Right in the centre - Time for renewal


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

have been involved in politics as a keen observer, a candidate, a mayor, a campaign organizer and as member of several constituency boards at both the provincial and federal levels.

My first involvement with politics came as a seven-year-old, meeting Manitoba Premier D.L. (Douglas) Campbell. He was a member of many parties over the decades, but ended up as a Liberal Progressive and as premier of Manitoba. I think he was an MLA for nearly 50 years. He was a great speaker and a visionary. He lived to tell about it until he was nearly 100 years old. In his latter years, he became a supporter of Preston Manning and the Reform Party. His singular largest accomplishment was bringing Manitoba Hydro to rural Manitoba.  Most people will not remember, but I do, that farms, until 1949, were generally not hooked up to the Manitoba Hydro grid. If farms had electricity, it was supplied by a windmill driven generator.

I have personally met and known a little bit about every premier since. Our most recently retired premier, Brian Pallister, has been much maligned, but somewhat unfairly. People may not remember, or even care, that the PC Manitoba Party was in severe disarray when Pallister volunteered to become leader. Yes, nobody wanted the job, so Pallister was acclaimed. He took his many skills and experiences to the table and took a very disheartened group of MLAs and made them into a stronger caucus to bring a challenge to the then sitting premier, Greg Selinger.

Pallister later got about 40 MLAs elected in an historic election. He was mandated to change Manitoba. The problem was that Pallister tried to carry the whole province, the whole party and eventually, the whole agenda on his back. It was an impossible task. The party was in pretty good shape under former Premier Gary Filmon, retired in 1999, but had gone downhill until Pallister took over. The party structure was strengthened under Pallister, but then crumbled again under his watch and it shouldn’t have happened. 

If you read my column on Nov. 5, you will see what a mess the party made of their leadership election. The party is in disarray, staffing levels at the 23 Kennedy HQ are way below what they should be. The policy  manual needs updating and there are very few constituency associations that are as active as they should be. AGMs aren’t called on time or in proper fashion. If it was based only on organization, the PC Manitoba Party doesn’t deserve to be re-elected. 

Renewal is long overdue and there are rumblings of a “new” political party in the works. An organizer phoned me and I didn’t encourage him, as I have seen this movie before. New political parties tend to only allow the party they oppose stay in power for longer than they actually deserve. The very well intentioned Reform Party of Canada (which I openly supported) brought in some very good ideas, but unintentionally gave Canada two more Liberal terms than should have happened.

I told the new party guy that they needed to read history. In 1965, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier wanted to re-shape Canada. They knew their ideas wouldn’t go down well in the Conservative Party of Canada. They also knew their first choice, the relatively new NDP party, wouldn’t appeal to enough voters, so they picked the Liberal Party of Canada. They revamped the Liberal Party of Canada and did so by infiltrating and taking control of almost every Liberal constituency association of Canada. They were called “The Three Wise Men” and all three got elected. Trudeau became the Liberal Party of Canada leader in 1968 and was one of Canada’s longest serving prime ministers

All I am saying is renewal is a good thing, but some methods work better than others.

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.