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Manitoba PC party chooses new president, looks to rebuild party strength

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Manitoba Progressive Conservatives will hold a series of policy forums in the new year as they begin the task of preparing for the next general election.

About 360 PC delegates gathered behind closed doors today at Winnipeg Convention Centre to begin the task of rebuilding the party, which won only 19 of 57 seats in last fall’s general election.

Brian Pallister, who was acclaimed as leader in late July, said afterwards that the meeting passed several resolutions that will strengthen, modernize and refocus the party’s operations.

"This was foundational. This was a very, very important discussion because this sets the stage for all the work that we’ll do hereafter," he said.

The party passed a resolution that would grandfather all current party memberships until Dec. 31, 2016. Any memberships purchased from now until the next election will also be valid until the end of 2016.

Pallister said instead of spending a lot of staff and volunteer time selling annual $10 membership, the party’s resources will be put to better use on other things, such as policy development.

The meeting also decided to establish an electronic newsletter. And it passed other motions streamlining and amending how funds flow between constituency associations and the central party.

Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson will organize the new policy forums that will be held across the province early in the new year. At next fall’s annual general meeting in Brandon, delegates will be voting on some of the ideas produced by the party’s grassroots.

"The goal is clear. We want to differentiate ourselves and define ourselves," Pallister said. "We understand what the NDP is about. We understand their weaknesses. And we understand that our party needs to present an energized vision for the future of the province based on what we believe to be right and what will benefit our province."

The annual general meeting elected Winnipeg financial advisor Ryan Matthews, a former political aide to Pallister, as the party’s new president. He succeeds Winnipeg lawyer Michael Richards.

The Progressive Conservatives will hold a gala fundraiser at the Victoria Inn tonight. More than 600 party faithful are expected to attend.

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