AUGUST 30, 2021
-The Western Standard
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister will step down Wednesday, with two years left in his term and two months before his Progressive Conservative caucus chooses an interim leader and premier.
Pallister cited the main reason for his early departure as an unwillingness to create division and interfere with the October 30 Conservative leadership vote.
“The dangers of not leaving are that false allegations will be made about me trying to influence the outcome,” Pallister told the Canadian Press.
“And I have not, in any way, shape or form. I have only spoken two weeks ago to my cabinet and caucus and said, ‘I will be neutral. I wish you well. I would encourage you to make sure that this is a contest among friends.”
Pallister announced August 10 that he wouldn’t seek re-election as premier, an office he’s held since 2016 through two elections. He has led the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba since 2012.
Leadership hopefuls to date include former health minister Heather Stefanson, backbencher Shannon Martin and former Member of Parliament Shelly Glover, all of whom are trying to distance themselves from Pallister and his policies.
Rumours of Candice Bergen, deputy leader of the opposition federal Conservatives and MP for Portage-Lisgar, so far, remain rumours.
Whoever is crowned faces the formidable challenge of finding a way to make the Conservatives rebound in the polls consistently showing them with a popularity between 36-39% since last year.
During his tenure Pallister cut the provincial sales tax and managed to end years of deficits, an achievement that evaporated when COVID-19 struck.
His popularity took a hit when he froze public sector wages and tangled with the Manitoba Hydro board leading to mass resignations of Hydro employees.
More recently, he received widespread condemnation over a plan to eliminate elected school boards and harsh COVID-19 lockdowns.
He was blasted by some Manitoba indigenous leaders over comments he made in July at the height of large unidentified grave discoveries on former residential school sites.
He defended settlers who came to Canada, saying they didn’t come to destroy, but to build. Pallister caved to the criticism and issued an apology, saying his comments created a “misunderstanding.”
But his already plummeting popularity, largely over his handling of the pandemic, took another beating.
Intensive care patients were sent to other provinces and Manitoba is only second to Quebec with the per-capita death rate from COVID.
His harsh lockdowns and other measures, with restrictions repeatedly implemented then lifted only to be implemented again, frustrated many Manitobans.
Pallister’s parting gift to Manitobans is a renewed crackdown to take full effect September 3, soon after he steps down.