We see the lost opportunities, the imperfections, the mistakes and the accomplishments.

The 2020 that Pallister is, on the surface, referring to is the $2,020 savings in taxes, the bulk of which is in the reduction in PST from 8 per cent to 7 and a reduction in income taxes due to indexing tax brackets. Altogether, the 2020 catch phrase is a good one, with several inter-woven meanings.

It can certainly be argued that with tax bracket indexing and a one per cent roll-back in PST, taxes may go down. If the province can balance the budget in the next two years, there could be a savings in interest paid on government debt and a further reduction if the credit rating and bond interest rates stabilize or go down. Pallister’s critics will argue that he is slashing spending in health and education. The PCs will argue it is more of a shift in spending, as there are always a lot of moving pieces in those two largest government departments.

The Pallister government is hoping that the voters, in addition to appreciating the possible $2020 in tax savings, will like the eyesight or vision analogies even more. Every political party wants to be see as visionary, forward looking and optimistic. That’s a given and the three opposition parties, namely the NDP, Liberals and Greens also want voters to buy into their vision. That’s politics.

How the visions are laid out will be interesting to say the least. The opposition parties have all laid out plans with weekly or daily announcements. Common to all the opposition platforms are two themes. One, they are not conservative and two, their leaders aren’t Brian Pallister.

As for the hindsight concept, Pallister is banking heavily on  the fact that his party will not mismanage government in the way the NDP did from 1999 to 2015. In fairness, the NDP tried to spend a lot of money to improve education, health care and roads. They did spend more money on roads and it showed up in some new smooth pavement on Hwy. 16 from Neepawa to Minnedosa and the big improvements on Hwy. 10 from Brandon to Minnedosa. Neepawa’s care home was built under the NDP, albeit it was announced by the Filmon government in 1999. There were changes and improvements to Rivers hospital under the NDP.

The biggest knock on the NDP in western Manitoba was the forced municipal amalgamation. It was high-handed and very arbitrary. Most southwestern Manitoba communities will never forgive the NDP for municipal amalgamation. In my view, cooperation on projects and funding among municipalities should be self-evident and, in many cases, is long overdue, but why the NDP forced it is beyond understanding.

Pallister is banking on the multi-layered meaning of 2020, the tax reductions, the vision and the hindsight memories of the NDP to get him his second mandate. The campaign is only 28 days long. It will be an interesting ride.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.