FOUR former Manitoba premiers showed surprising restraint in avoiding party politics while discussing opportunities for Manitoba for the next 15 years as part of the Business Council of Manitoba’s daylong conference.
The only slip-ups were Howard Pawley’s mention of his pride in producing a surplus one year and Gary Filmon, who could not restrain himself, pointing out the deficit he inherited from Pawley.
Each of the four appeared hale and hearty (Gary Doer was on a live video link from Washington, D.C.) and each was fully prepared to weave their thoughts on the future of the province into the narrative from their own terms in office.
Ed Schreyer spoke eloquently about the importance of Manitoba’s hydroelectric capacity and potential.
The full day’s discussion included much talk about education and, in particular, aboriginal education, and Pawley referred to the crucial Meech Lake accord he was part of and the ongoing need for better education for Manitoba’s aboriginal people.
Filmon spoke about the need to foster entrepreneurism in Manitoba, suggesting all public policy in the province should be examined to see if it is something that would make Manitoba more attractive for people — in particular, entrepreneurs — to stake their futures here.
Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said even though it’s not something they’re talking about in Washington these days, he believes water stewardship will be an important element of Manitoba’s future.
"I believe there is a huge opportunity for Manitoba in water stewardship," he said. "In the next 15 years it will be the environmental issue."
- "I deride the fact that the political modality of the day provides less scope for the individual (politician) and, of course, the slack is taken up the premier’s office."
- "We’ve gone too far. I think it is simplistic thinking that when the government of the day makes a proposal, ipso facto, the opposition takes the opposing view."
- "There is an ever-increasing cynicism about the political process and I think it is within our ability to remedy some of that."
- "During the Meech Lake proceedings there was a suggestion to include a reference to aboriginal rights. There was no support. I trust we’ve enhanced our understanding since 1987."
- "There is increasing disillusionment and gradually lower voter turnout. There is so much bitterness in Ottawa at question period. Politicians need to get out more and become more involved in the community."
- "When I was told about the creation of the Business Council of Manitoba and that Jim Carr would be heading it, I said, ‘Wonderful choice, but he’s a Liberal!’ "
- "After reading and delivering countless throne and budget speeches I’ve heard the phrase ‘Our people are our greatest asset’ countless times. And it’s true. What do we need more of in Manitoba? I always used to say we need 50 Izzy Aspers."
- "The challenge in Manitoba for the next 15 is to maintain and increase the immigration policy to continue to grow the population."
- "It’s crucial for Manitoba to get a system in place to improve aboriginal education."
- "In Washington the issue of the day is not water. But I believe there is a huge opportunity around water stewardship. In the next 15 years I believe it will be the environmental issue."