Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 19, 2016
With the official drop of the writ on Wednesday, the 41st incarnation of a provincial election in this province got underway.
Plenty of ink has already spilled on prognosticating the outcome. With surgeon-like dissection, many an editorial has dealt with each of the party leaders, and much has been said on the rhetoric that ramped up at a torrid pace since the ill-fated PST increase of 2013.
Now, it is time for the politicians of this province to put their money where their mouths are and commence to wooing Manitobans with some promise of prosperity.
Clearly the story will be whether this is the last stand for Greg Selinger and the NDP of yesteryear. The party is by all accounts poised to be toppled by a combination of Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative team, and the political wild card that is Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari.
Each of these leaders has his or her strengths as well as some glaring weaknesses, but sadly all three seem to lack the promise, and hope, to get us out of the rut we are in.
In preparing for the run, Selinger and company amped up their spending and took to pleading their case, asking Manitobans for “one more chance” to get it right — although in all reality, this is likely too little too late for this past-due government.
As for Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives, he has cast an opposing shadow, short on promises and steadfast on the fact that cuts would come should they finally form government. So far the party is “hands off” as it pertains to what they deem as core services, but in reality, many of the other departments, portfolios and, most importantly, investments could be on the chopping block.
Hopefully, a proposed school for Brandon’s south end isn’t one of those projects in the crosshairs of their cuts, but voters of this city will have to roll the dice and take their chances on that one, as Mr. Pallister is mum on whether that promise would live beyond the NDP government.
In Rana Bokhari, we have the wild card — an enigma as many media outlets have dubbed her. For the Liberals to have success, she needs to connect throughout the province but will have a battle to secure her seat against NDP bad boy Wab Kinew.
She and her party could come out smelling like a rose should they resonate with voters, something Bokhari has the potential to do as she seems the most likable of the three leaders.
The problem is, the Liberals’ image clearly has been tarnished over the last number of weeks due to a candidate defection, the Twitter misgivings of former candidate Jamie Hall, and finally the trifecta of trouble that saw the Liberals lose their chief of staff mere weeks before the most important election of their time. Each hiccup has put the party on much shakier ground.
The lead-up to this election has been fierce and frankly quite bitter for all the parties and is only looking to become worse as the next scene plays out.
For weeks now, the Tories have dubbed their ascension on social media as #PCMomentum, clearly a sign the party expects big things out of this election — and if the polling is correct, they will reap the rewards of that expectation.
Their hope is somewhat tempered, however, as Pallister trails well behind his party’s popular support. As much as the Tories look to be in excellent shape, their leader isn’t nearly as well liked as they would hope leading into such an important contest.
There exists such a stark difference between Pallister and Selinger, but they do share a commonality in the fact they are wrestling with lower-than-average numbers, and are both somewhat anti-social as far as retail politicians are concerned. We can’t imagine either going to the lengths the selfie king Justin Trudeau did during the federal election — but a smile once in a while may not hurt either one of them right now.
Although deep in debt, we in this province still need some form of hope moving forward. We need candidates and a party with a plan to steer us out of the woods without gutting the province for decades, we need a plan that shows investment in our communities will continue albeit with an eye for fiscal prudence, and finally we need someone — anyone — to get us excited about this province again.
In absence of that, Manitobans may end up sitting on their hands come election day.