Tough times to be a Tory

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 9, 2014

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Candace Maxymowich, the youth rep for the provincial Progressive Conservatives, stirred controversy this week when she tweeted that abstinence is the only acceptable form of sex education. Shaun Cameron writes that Maxymowich’s comments and the response by Tory Leader Brian Pallister come just as the NDP has begun to gain traction in the wake of this summer’s flood. (Winnipeg Free Press)

It would appear maintaining the post as the Progressive Conservative youth leader is a tough gig.

Mere months after former board member and youth rep Braydon Mazurkiewich was tossed from the table for his inflammatory comments on social media toward First Nations people, Tory youth leader Candace Maxymowich has firmly placed a boot in her mouth for stances on sex education in schools and abortion — coincidentally while running for trustee in the Louis Riel School Division.

For what it’s worth, the argument today is not to debate the merit, or lack thereof, of her opinions. It’s to look at the troubling self-inflicted blows the provincial Tories, via their membership, continue to rain upon themselves — just ahead of an election call that in all likelihood could come within the next year if the prime minister triggers an early federal election call.

For Maxymowich at least, she’ll likely learn a valuable lesson for her public stance on two controversial issues. Even though she wished to start a discussion, this may not be the best venue for debate — a lesson that has her losing her seat as the youth leader in Toryland on a technicality.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister announced Wednesday afternoon that Maxymowich would no longer be the Tory youth leader because her candidacy in the school board election had precluded her from holding onto the role.

Bylaws and party rules aside, the timing of the announcement is more than a little suspect, and once again places plenty of mud on team Tory — a group that has sputtered in the wake of a somewhat rejuvenated NDP party busy dusting off their Superman capes from the flood fight.

Although sporting a few bruises financially from the recent flood, the NDP would love nothing better than to head into the next election touting its record and successes from a second flood fight in three years.

Whether right or wrong in their approach, the flood puts the NDP on the front page, and if played properly puts the names of their MLAs on the lips of the voter right before they head to the polls — something Premier Greg Selinger and the party brain trust are banking on should the election happen sooner than later.

Couple that with a somewhat anemic Progressive Conservative brand over the last year, and it plays right into the hands of the NDP gearing up in pre-election mode.

The PCs were criticized by some for remaining relatively silent while Manitobans battled the flood. The party has also been short on any semblance of an alternative for voters, thus squandering what once stood as a glowing opportunity for the party.

This is not to say they cannot turn it around — especially if a later election happens — but if it were to happen tomorrow, the NDP would have a glowing opportunity to tout its PST gamble as the catalyst that saved the province when the flood occurred.

If you had asked five months ago whether Brandon would be in play come the next provincial election, many thought the result would be a sea of blue and the defeat of a longtime MLA — but now our two constituencies are anyone’s guess.

The Tories will once again put plenty of support into Brandon West, a seat they currently hold.

There is little doubt that party minds within the NDP would love to get a hold of that seat, but it remains to be seen who they field as a candidate to try to throw Reg Helwer off his game.

In Brandon East, the flood fight served longtime NDP MLA Drew Caldwell well, as he spent plenty of time on the line and aiding residents — never a bad thing when a person is trying to garner support.

As for current city councillor Len Isleifson, should he win the party nod, it is an uphill battle if the Tories continue to sputter while drawing from a small team compared to the election juggernaut that is the NDP.

If successful in securing the nod, he will have, in the worst-case scenario, less than a year to build further rapport in the region and compile a team in an attempt to knock off Caldwell.

No matter the outcome, the old adage that timing is everything rings true here. If the NDP can get a bit of help from the feds through an early election call, what once was considered in jeopardy may again be within reach — something that would be welcomed by a party thought to be on provincial life support before the water, like their polling numbers, began to rise.

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Shaun Cameron is a content contributor. A veteran of print, video and television, Shaun is a professional post-secondary employee by day, a filmmaker by night. Check out more of Shaun's work in the menu bar above.

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Shaun Cameron has worked in media for close to two decades. His work has been featured in print, internet, video, radio and television publications. A proud father of two, Shaun lives in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife Karol.

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