Uphill battle for Selinger’s NDP

Manitoba’s election is well underway, and the polls are not looking good at all for the NDP government, which has served for nearly 20 years under Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.

While the NDP can take a lot of credit for progress on infrastructure, at least one major project, the third bipole, was subject to overly protracted debate, and rerouted at considerable cost, as the government struggled to balance its constituencies of clean energy and respect for aboriginal land rights.

Infrastructure was the main excuse NDP leader Greg Selinger used to raise the PST 1%, returning the overall sales tax in Manitoba to 13%, without a vote, as was previously required by law.  Changing the law to remove the plebiscite at the same time as you raise those taxes, is, at best, bad public policy.  It has proven to be the central flamethrower Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives have used in the runup to the campaign, and even cracked the unity of the NDP themselves, with a backbench revolt lead by Theresa Oswald.

Selinger narrowly avoided defeat in a major shakeup that required a leadership race to settle, and even then, it left the party looking fractured, with a governing core plagued with patronage.  The lack of turnover also prevented the party from presenting a fresh face to the province going into the hustings.  The NDP still has some star candidates, like former CBC broadcaster Wab Kinew, that generate excitement in core constituencies.

There’s still the X-factor of the provincial Liberal Party.  It’s been little more than a bit player in Manitoba for decades, but the recent surprise victory of Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals has generated momentum to send the MLP above the NDP in some recent polls.  Rana Bokhari is a definite dark horse to be the next premier, but will certainly spoil what little the NDP planned to hold onto.

Home stretch for Winnipeg mayor race

Election Day, October 22nd, is fast approaching in Winnipeg.  Seven candidates vie for the prize, including Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who won j5mc’s take on the Winnipeg Free Press candidate matcher.  The race has been particularly dogged by partisanship, or allegations thereof, between the NDP’s Judy Wasylycia-Leis and the PC’s Brian Bowman. Polls indicate that Judy is the favourite to win, with the closest challenger needing to capture the whole of a 10-point pivot.

Advance polls have been open since the 29th, so it should be easier for voters to cast their ballots when they’ve found their match.  Here’s hoping for a good turnout and good public policy!

Winnipeg to extend Rapid Transit southward

Winnipeggers will see a huge extra investment in the Southwest Transitway project, with nearly $600 million to be spent extending dedicated busways from the current terminus at Jubilee and Pembina Highway, all the way down to the University of Manitoba.  Rapid Transit advocates have been in a pitched tug-of-war over the issue, and Winnipeg’s mayoral race recently heated up with incumbent Sam Katz stepping down, and Transit booster Judy Wasylycia-Leis is leading the pack to replace him.

Chippewa concerned: Carberry casino could cut Canadian customers

SkyDancer Resort in Belcourt is officially working alongside new competition today, as Sand Hills Casino opened just 150 km away in Carberry. Western Manitobans no longer have to drive to Winnipeg to gamble without a border check, something sure to cut into SkyDancer’s budget.

Partially to offset the projected losses, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa recently expressed interest in building a new casino facility in the Grand Forks or the Bakken region, something that would require state legislation, in addition to local community support.

PST arguments clear, even jovial

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Jonathan Kroft

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Robert Tapper

Moments ago the PST hearing wrapped up in Winnipeg. CJOB provided the Global News livestream on its website.

Robert Tapper for the plaintiffs argued that the government of Manitoba violated the Charter rights of Manitobans by depriving the people of a vote on the PST increase as promised by previous NDP legislation, then taking that right away in the same bill that would have required a vote.

Government lawyer Jonathan Kroft stated that parliamentary privilege prevents the judiciary from ruling on decisions of the legislature, and that the government has an absolute right to debate and vote on laws.

Above all the atmosphere was of clear policy discussion and warm respect and humour between the parties.  The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench is now deliberating on the arguments.

Manitoba Tories seek to define the public policy debate

goldenboy_blueprintA week after announcing that they are launching a website, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party actually launched their new site, PolicyBlueprint.ca — where the public is invited to comment upon key goals for a hypothetical Tory government in the province.

Surprisingly, more than half of the stated goals and policy changes would be quantifiable differences.  The willingness of the Tories to commit to being judged on a 10% decrease in this, or a 25% increase in that — though perhaps overly ambitious — is an approach to policy I can appreciate as a numbers-addicted Engineer.

That said, it’s just as important to have a firm grasp on current numbers before advocating increases or decreases.  Judging just on the basis of having a clear numerical start and end point, I can say that the offered PC policies are presently best defined for Natural Resources, Education/Training, and the Economy.  Meanwhile, policy on Healthcare, and the Bureaucracy are not nearly as well-defined.

As the Progressive Conservatives are the presumptive front-runners to lead Manitoba during the next election cycle, the fact that their roadmap for public policy is on display for all to comment and improve upon is a positive thing.  With any luck, the crowd has some wisdom to rub off on this early draft.