Right in the centre - It's decision time


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

By the time you read this column, Manitoba will be well into its provincial election. It will be a short writ period, as election day is Oct. 3. As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press on Sept. 4, “There are 57 seats up for grabs in what is expected to be a tight, bitter battle for control of the legislature, as the province’s first woman to serve as premier tries to persuade voters to give the Progressive Conservatives a third term in office.”

The NDP, led by Wab Kinew, will try to convince the voters that the PCs made way too many cuts and the NDP will have to spend more on just about everything.

I disagree, but my opinion doesn’t matter much, I have only one vote just like everyone else. The real problem is that little more than half the people vote and that in itself is disgusting. Maybe it’s apathy, or maybe a feeling of helplessness, that they don’t vote is appalling to me.

Provincial rules cover everything from health care to education to farm policy and sport fishing and much more. They say people get the governments they deserve and when nearly half the voters don’t vote, it’s likely true. It’s certainly hard to sympathize with the complainers.

Here’s my take on the election locally and without regard for the party policies. In Agassiz, Jodie Byram is the PC candidate and, based on her abilities and how much she worked with retiring MLA Eileen Clarke, she should make an excellent MLA. I have known a number of MLAs in my time and Eileen Clarke ranks right up there with Glen Cummings. Both were also cabinet ministers and very good ones. In Riding Mountain, Greg Nesbitt deserves re-election. He’s smart, firm and listens well to supporters and opponents. He is also currently a cabinet minister.

On the provincial level, the choice of which party forms government will boil down to a few seats, maybe 12-14 in total. Most strong PC seats will go PC and most strong NDP seats will go NDP.

As far as the Liberals go, the reality of Manitoba politics has never really sunk in. The last time the Liberals formed government in Manitoba was under D.L. Campbell in the 1950s. They had an upswing in the late 1980s, but have had little impact with voters since. Considering how unpopular their federal Liberal counterparts are in Manitoba, it’s little wonder that the Manitoba Liberals have become a fringe party.

Well over 10 years ago, after I left the active political scene in Manitoba politics, I had a discussion with then Manitoba Liberal leader Jon Gerrard. Mr. Gerrard would often visit me on one of his many trips to rural Manitoba. He knows me pretty well and he always liked to visit with media types. You could hardly find a nicer man and a good medical doctor. At the time of our meeting, I had recently lost out in a race to be leader of the PC  Party of Manitoba. I said, “Jon, it’s pretty obvious that I will never be premier of Manitoba and it’s equally obvious that you won’t be either. Why don’t you pick a party, NDP or PC and go to work in it and bring your medical experience with you. Both parties badly need it. It’s time to fold the Liberal Party of Manitoba and move on.”

Jon Gerrard didn’t agree with my advice, obviously, but time has proven that I may have been right. I don’t think the Manitoba Liberals have contributed much to the progress of Manitoba since the 1950s. By the way, Premier D.L. Campbell was most noted for being very financially conservative and for bringing Manitoba Hydro to rural Manitoba.

Every election is a political crossroads, or at least a fork in the road. The NDP and the Liberals (especially the federal ones) love to spend money. The problem is there is no extra money to spend unless the economy grows. Manitoba is still dependent on federal payments, which makes it a have-not province. More spending and more taxes will not end that very bad situation.

The PC government has been roundly criticized for not spending more money on health care but if you listen quietly to people in the health care field, more money is not always the answer. 

Community survival depends on a listening leadership.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.