Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keep province rolling with us, NDP tells voters

Selinger has stay-the-course platform

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THE NDP promised to keep on keepin' on with a vision statement Tuesday that pledged to maintain, continue or expand existing programs.

By 2015, the NDP said there will be a new weekend court to ease the backlog of cases, a family doctor for every Manitoban and the shortest cancer care wait times in Canada.

Familiar territory

Promise: By 2015, every Manitoban who wants a family doctor will have one.

Where you've heard it before: In last fall's throne speech and again several times in the spring when the NDP started construction of another access centre and proposed more prescribing powers for nurse practitioners.

 

Promise: Take more steps to prevent bullying in schools.

Where you've heard it before: Also in last November's throne speech. Since then, the NDP has introduced mandatory reporting legislation and an early-childhood anti-bullying program.

 

Promise: Developing alternative energy such as wind power to create jobs in rural communities.

Where you've heard it before: Over and over since 2003, when then-premier Gary Doer promised to install 1,000 megawatts of wind power by 2015. The province has only installed about 235 megawatts via two wind farms in southern Manitoba.

 

Promise: Put more police on the beat where they are needed.

Where you've heard it before: Nearly every budget and throne speech, where the province earmarks more money for police salaries, especially in Winnipeg.

 

Promise: Keep working toward our target of 20,000 skilled immigrants every year.

Where you've heard it before: That's the oft-stated goal, by 2016. The provincial nominee program is the main plank in the province's bid to woo immigrants. Manitoba welcomed more than 15,000 immigrants last year.

 

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And Premier Greg Selinger promised regular increases in the minimum wage, more cottage lots for families and better energy-efficiency programs to help shrink home-heating bills.

All those programs were announced in recent months or are initiatives already underway for several years. The 15-page vision statement contained virtually nothing new and few specifics but Selinger said details will come once the campaign gets going after Labour Day.

The document neatly bolsters the NDP's emerging campaign theme: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. In fact, Selinger told supporters, changing governments now risks undoing the momentum the NDP has created.

Asked whether the vision statement is enough to convince voters the three-term NDP government isn't stale, Selinger said the party is listening to Manitobans and acting on their priorities.

"Manitobans have told us they like the direction we're going," said Selinger.

NDP candidates, MLAs and party staffers gathered about 150 strong Tuesday morning at a rally at the new Richardson College for the Environment and Science complex at the University of Winnipeg, an event that allowed Selinger to polish his stump speech.

He said the province is enjoying a new sense of optimism thanks to rising house prices, low unemployment, steady investments in health and education and the morale-boosting return of the Winnipeg Jets.

Manitoba wasn't always like this, and it's a foundation to build on, not squander, said Selinger.

At that, the Tories scoffed.

"Hallway medicine? Not fixed. Crime on our streets? Not fixed," said Tory candidate Mike Brown, who is running against NDP Education Minister Nancy Allan in St. Vital.

The Tories also raised the spectre of a looming budget crisis, saying they've analyzed the province's finances and believe it's just not feasible to balance the budget by 2014 as the NDP has promised.

Brown said it's not possible without major tax hikes or the introduction of a harmonized sales tax.

"If the budget numbers are anything like we think they are, they may have to," warned Brown.

The NDP has pledged in the past and again in its new vision document to keep Manitoba HST-free.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2011 A4

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